The Grambling State University football team made national headlines last week when its players boycotted last Saturday’s game against rival Jackson State University.
The team delivered a letter to the GSU administration detailing concerns about substandard and unhealthy training facilities, excessively long bus trips, lack of financial support, and the firing of coach Doug Williams, the ex-GSU legend and Super Bowl winning quarterback, just two games into the season.
Whether anyone agrees with the grumblings of Grambling players or not, they may have delivered a blueprint to college athletes regarding player’s rights, in specific, player compensation.
For years there has been talk of compensating student-athletes who make millions for the schools football and basketball programs, yet get no piece of the financial pie.
There is certainly an air of hypocrisy involved when the athletes don’t get at least a stipend in addition to their scholarships, while coaches make millions, and sign lucrative shoe deals.
In addition, many of those high paid coaches often circumvent NCAA practice restrictions. During my 30 year career as a sports writer I’ve heard student-athletes complain not only about the financial exclusions, but the amount of time that playing college athletics is required.
There is a study to back up their concerns. According to a survey of 21,000 athletes conducted by the NCAA in 2006, football players at major college programs spent 44.8 hours per week in athletics. That far exceeds the 20 hour limitation mandated by the NCAA(http://diverseeducation.com/article/13021/#).
The National College Players Association is a new organization whose goal is to champion student-athletes rights, especially (http://www.ncpanow.org/) in regard to safety, academics, and compensation.
During the weekend games of Sept. 21 several college football players had APU “All Players United” scribbled on their towels, wristbands, and shoes. It was NCPA’s way of highlighting their efforts to to bring athletes together (http://sports.yahoo.com/news/ncaaf-shame-on-northwestern–georgia-tech-for-trying-to-stifle–apu–movement-230451663.html).
The players have the power, if they are brave enough to use it. Even at the lower FCS division level in which GSU competes, the boycott cost thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands. Jackson State lost a home gate on homecoming weekend. According to NOLA.com website, their homecoming games average 21,000 fans.
Those ticket sales are lost, in addition to the center piece of homecoming weekend. Fans and alumni that would’ve been traveling to Jackson for the game, staying in hotels and going out to dinner, probably stayed home.
Now, imagine if athletes at Southern Cal and Notre Dame, two of college football’s iconic programs, which produce millions for their respective institutions, decided to boycott last Saturday’s game in South Bend?
It would have cost Notre Dame literally millions in ticket, concessions, parking revenue, and a television contract with NBC. This does not include the hit the South Bend economy would’ve taken in lost hotel bookings and dinner reservations.
Now, imagine if the athletes from the power conferences such as the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac 12 decided to boycott for players rights? The college sports world would be at a standstill. And, suddenly, the NCAA would find a way to compensate student-athletes.
What happened last week in Grambling was just the first shot in the fight with the NCAA member school’s for student-athletes rights. But I get the feeling it will not be the last.