Amy Donaldson: Stooges at NCAA full of hypocrisy

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 29 2010 10:00 p.m. MST

Keni Kaufusi (Cal) and John Martinez (USC) are brothers.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

The NCAA has turned college sports into a hotbed of hypocrisy.

As college sports continue to increase in popularity, everyone and anyone is cashing in on the games. Everyone, that is, except the young athletes who make those games so compelling.

The recent decision regarding the five Ohio State football players who sold trophies, rings and other memorabilia just highlighted how hypocritical the organization that oversees college sports has become. One was suspended for a single game next year and four others, including quarterback Terrelle Pryor and wide receiver DeVier Posey, were suspended for five games — NEXT YEAR!

They will, however, be allowed to play in the Sugar Bowl next week. Why, you might wonder, would they do that? Well, because the NCAA and its television partners will make a whole lot of money off those bowl games and they need all their stars on the field.

If what they did was wrong, they shouldn't be allowed to play in the bowl game.

Posey's mother, Julie, pointed out that while the athletes struggle to make ends meet, everyone around them is cashing in on their hard work. A local Utah father, who is supporting two Division I football players at different schools, agrees — a full ride scholarship doesn't cover everything.

"So it's already a financial strain on a family," Posie's mother told the Columbus Dispatch. "The whole thing requires money, but they — the NCAA — don't want to give it to them. The NCAA is saying, 'Well, if they gave them money, they no longer have amateur status.' Well, guess what? College football and basketball players are the only amateurs not receiving any money that I see plastered all over the TV and on magazines. They're not amateurs. Who do they think they're kidding? The NCAA certainly doesn't look at them as amateurs. If they did, they wouldn't be making money off them."

Steve Martinez, a local father who has a son, John Martinez, at USC, and another, Keni Kaufusi, at University of California-Berkley, said he's tempted to fly to NCAA headquarters in Indiana and let them know just what he thinks of their ridiculously inconsistent and unrealistic rules.

Here is the way Martinez explained it:

I vaguely understood that USC had to be punished concerning Reggie Bush, for its lack of supervision of its very high profile (can I say world-famous?) football team. I also understood trying to keep track of 300 student athletes — and their relatives — with a small one-and-a-half people is an impossible task. But I do know what I was personally told at every "mandatory" parent gathering that I attended. I was told a few simple rules.

Rule No. 1 — Never do anything that will embarrass the university or hurt the team.

This is pretty simple to me. You are not in this alone. Every time you think about doing something questionable, or even something fairly ordinary for a late teen, early 20s kid, think about the guys you spend all your time with. If you are going to do something that hurts them, your friends, your roommates or your brothers, don't do it!

Rule No. 2 — The parent is the player.

Everything I do has a reflection on my son's eligibility, his future. I, as a parent, am not allowed to do anything that in any way capitalizes on my son's "celebrity." This means I am not allowed to go to some friendly guy's tailgate and have a hotdog and a drink without paying for it. If I were to get some benefit, due even in part to John and Keni playing college ball, I could get them disqualified from college football, forever.

Rule No. 3 — Don't sell any signed memorabilia. Their autographs aren't supposed to be "worth" anything.

The guys may not sell their team uniforms, track suits, hoodies, backpacks, or bowl gifts to anyone.

This rule can be ridiculous. How can you give a person something and then tell them they can't do what they want with it? The absurdity of this was highlighted by a tragic accident here in our hometown. A friend of mine, Dave Brown, John's first baseball coach, was helping with the hockey team. The zamboni broke down on the ice and was leaking water everywhere. He walked out onto the ice to help push it off so they could continue with the game. But he slipped as soon as he hit the water. Both feet went up and he fell, hitting the back of his head on the ice. Medical care was already there, the hospital was across the street, but the damage was too great. He was in a coma for 10 days and then, sadly, passed away. The community is having a fundraiser (Monday, Dec. 27, at the County Ice Center in Murray) to defray the medical and burial costs and to help his wife and four kids a little.

I knew I couldn't sell John's jersey or autograph, so I asked if we could donate four of John's complimentary tickets to the USC-Utah game next fall. The answer? No. It's against NCAA rules.

So while colleges, commercial sponsors and the NCAA itself get rich off the efforts of these boys, we can't donate tickets to help a family deal with a tragedy. (Anyone interested in helping the Brown family can do so by e-mailing tblz@msn.com.)

Julie Posey's response to the dispatch summed it up perfectly.

"There's no crime here. None. They're not involved with agents. They didn't steal anything. They didn't borrow anything from anybody. It was theirs. Nobody told them it 'almost belongs to you.' It belonged to them," she said.

And the inconsistent response of the NCAA was summed up by Martinez:

Hey, I was actually kind of all right when USC was banned from attending a bowl this year (for allegations against Reggie Bush's father, which cost him the Heisman and the program two years of postseason play). It was the first time in five years I had both boys home for the holidays.

But come on, the hypocrisy of allowing the five Ohio State players to play in the Sugar Bowl is too much. Talk about selective punishment. Maybe the No. 1 rule of dealing with the NCAA should be: Don't disturb the fat cats of the BCS.

I think the No. 1 rule should be to overhaul the system. College sports have changed; the organization that oversees them should also.

e-mail: adonaldson@desnews.com

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