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Student-athletes should follow the money, just like the college presidents

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Updated: November 30, 2011 12:19AM

Dear blue-chip high school athletes,

As you all prepare to make the jump to student-athlete on the college level next fall, it is a very exciting time in your life. Just one little word of advice to take with you to the university of your choice: CHEAT!

An agent wants to slip you a car or a house for the folks? Take it. A cowboy-boot-wearing booster offers you an envelope and a boat ride with a few escorts aboard? Anchors aweigh! Your straight-A roommate, Sparky, wants to take an English Lit midterm for you? Go get ’em, Sparky. Need some cool arm ink from the local tattoo parlor for the price of an autographed jersey? Enjoy looking at the snake wrapped around a football on your left triceps. Your dad wants to play Bob Barker and sell you to the highest-bidding program? SEC, c’mon down!

Exploit the system before the system exploits you.

As this week has shown, it’s every college football program for itself. There is no loyalty. There is no trust. And that’s just among the university presidents. The Big East was the latest to find that out, waking up Monday morning with Pittsburgh and Syracuse putting in their two-week notices. They are set to turn the ACC into the first real superconference, basically making ACC athletics a billion-dollar industry.

What will be Johnny Quarterback’s cut in all of this? They will try and sell him on the fact that a full scholarship to an institution of higher learning is reward enough.

Don’t buy it.

This last week has shown all of us that college athletics is the Wild West. There is no leadership, no plan, no thought process to how this all will end. It’s jump to a secure conference now or be left in the ocean to drown.

Yet these college presidents expect student-athletes to continue to conduct themselves by the outdated standards and rules that were set in place decades ago? Standards and rules that, in many cases, have no rhyme or reason to them?

How can they preach about keeping the corruption out of their programs when the economic foundations of those programs are built on throwing ethics out the window?

It’s not only broken, it’s backward.

I’m all for capitalism and colleges putting themselves in the best position to print money, but there is no show without the actors. In this case, the players.

Allow them to have the same chance to be paid for their talents.

It’s not about the university paying athletes; it’s about allowing corporate America to have the opportunity to pay the athletes, just like they pay the coaches. If Nike thinks an 18-year-old running back is a good investment to wear its cleats or gloves and to build an ad campaign around, that’s Nike’s choice. If the local car lot wants an offensive tackle to stand in the back of a pickup truck for a commercial, have at it.

‘‘College football has just taken control over everything that’s gone on in the country,’’ former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese told ESPN on Tuesday. ‘‘All of these moves are about football and money and greed. I’m embarrassed by the whole thing. Not just because it’s affected the Big East. It seems that things such as integrity, loyalty and congeniality are gone. .  .  . We’re living in a society where it’s almost like [the movie] ‘Wall Street,’ where greed is good.’’

Tranghese then was asked how he could tell a student-athlete, after all this conference realignment, ‘‘This [scholarship] is all you get.’’ His response was, ‘‘I couldn’t tell a kid that.’’

Neither could I.

If the system isn’t fixed, however, I can tell him one thing without losing an ounce of sleep. The innocence long has been gone.


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