Alabama head coach Nick Saban said the following regarding agent involvement with collegiate football players at yesterday's SEC media day: "I don't think it's anything but greed that's creating it right now on behalf of the agents. The agents that do this -- and I hate to say this, but how are they any better than a pimp?"
Saban continued, "I have no respect for people who do that to young people. None. How would you feel if they did it to your child?"
Are you kidding me?
Here's what I have to say: The way student-athletes are treated is reminiscent to a high-tech form of institutionalized slavery. You have athletes who lay it on the line for a series of one-year contracts called scholarships and what do they get in return?
This is what they get: Student-athletes are treated like they have committed felonies crimes for having some fun at a party in South Beach.
What's really the big deal?
Who really cares if the student-athletes meet with agents?
Why should this be a big deal knowing most of the blue-chip prospects are going pro anyway?
Shouldn't the athlete have the right to secure their future like everyone else?
The statement made by Saban does have a degree of credence but the "pimp" reference should be directed elsewhere. It's time to break down who the real "pimps" are. Based on the current structure of the NCAA it won't be hard to decipher who is really exploited and how.
Let's start with a major college program like Alabama. How can a marquee coach like Saban proclaim the actions of agents as being so unscrupulous without talking about the other facets of intercollegiate athletics and who profits?
Nick Saban makes 5-million dollars as a coach. It's quite easy to proclaim agents are "pimps" when his pockets are fat and secure yet the players he coaches aren't allowed to be paid.
The NCAA is the governing body of collegiate sports. They make the rules and the coaches and student-athletes must follow them. They also make billions of dollars as well. Not bad for a non-for-profit organization, huh?
Many of the rules are simply not fair to the student-athlete. For example, how can coaches like John Calipari, who has had two Final Four appearances wiped off the books, not be sanctioned and still coach at Kentucky yet have a player in Dez Bryant stripped of his eligibility for having a meal with Deion Sanders?
Isn't this hypocritical?
While the athlete has an opportunity to obtain a "free" education, often the athlete never secures that education. So after the cheering stops many have no where to turn. Is it an equitable exchange for the athletes to get mere opportunities while the universities, conferences, head coaches and the NCAA are guaranteed money?
Television networks, conferences, the NCAA, the universities, and the head coaches are getting paid off the sweat of the athlete. The most productive and instrumental part of the athletic equation receives nothing in terms of compensation. This is the biggest egregious act in sports today. Slice the pie as you wish but there's no logical reason why the athlete cannot be entitled to some of the money they are responsible for generating.
So who are the real "pimps" here?
Star players are often forced to take money. They are forced to resort to measures that are against NCAA rules that favor everyone else except the athlete. What is so wrong with having some spending money? What is really so wrong with athletes talking to agents about securing their future?
No longer should it be acceptable for everyone in sports to profit from the athletic experience except the athlete. No longer should the athlete be put into situations where they are in need yet cannot have those needs met. Point blank: The overall system of collegiate athletics is faulty and hypocritical. It's a system that favors every rung of the athletic equation except for the most central cog.
For example, let's say Saban has a star player. That star player gives the university four years of service. He may or may not have a degree. Meanwhile Saban has earned in upwards of 20-million dollars over that span. The conferences and the universities have made money. The networks have cashed in along with the NCAA but not the athlete.
Yet Saban has the audacity to say agents are pimps yet fails to mention who is really making the money?
So again, who are the real "pimps?"
The real pimps are those who are being compensated. The real pimps are the coaches like Saban who earn millions of dollars for coaching players who cannot get paid. The real pimps are those who are earning massive sums of money off athletes who get in trouble for attending a party at South Beach or having a meal with a former NFL player.
Change the system. Let the athletes who will likely go pro meet with agents in the presence of university officials and representatives from the NCAA. Let the players have a choice in the destiny and ensure they get the best chance to make their dreams come true.
Saban goes into homes to recruit players to win National Championships which earns the university money right? That being said, why can't prospective NFL players meet with agents at the next level to secure future employment?
Doesn't this make sense?
Ah, but that's the problem. It's not about making sense. It's about making money. And everyone is making money except for the most important part of the athletic experience.