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Hobbs Column: First lesson for athletes, life’s not fair

Last Modified: Friday, August 02, 2013 10:44 AM

By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

So help me, if I hear one more person moan that Johnny Manziel “is only 20 years old,” I’m going to … I don’t know … maybe crash a Texas fraternity party and write really mean things on Twitter.

Anyway, Manziel is the most well-documented 20-year-old in the country right now, but this isn’t about him specifically.

It’s about all those others, mostly those who don’t have the parents with the financial means to turn them into international jet-setters without, apparently, running afoul of any NCAA regulations.

Johnny Heisman apparently doesn’t need what is surely coming for the 20-year-olds at your giant football factories, which is a little spending money to tide them over.

I’m good with that, generally referred to as a full cost of scholarship adjustment. For the most part, they seem to be talking about something between $2,000 and $5,000 a year per player, or student-athlete if you prefer.

The big-budget schools can afford it, at least for the revenue sports. As to how the act of paying just the football and men’s basketball players is going to tip-toe past the Title IX police, I haven’t a clue.

But the coaches who’ve rallied around the cause surely have thought of that, so I guess it’s possible.

Good for them. It’s designed, I guess, to replace the old hundred-dollar-handshake lines that were once such popular gathering spots among the old, sis-boom-bah alums outside the dressing rooms.

I’m cool with the so-called “stipend” as long as they can keep it veiled in the token, walking-around money category and steer clear of what SEC Commissioner Mike Slive insisted it wasn’t: pay for play.

In other words, it’s like the impending new four-team playoff. As long as it ignores the sport’s habitual worry warts and stays at just four teams, it’s fine.

Same with the token spending money.

But it won’t be easy.

The apologists have been running rampant lately, with wild tales of how college athletes are being mistreated, abused and largely taken advantage of, all the better just to exploit their considerable talent, which rarely involves bionuclear physics.

It won’t be long before we hear that the proposed extra cash is nothing but guilt money.

I’m trying to feel sorry for them, the players, but it’s not coming easy.

Sometimes you’d think they were being held hostage in the third-world septic tank prisons rather than being sentenced to free rides at some of the nation’s finest and ivy-laden universities.

Yet they’ve been all but abused?

That’s as opposed to when some of these scholar-athletes run afoul of the law. Then all we hear is that it’s not their fault, that they’ve been coddled and adored since early childhood because of their talents, and what do you expect when they’ve been told all their lives by society that they’re special, that normal rules don’t apply and that they’re probably bulletproof.

The simple fact is, college football has to keep some semblance of amateur status, or else anarchy wins.

Never mind that many of these schools bring in millions of dollars and it’s nothing if not big business. Relatively speaking, it is pretty cheap labor.

No question, you need good players. That’s usually why you win, which is what builds strong bonds with season-ticket holders and contributors to Tradition Funds.

But, for the most part, fans of college football are cheering the laundry, the familiar uniforms, more than the players inside them. The A&M fans may buy up all the No. 2 jerseys, but if it didn’t read Aggies on the front, it wouldn’t matter whose name was on the back.

When Manziel is gone, somebody else will be the Aggies’ quarterback, probably not as good, but A&M fans will have just as big of a rooting interest in whoever has to fill his shoes. They surely won’t quit going to games.

A couple of notable players from last February’s signing class have had scholarship remorse, so to speak, and wished to get out of the scholarships they signed after finding greener pastures.

Sorry, but there have to be some rules or the already absurd art of recruiting would descend in total chaos.

If it’s one or two, OK, what’s the harm? Maybe if special circumstances can be proved, which has happened, you make an exception and make it clear that’s what it is.

But once a scholarship is deemed no more binding than the infamous soft oral commitment, then recruiting NEVER stops, even after signing day.

And who on earth would want to live in a world like that?

We also often hear that, while coaches can come and go and school-jump as they please — even if it takes some lawyering on contracts — players are bound to the school at which they signed a scholarship.

Coaches can also exploit their names and fame for all the millions that foot soldiers like Manziel are forbidden to solicit.

True. But so what?

Is it totally fair that the advantages seem to be tilted toward the adults in charge? Probably not.

But guess what? Life ain’t always fair.

It’s a solid fact of life that most 20-year-old college students, while duly protected by the Constitution of the United States, don’t in reality have all the same rights and advantages of a full-grown adult with 20-30 years in the real-world workplace.

That’s kind of the way the gradual ascent into adulthood works.

Live with it.

• • •

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com

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