"Clarett said that players from the inner city aren’t prepared for college. They’ve never seen anyone succeed in an academics so it doesn’t mean anything to them. “Guys in inner cities only believe what they see,” Clarett said. He said it’s a culture problem."
Now if I were a football player (I'm not), I'm not sure Clarett is the guy I'd want as my spokesperson. But what he's saying rings true and backs up a lot of what SimpleMan was saying, that there are many football players out there who in all actuality don't belong in college, based on their academic preparation. The system is broken, and has been for a long time. The scandals we are seeing have been going in college football for years. The difference is that now you have Facebook, Twitter, cell phones everywhere with cameras on them, text messages, email, TMZ, etc........things that could be kept quiet indefinitely even just 10-15 years ago will now eventually come to light, and it will happen sooner than later.
But when it comes down to it, what alternatives to the current system are there? The only real alternative I have seen thrown out there is for someone to start what would essentially be a farm league for the NFL. But there are so many reasons that this is not a viable option, it's hard to cover them all in one post. Just for starters though, it would have to be HEAVILY subsidized, because there simply would not be enough opportunities to make money. I live in the Greenville, SC area and our local baseball farm team plays over 70 home games a year. That's over 70 opportunities to sell peanuts and cracker jacks to the fan base. So you don't have to pull huge crowds to any one game, because you're going to make your money over time. But you can't put a football player through that type of grind. You're going to get 6 or 7 home games a year, just like college football. So if you can't pull 60,000+ fans to a game, you're going to lose a lot of money. And no farm team is ever going to pull those kinds of crowds. Fans aren't going to feel the same attachment to a farm team as they do to their favorite school. And due to that lack of enthusiasm, you can forget about TV contracts bringing in any significant money either. The ONLY organization out there that could pull this off is the NFL, and I guarantee you they have no interest in starting something they will have to subsidize, when the current college system already serves the same purpose as a farm league, but for free. There are plenty of other reasons it wouldn't work, but since everything always boils down to money anyway, I don't see a reason to expound much further.
So the only option that leaves is somehow reforming the current system within the NCAA framework. And this is where every option I consider brings up conflicting feelings. There's no doubt that I feel the players are being exploited to a certain degree when you look at the type of money that's involved. The explosion of everything like coaches' salaries, tv revenues, bowl payouts, etc since the early 90's has increased the level of benefits for everyone involved.....you know, except for the players. Yes, the players receive the benefits of having nicer facilities and things like that, but having a bigger weight room and a really sweet locker doesn't make it easier to pay your rent that month. So when I see a suggestion like allowing the players to sell autographed memorabilia through approved channels that can be controlled, part of me immediately loves the idea. But then there's the idealist side of me that loves the idea of true amateurism - playing the game for the love of the game. And at what point does the line between pro and amateur get blurred beyond the point of recognition? I actually like the idea of full cost scholarships that has recently been floated by the Big Ten and SEC commissioners, but I don't see how that can ever be passed. To allow it for only certain sports would have to create all sorts of legal issues, but trying to do it for all sports would bankrupt a lot of athletic departments - many of whom are already hanging on by a thread.
The winds of change are already beginning to blow when it comes to the welfare of players. The publicity given to oversigning this year couldn't have been predicted even just a couple of years ago. And when coaches start putting out there that they're willing to give up their own money to help the players, you know the debate is only beginning. Yes, that was ultimately a cheap publicity stunt by Spurrier, but he carries enough weight that it will still push the discussion forward. Whether it be the full cost scholarship or some other vehicle, SimpleMan is right that things need to change to allow the players to see some more benefits, but it needs to be done without totally compromising the idea of being an amateur. I do not have the answers - but there's enough really smart people involved that they should be able to come up with SOMETHING better than what we have today.