Some NCAA rules just deserve to be broken

April 1, 2011 

Folks who regularly read my columns know my thoughts on the issue of paying college football players. It's disappointing that so many scholarship players have recently been involved in theft crimes.

Since NCAA rules prohibit athletes from working part-time to earn 'pocket change,' I've often said giving them $100 a month for their athletic efforts could help reduce or end the college athletic crime rate.

But given the number of recent violations of the NCAA's rules prohibiting extra benefits for athletes, it seems a lot of players are being compensated in one way or another.

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel was suspended for the first five games of next season after protecting five players who broke the extra benefits rule by selling Buckeye memorabilia. Georgia receiver A.J. Green was suspended for the first four games of last season for selling his jersey from the previous year's Independence Bowl.

Extra benefits violations aren't the only violations occurring, but they seem to be the most common lately.

Extra benefits are items a recruit or a player can't receive because a non-athletic student can't receive the same items. In other words, coaches can't provide money, game tickets, hotel rooms for games or jobs for parents or siblings to help an exceptional recruit decide which school to attend.

I never had a recruiting violation in my career, but I broke the extra benefits rule quite a few times, and only one time was I severely penalized.

I violated the extra benefits rule when I helped young men, like I would help my sons, by lending them a few dollars, and most repaid me. I once loaned a player $20 after he told me his mother hadn't sent money for his date on the weekend.

Several times I lent players $10 to $20 to contribute gas money to friends with cars who were heading close to their homes for spring break, summer vacation, or holidays.

Twice, a player stayed at my house when the dorm closed for spring break or other reasons and he had no way to get home. That was an extra benefits violation, but I'm thankful the NCAA didn't discover my help to these players.

In 1985, when I was at Minnesota, quarterback Rickey Foggie's mother called me needing an airline ticket quickly so Rickey could return to Laurens, for his grandmother's funeral. I did it, because by the time his mother sent the money for a ticket, the funeral would be over.

His mom sent the money several months later, but the NCAA discovered what I did when investigating the Golden Gophers' basketball program for recruiting violations.

Due to the violation, I had to fly to Orlando to face the NCAA Infraction Committee. I explained to the committee that I made the decision to help Foggie because I felt it was very important to his family.

After my explanation, a committee member with an angry voice spoke to me as if I were a criminal. The NCAA denied me pay raises and bowl bonuses for two years. It also cost me a job offer from Florida coach Galen Hall, who was told not to hire me.

Author Don Yaeger wrote a book -- 'Undue Process: NCAA's Injustice for All' -- about coaches he felt were unjustly humiliated and punished by the NCAA over years. Yaeger described my violation as good for a coach trying to help a player and his family.

Sadly, in my opinion, Division I college football is not as noble as it once was due to many athletes committing crimes and being academically deficient. I hope this behavior changes soon so all young men playing college football can have good futures.

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