Michael Bennett had a matter-of-fact answer to a question about following NCAA rules.
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
While debates rage in courtrooms and bar rooms, from newspaper columns to message boards, about the fairness of NCAA rules against extra benefits and players’ profiting off their likeness, an Ohio State football captain shared some thoughts that could calm a lot of people down.
Or make them even madder.
Yeah, definitely one of those.
"Don’t break the rules," senior defensive tackle Michael Bennett replied (via Ryan Ginn of BuckeyeSports.com) when asked if there was a lesson to learn from seeing stars at some other schools have their eligibility questioned or even suspended for allegedly being paid for autographs.
"It’s not really a magic ingredient or anything like that," he continued. "You just don’t break the rules. That might sound harsh because of all the temptations that are out there for college students and who want to be normal college students and have fun and do what they do, but we can’t. We don’t do what they do, and we have to make sacrifices, but those sacrifices give us huge opportunities in a four-year span to do great things. So just don’t break the rules. I don’t understand it. I don’t think it’s that hard."
Of course plenty of players — including some of Bennett’s former teammates — have proven that coloring between the lines can be easier said than done these days. It seems like a new scandal breaks every week or so, and each one appears to desensitize the public more than the last. Most of those who bother to share an opinion are critical of NCAA rules and how they are enforced, but Bennett makes some interesting points, not the least of which involves personal accountability.
But chief among them is this: Yes, major college athletes have some hardships regular students don’t face, but they also have a chance to reach the pinnacle of their profession at an accelerated rate. That is on top of the opportunity for a free education, free training, free publicity and other fringe benefits of being the big man on campus.
There is give and take to be sure, and some day perhaps the take will further outweigh the give, but in the meantime going along with the rules is not as much of a challenge as it is sometimes made out to be. At least not according to one person — a player who entered college highly recruited but far from a household name, clearly talented but nowhere near a finished product — who is living it first hand.