College football has always tried to operate under the guise that it is an amateur endeavor, but when you look at the photos of Oregon’s new football facility that have started circulating this week, you’re reminded, once again, that the Ducks players — and players at other top-tier programs across the country — are athlete-students, not student-athletes.
I mean, look at the place. The facility is palatial, and is certainly as decked-out as any in the country — and that includes the NFL. It’s a complex fit for a king, or 100 kings, and it is largely inhabited by privileged, but unpaid players, who make the sport the profitable undertaking that it is. (Though, in this case, Phil Knight’s deep pockets also played a role.)
The only way these athletes are students are in that they’re not being compensated, and that’s the bottom line. That point is highlighted, especially at a school like Oregon, by these opulent quarters they keep and the excessive and flamboyant helmets they wear.
Will they do anything more to help prevent concussions? No, but they’ll look great when players get their brains scrambled, and that’s the mindset at every program that prioritizes grandiosity and prestige over practicality and the perception that athletes are students first.
Just this week, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted that EA Sports’ use of athlete likenesses in video games was not protected as free expression under the First Amendment, a decision that could pave the way to a hefty settlement in the Ed O’Bannon case against the videogame maker.
If O’Bannon’s case turns out to be successful, and EA Sports wants to continue making games with current players, the NCAA is going to have to change its amateurism rules to accommodate. But given the way “student”-athletes are already treated like royalty — save for paychecks — that shouldn’t be a difficult bridge to cross.
Now, for some links:
• Witness: Ken Jeong reading the Dodgers starting lineup:
• The restaurant where Drew Brees caught flak for (not really) stiffing a waitress has donated $888.88 to Brees’ foundation.