College football players in the Power 5 Conferences are using justified concerns about COVID-19 to aggressively go beyond and push for long-sought player salaries and 6 year scholarships among other tangential and peripheral issues because in their exact words, college athletes are “exploited.”
I have a different opinion from today’s college football players, though I respect all opinions and always seek to understand. We are allowed to have different opinions in a country that embraces and celebrates diversity of background and perspectives.
I take umbrage at the fact that many college football players today consider themselves “exploited” by the system. Everyone inside and outside college football who considers playing college football an “exploitation” should consider this.
As a college football letterman at an NCAA Division I Power 5 Conference school who earned his bachelor’s degree in 2.5 years and graduated with a master’s degree at age 22 with 1st Team Academic All-Big XII honors, never once did I believe I was being “exploited” by the system. Playing college football, especially at the highest level that I did under the tutelage of some outstanding coaches, was the highest honor and privilege of my life. The experience pays eternal dividends for everyone if done the right way.
In NCAA Division I Power 5 Conference football, there are many extraordinarily talented athletes on the back half of every roster who are paying to play as preferred walk-ons or uninvited walk-ons. They are proving their worth everyday, savoring every minute of the experience, and considering it a high honor and an exclusive privilege to live the demanding and disciplined lifestyle of a major college athlete.
As they step on the gridiron, they realize magnitude of their achievement. They are not getting paid in the form of cash, but they realize they are getting paid in tangible and intangible ways completely forbidden to non-athletes who can only dream of being in the role the college football player worked so hard to achieve. I speak for like minds and say we are endlessly grateful and humbled to have played college football, a tradition-rich American cultural institution since 1869. No one can convince us that we are being harmfully exploited.
That athlete on the back half of the roster was me. I worked and earned every honor, every privilege, and every minute of playing time. Yes, I did play in several games.
I woke up at 5:00am everyday and attacked every drill like the National Championship was on the line. I gave my coaches the utmost respect and always answered them with “yes, sir” and “yes, ma’am.” I took my responsibility as a role model seriously and regularly volunteered at local elementary schools in my official capacity as a Baylor Football player. I wore the team gear off the field and the uniform on the field every Saturday with enormous pride, knowing that while I was working to make a name for myself, I had a responsibility to carry on the legacy of my forebears in all of college football since 1869 with grace and dignity.
If this is what passes for “exploitation” these days, feel free to exploit me all over again. I have been coaching high school football for eleven years and counting plus girls sports in large part to inspire boys and girls from all walks of life that they too can achieve their dream of playing their sport at the highest level of competition.
This is bigger than college sports. There is a disproportionately large number of CEOs for Fortune 500 companies who have played college sports. The positive effect of playing college sports is strong for male CEOs, but is proven to be even stronger for female CEOs. This is one of the many reasons why I am equally energetic and enthused about coaching girls sports as I am with football.
No, a college athlete is not getting cash, and there is a litany of good reasons why college athlete salaries are not feasible. I would state that the college athlete is getting paid in a manner better than cash. The college athlete, through academic achievement, athletic prowess, solid networking, exclusive membership, and the indelible accomplishment of being a letter winner is making an investment now that will pay eternal dividends off the field.
I would never encourage a high school athlete to participate in an activity I truly felt was exploitative. If college football and college athletics are really systems of “exploitation,” that I was just blind to all along, I need to hang it up as a coach because I have been doing my male and female athletes wrong by encouraging and equipping them to pursue their dreams of playing college sports.
This is just an alternate thought in the minority to add to the discussion that, from my vantage point, has not had much room for different voices to be heard. Listen to all voices before you formulate your own opinion. I hope this promotes deep thought regardless of your ultimate conclusion. Have a nice day.