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Monday
Sep062010

Alabama Football Player Caught Accepting Improper Benefits

The nation's leading college football programs (and the salaries of their coaches and athletic directors), have come to rival professional teams in terms of jersey sales, TV contracts and public interest. Unlike players from decades past, college sports stars are now treated as professional athletes, with personal trainers, press conferences, and plenty of 24/7 news coverage on SportsCenter. It should be unsurprising, therefore, that many of these players act more like professional athletes than students. Not only do they swagger like athletes, but they begin to expect that many of the rules governing college athletics should not apply to them, because, if they weren't at a certain university, they would either be at another one or, better yet, already in the NFL.

Take a program like Alabama, for instance. If the media is going to treat these players as special, they are going to act as special. Human nature is human nature, and it should cease to become a surprise that figures with lots of money or attention tend to break conventional moral boundaries ( Tiger Woods and Wayne Rooney being two recent examples). An Alabama player was recently caught accepting $2,000 in improper payments from an agent looking to secure his talent before he gets into the league. This is clearly against the rules, yet both of these individuals decided that the incentives were in place whereby cheating could garner big rewards while getting caught would only secure a slap on the wrist. For the agent, these types of paid trips give him or her early access to the athletes with the most potential and, therefore, the biggest potential for huge profits (Bradford made $50 million before he ever threw a football). For the players, it is an easy source of money that they feel is entitled to them any way because of the money they bring into the university or because of their guaranteed success in the league.

Maybe, for just a few moments, the media should relax instead of overhyping these kids. Not only does it pile on the pressure to succeed, but it consequently encourages these students to cheat the system because they begin to feel more special than their peers. They are, first and foremost, representatives of their university and en rolled students. They are not professional athletes until they sign the first contract, so we should stop treating them as such.

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