If you’re like me and you watch SportsCenter, listen to Extra Sports 690 and log onto ESPN.com daily, you’ve probably heard all the stir about athletes Maurice Clarett, Mike Williams and Jeremy Bloom.
Clarett, an Ohio State sophomore running back, prompted headlines when he challenged the NFL’s rule that prevents players from entering the draft if they have been out of high school for less than three years. A U.S. District Judge ruled in favor of Clarett on Feb. 5 and Clarett subsequently declared himself eligible for the draft.
Williams, a USC sophomore wide receiver, followed suit and declared himself eligible for the NFL draft on Feb. 25.
And Bloom, a skier and a football player at the University of Colorado, is currently flouting the NCAA’s insidious position on amateurism. Bloom wants to use skiing endorsements to fund his pursuit of a gold medal in the 2006 Winter Olympics while he continues to play football, which defies NCAA regulations.
‘From the time I was 9 years old I’ve dreamed of winning a gold medal for our country in the Winter Olympics,’ Bloom told the Associated Press. ‘Unfortunately, at this time, I can no longer realistically attempt to follow this dream with the restrictions that exist under current NCAA bylaws.’
If one takes a close look at the NCAA’s bylaws, it becomes clear why Bloom has defied them, and why Clarett and Williams have decided to leave the NCAA entirely.
Put simply, under the NCAA, athletes like Bloom, Clarett and Williams live in poverty. Outside of the NCAA, they are able to make millions off of their athletic skills.
In other words, the NCAA forces top-notch athletes to sustain themselves on salaries that are ridiculously disproportional to their real world worth. In fact, NCAA bylaw 15.01.7 prevents athletes from making a salary that exceeds the cost of a full scholarship, which is usually around a paltry $15,000 per year.
Granted, the NCAA provides exceptions to this law, but athletes like Bloom, Clarett and Williams typically fail to find themselves qualified for such exclusions.
Moreover, even if an athlete like Clarett, Williams or Bloom receives zero dollars from his university, if he wants to remain eligible for his sport, he cannot receive any sort of monetary compensation that exceeds the cost of full tuition. Bylaw 15.01.2 states, ‘Any student-athlete who receives financial aid other than that permitted by the Association shall not be eligible for intercollegiate athletics.’ (The type of financial assistance that athletes like Clarett, Williams, and Bloom would most likely receive would be forbidden by the NCAA, as bylaw 184.108.40.206 exempts awards that are based on athletic prowess.)
It is true that these athletes are receiving a free education. But when one considers the millions that these athletes could make if they either defied the NCAA or left it, it’s no wonder that they have.
To demonstrate just how egregiously the NCAA is shafting these athletes, consider the cost of attendance at the University of Colorado. If Colorado was giving Bloom a ‘full ride,’ he would receive $15,827 per year. After one subtracts fees, which are $4,670, the amount left over is a measly $11,154. According to the United States Census Bureau, the poverty line for a single person is $9,573 per year. This means that if Bloom was receiving a full scholarship, he would be making only $1,581 dollars more than someone who is living in what the United States labels as ‘poverty.’
Clarett and Bloom suffer similar circumstances.
Moreover, athletes like Clarett, Bloom, and Williams are the driving force of college sports. They are the reason why people buy jackets, hats and T-shirts, why big-time coaches get their millions, and why the NCAA regulators get their salaries.
Unless the NCAA comes up with a solution that makes the monetary compensation for athletes like Clarett, Williams, and Bloom equal to their worth, the number of athletes that leave college early will continue to increase and college athletics would molder into a second-rate playing field.