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Bob Birge's Irish Eyes Are Smiling


September 1, 2009 3:48 AM

Michigan situation points to exploitave nature of big-time NCAA sports

If you're a Notre Dame fan, you've got to be laughing about what's going on at Michigan.

Wolverines coach Rich Rodriguez has come under fire amid allegations by anonymous players and former players that the team has practiced way beyond the 20-hour weekly limit mandated by the NCAA.

Remember, you can't spell scum without UM.

Seriously, we can't comment on the specifics of the Michigan situation. Still, you'd really have to have your head buried in the sand to think teams don't routinely violate the 20-hour rule. Some are probably worse than others.

It has been said that playing big-time Division I sports is akin to having a full-time job. There is nothing more absurd than a pompous, self-important NCAA official introducing players in press conferences as "student-athletes."

This controversy once again drives home the plantation mentality that exists in the NCAA, as players are routinely exploited. They bring in millions to their universities and get nothing in return except a free scholarship. It isn't enough.

More than ever, we're convinced Division I football and basketball players should receive a monthly stipend. It surely would end the pretense. It doesn't happen, of course, because there are too many media members who apologize for the NCAA.

We're still waiting for players to band together and just refuse to play. It would be their version of a wildcat strike.

Let's just suppose that the Michigan players refused to suit up for their season opener as a protest. Would could the university really do other than yank the players' scholarships?

Admittedly, that is a huge carrot dangling over the heads of players who can't afford to pay their own way to a school like Michigan, which is why coaches can always play the fear card.

So, you might say that a so-called players' strike never could happen in Division I sports. Ah, but it has happened. Remember the situation at St. Bonaventure a few years ago?

A group of players were so upset at sanctions levied against the program that they refused to play the last two games of the season. In that case, those players felt they were being unfairly punished for violations committed by the previous coach.

The university was red-faced, yet it could do nothing except forfeit the last two games, and the players made their point.

In many circles, the actions of the boycotting players were seen as antithetical to what athletics are supposed to be about. You can disagree with a decision, but you can't just quit.

Many saw those St. Bonaventure players as cowards. We saw them as heroes. They had the courage to take an unpopular stand even though they knew they were going to be vilified in the media.

We'd love to see such courage displayed on a higher level, if only to see the reaction from the self-righteous NCAA.

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