A pair of Seattle Seahawks didn’t pull any punches when they were asked about the plight of student-athletes and what they believe is the NCAA’s exploitation of young men and women.
Defensive end Michael Bennett and cornerback Richard Sherman were asked about their college days during Thursday’s Super Bowl media day, and their replies couldn’t have been more biting.
“I think the NCAA is one of the biggest scams in America,” Bennett told ESPN.com’s Terry Blount. “These kids put so much on the line. They [the NCAA] say, ‘We give you a free degree.’ That’s like me owning a restaurant and saying, ‘I’ll give you a free burger.’ It makes me so mad and irate. Universities need to do more for the student-[athletes].”
Sherman’s speech revolved around the daily habits of a college athlete.
“I don’t think college athletes are given enough time to take advantage of the free education they’re given,” Sherman said. “It’s frustrating because a lot of people get upset with student-athletes and say you’re not focused on school and not taking advantage of the opportunity you’re given.
“I would love for a regular student, for just one semester, to have a student-athlete schedule during the season and show me how you balance that. Show me how you would schedule your classes when you can’t schedule classes for 2 to 6 o’clock on any given day.
“Show me how you’re going to get all your work done when you get out [of practice and meetings] at 7:30 or so and have a test the next day and you’re dead tired from practice and you still have to study and get the same work done.”
Plenty of “regular students” put in the same amount of time — if not more — than a typical student-athlete.
Furthermore, student debt is at all-time high. But, go on, Mr. Sherman.
“I tell you from experience that one time I had negative 40 bucks in my account,” Sherman added. “It was in the negative more times than positive. You have to make a decision whether you put gas in your car or get a meal.
“People say you get room and board and they pay for your education. But to [the school officials’] knowledge, you’re there to play football. Those are the things coaches tell you every day. Luckily I was blessed to go to Stanford, a school primarily focused on academics. But as [former Stanford coach] Jim Harbaugh would attest, we were still there to play football.”
There is no denying that college football is in a transitory stage. Last year’s ruling in the Ed O’Bannon case irrevocably changed what the meaning of “student-athlete” can actually be. The NCAA also granted the Power Five conferences autonomy that will allow those schools to better service the needs of their student-athletes.
Bennett wasn’t finished ripping the system, though.
“I think there are very few schools that actually care about the players,” Bennett said. “Guys break their legs and they get the worst surgery they could possibly get by the worst doctors with the worst treatment.”
However, the former Texas A&M Aggie provided a solution that would ease his concerns.
“I think the NCAA should come up with a plan for college athletes to receive some of the money they bring into the schools. My school, Texas A&M, I think makes $50 million just on jersey sales. So I would say pay $60,000 [to student-athletes] for every year you stay in college. Keep that in a 401(k). After you graduate, hold that money until you are a certain age and then you get the money.”
Some day this might happen. It may be closer to happening than it isn’t. Until then, scholarship athletes still receive an education without paying or paying very little to gain such an invaluable asset.