College football players must be more accountable

Aug 19, 2011, 9:07 AM | Updated: 11:42 am

By Brock Huard

I am getting really sick of the victim card as it pertains to college student-athletes. From USC to North Carolina, from Ohio State to now Miami, the argument goes something like this: “If the student-athletes were only compensated more for their arduous work, we wouldn’t see slimeballs forking over cash, strippers and tattoos. These poor student-athletes are getting ripped off, toiling for nothing, making millions for others and why shouldn’t they get what they can?”

Hey, I got an idea: How about if you want to lie, cheat and steal from your teammates and football program, why don’t you get booted off the team and pay back your money with interest, IRS style? If your chartered flights, free shoes and sweats, first class hotels, bowl games and gifts, room and board and tuition aren’t enough for your football services, why not go straight from high school to a working job with no college degree?

Better yet, go from high school to the UFL or play in Austria or Germany in their semi-pro leagues. Give Canada a shot.

College football is hard. The winter conditioning, the summer training, spring ball, fall two-a-days, balancing school with a full-time sport and trying to enjoy the college experience — none of it is easy or simple. Will 18- to 22-year-olds make mistakes and some stupid decisions? Sure they will; however, to excuse them from knowing right from wrong is unacceptable. When the tattoo parlor, or an agent’s runner, or some sleazy convict offers you cash and other impermissible benefits for nothing, your university, coaches, teammates and fans are counting on you to say NO.

I just spent two days with my colleagues at ESPN and finding solutions to the problems that are ravaging college football are hard to come by. The money, the popularity, the third party involvement of boosters, agents and scouting services all help create an environment ripe for scandal. Everyone needs to be held accountable, and the punishment should outweigh the gains. Unfortunately in today’s NCAA football world, they don’t.

I wonder, was it worth it for Reggie Bush or Terrelle Pryor? For Robert Quinn and Marvin Austin at UNC? Was the short-term gain worth the long-term stain? Jim Tressel, was it worth it?

Give credit to the NFL. Over the last decade the league has poured incredible resources into programs to help educate and teach its players about the pitfalls and dangers of NFL life. Rookie symposiums and life skills training classes, full-time employees in the building all work together to preach the message of “choices, decisions and consequences.”

Are the players perfect? Nope, but like it or not, they are accountable to Roger Goodell and his punishment. Punishment that is swift, firm and career-threatening.

There must be more accountability at the collegiate level, period.

I really hope that Mark Emmert at the NCAA level starts the ball rolling with stiffer penalties. I would like to see heavy fines levied against coaches and players that cheat their programs. I would like to see the legislation that is being put in place in Texas to further punish dirty agents finds its way to other states. I would love to see the slimy agents and their runners lose their licenses and opportunity to represent clients. Can a mechanism be created to go after the pocketbooks and riches of crooked and irresponsible boosters?

As a passionate fan of college football it just sickens me to see the staining and tainting of the game I love. I realize there are no simple solutions, yet I cannot tolerate the victim card. When I interview college athletes and visit campuses all season long, I don’t see student-athletes who feel deprived and victimized by the system. I see football players like me 15 years ago, living their dreams and having the time of their lives playing the game they love.

Unfortunately, I also see a billion dollar business that now ranks second only to the NFL in fan popularity in our country. It is a business with 120 teams, a 500-page NCAA rulebook, and third party scavengers all wanting a piece of the action.

As fans, I hope we demand more from our institutions, our players, our coaches and the NCAA. Mark Emmert, you were a visionary to bring Larry Scott to the Pac-12 conference, but I am afraid it is going to take a lot more than vision to unravel some of the messes you now find on your desk.

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College football players must be more accountable