NCAA prez addresses ‘exploitation’ of student-athletes

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Early this morning we noted that former North Carolina defensive back Deunta Williams, when he wasn’t accusing the SEC of paying for football players, took issue with what he described as “a broken system” as it relates to the NCAA and collegiate athletics.

“College football is a business, and the people who run college football are only interested in money and using the players as product to make money,” Williams was quoted as saying.

The thinly-veiled inference, of course, is that the NCAA uses “student-athletes” for their financial gain, a form of exploitation if you will.

Obviously, the leaders of intercollegiate sports vehemently disagree with that assessment.  During an interview with Bob Ley on ESPN’s Outside the Lines Tuesday afternoon, NCAA president Mark Emmert addressed the criticism college sports has come under in relation to the financial benefits realized by the universities and how precious little is funneled back to the individuals who are actually responsible for the on-field work that’s made the game, in the case of football, the second most popular sport in the country.

Here’s the transcript of Emmert’s interview, courtesy of PFT‘s Mike Florio (yes, you read that correctly).

I’ll tell you the critique that I agree with, and the critique [is] that there’s such an emphasis in America on athletics as a route to fame and fortune that it has skewed far too many young people’s view of how you can be successful as a young person. 

We surveyed our Division II NCAA men’s basketball players.  Division II.  Half of them believed they were going to make a living in professional basketball.  Maybe one will.  But half of them thought they might make a living as a basketball player. 

We have far too few young people realizing that the route to success in life is to get a good education in middle school, high school, and college, and then go on and do all the things that people do in life.  When we see a young person getting an opportunity to go to college, the $2 billion — second only to the federal government — the total amount of financial aid that’s proposed by NCAA institutions to young people, we see young people having higher graduation rates in Divisions I, II, and III than the rest of the student body, we see them having access to the best coaches, the best educators, the best trainers, the best tutors that help produce academic success like that.  If that’s the definition of exploitation, then I don’t know what exploitation is. 

I would have loved to have my kids exploited like that.  I would love to have been exploited like that myself as a young man.  The idea that somehow playing in front of a stadium with 70,000 people and being on ESPN SportsCenter diminishes you in some fashion while creating an opportunity for you to be known world-wide is somehow exploitation is a curious notion of exploitation.  I think the vast majority of your audience would love to be on this show, would love to have a chance to have their name known widely. 

If you want to be a professional athlete, there’s no better way to do it than to come to a high-level collegiate program, get the best trainers, best exposure, best coaches, best educational opportunities, and then go out and pursue your career.  To me, that’s a pretty good opportunity.

As Florio adroitly noted in our email exchange, Emmert starts off by claiming that there is too much emphasis on athletics as a route to fame and fortune, and then ends by stating (contradicting himself?) that the NCAA doesn’t exploit athletes because it provides a route to fame and fortune at the professional sports level for a select few.  Of course, all of this talk of exploitation and financial aid and pretty good opportunities boils down to one core issue: paying student-athletes for services rendered on the playing field.

The proposed $2,000 stipend, which has met stiff resistance from several corners of the collegiate sports world, is a fair-to-middlin’ start, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough.  At bare minimum, and as we’ve stated ad nauseam in the past, players should receive a portion of the profits earned by a football program for the sale of jerseys and the like as well as a percentage of the profits from video games that utilize their likenesses in lieu of their names.  That’s the bare minimum, and you can adjust your financial mileage accordingly.

The value of the education the players are receiving — or have the opportunity to receive if they choose to take advantage of the six-figure gift — should not be underscored, but neither should the value of their numbers and likenesses and such.  While we don’t foresee a day, at least in the near future and as long as Title IX is the law of the land, where student-athletes essentially become paid employees of a university, there will at some point be a tipping point on the financial landscape as it relates to athletics at the collegiate level.

In fact, a four-letter word from the NCAA’s point of view — “union” — is already being bandied about as a potential remedy to the perceived inequities of the current system.

It would thus behoove the leaders of today to get ahead of that point and prepare for something that is inevitable somewhere down the road.

Illinois DE Bobby Roundtree undergoes spine surgery after swimming accident

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One of the top defensive players Illinois has is recovering from surgery following a weekend swimming accident. Defensive end Bobby Roundtree underwent surgery on Sunday for what has been reported to be a severe spinal injury.

According to a report from 247 Sports, Roundtree was visited in Florida by Illini head coach Lovie Smith, defensive line coach Austin Clark and a member of the Illinois medical staff. There is currently no update on his status following surgery or how this may eventually impact his status for the upcoming season. For now, the focus is purely on recovery from the surgery to address the spinal injury. The details of the incident resulting in the injury have not been shared at this time either other than it occurred on Saturday in Tampa.

Roundtree was a three-star recruit in the Class of 2017 of Illinois. The Florida native recorded 66 tackles with team highs of 12.5 tackles for a loss and 7.5 sacks for the Fighting Illini last season.

Report: Ex-FSU QB Deondre Francois to walk on at FAU

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Months after contemplating his future, former Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois will walk-on with the FAU Owls. According to a report from 247 Sports, Francois will attempt to enroll at FAU as soon as possible to begin the process of officially joining Lane Kiffin and the Owls.

Francois was dismissed by Florida State in February by head coach Willie Taggart, with the second-year head coach of the Seminoles attempting to improve the culture of his latest football program. Francois has been cleared of a domestic assault accusation in Jan. 2018, and he had previously had a legal issue involving suspected possession of marijuana. A video shared by Francois’s girlfriend showed a man threatening her, with the man said to have been Francois One day after being dismissed by Florida State, Francois was officially entered in the NCAA transfer portal to begin weighing his options for his future.

Kiffin is no stranger to giving players another chance to play FBS football. He has been making a habit of it during his brief time in Boca Raton with the Owls. Kiffin has welcomed players from troubled pasts to build his depth on the roster, including former Oklahoma quarterback Chris Robison and a number of players who appeared in the Netflix documentary “Last Chance U.”  Kiffin has been actively adding players via transfers on top of his normal recruiting efforts and the plan has worked with a Conference USA title in 2017 and a team seemingly capable of making another run to the conference title in 2019.

That is why it may seem odd that Kiffin took a bit of a jab at the transfer portal earlier in the offseason, calling it a “sexy thing to do” for players. As it turns out, however, Kiffin may have just landed another potential starting quarterback through the transfer portal.

Francois played in 11 games for Florida State in 2018, passing for 2,731 yards and 15 touchdowns with 12 interceptions. He has two years of eligibility remaining.

LSU CB Kelvin Joseph reportedly plunges into transfer portal

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LSU cornerback Kelvin Joseph entered the transfer portal on Monday morning, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Joseph is a surprise entry, given that the 4-star recruit and Baton Rouge native is just a sophomore. He appeared in five games as a true freshman in 2018 — meaning he cannot use the season as a redshirt — collecting 12 tackles with one pass breakup.

He was expected to compete with incoming freshman Derek Stingley, Jr. for a starting job opposite Kristian Fulton this fall. With Fulton out due to injury, Joseph and Stingley started LSU’s spring game.

Entering the portal does not guarantee Joseph will leave, and he is still free to return as long as LSU will have him. Joseph was suspended for a violation of team rules from LSU’s Fiesta Bowl win over Central Florida, but, again, he did start the spring game, indicating he’s on good standing with Ed Orgeron and the LSU staff.

Mother’s death forces Purdue RB Evan Anderson to leave team

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Purdue running back Evan Anderson has left the team, head coach Jeff Brohm told Gold and Black.

A member of Purdue’s 2018 signing class, Anderson redshirted last season, then had a proverbial bomb go off in his life that took precedence over football and school.

“His mother passed away,” said Brohm told the site. “That set him back, that hurt him. It hurt all of us. It was a bad situation. We felt for him. He missed a lot of school, he missed a lot of practice. I don’t want to put words into his mouth, but his family situation was important to him. It was a rough, rough semester on him–and understandably so.”

A 3-star recruit, Anderson is a native of Suwanee, Ga. Should he desire to continue his college football career, he figures to be a shoe-in for an NCAA hardship waiver if he transfers closer to home.

In less important matters, Anderson’s departure leaves a hole on Purdue’s running back depth chart. The Boilermakers’ top two running backs were seniors, and their third-leading rusher was wide receiver Rondale Moore. The Boilers’ leading returning rusher is sophomore Alexander Horvath, who carried all of nine times in 2018. Six runners, including two incoming freshmen, will fight for carries in fall camp, but Anderson will not be one of them.