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Manziel and Big-Time College Athletes Don’t Know How Good They Have It

I’ll give John Manziel this much credit. He clearly knows how to make money off of his name. He’s going to need that ability, as I doubt he’ll be playing much football once his time at Texas A&M is over, which may or may not happen soon.

Like I’m sure many are, I’m beyond tired of hearing what Johnny Goofball/Johnny Lohan/Johnny Khardashian or whatever you want do call him is doing next. But this most recent one is a biggie for sure, with reports that the most overly hyped college athlete out there took money from vendors in exchange for autographing so much stuff that his season might be in jeopardy from carpal tunnel. Or from the fact that that’s a pretty big no-no by the NCAA’s standards.

At first, it looked like Johnny getting the boot was a given. Then the press went and turned on the NCAA, pointing out how much stuff related to Johnny they were selling on their own website. Suddenly, people were no longer lashing out at a spoiled brat acting out like the rules don’t apply to him but instead going back to whining about the rules being unfair.

The NCAA actually acquiesced, and suddenly player shirts and jerseys were no longer for sale via the official NCAA shop. But the damage was done, with yet another outcry for the “owners” of college sports to stop profiteering and start actually  paying their athletes.

The ironic thing is that Manziel is one guy who more than anything is not hurting for money; he could have gone to A&M sans scholarship thinks to his supposedly wealthy parents. (I say supposedly because, according to guys like RIchie Whitt, Manziel’s family may not be as well off as some think.)

Yet he has become the new cover boy for the opponents of the NCAA’s strict guidelines on amateurism, saying it’s so unfair that student athletes generate so much revenue and get nothing in return.

Right. They’re getting shafted because all they get is a completely free ride to the college of their choice with room, board and no fear of leaving with any type of student debt. This argument is as old as what it’s arguing against, and it still stands.

Their supporters clam big time athletes should have the financial freedom to attend movies and buy their school’s own expensive clothing like everyone else. Never mind that most students who also work jobs can’t afford those activities either because they’re salvaging every dime they can to pay their student loans.

But above all that is the one factor so many ignore. Johnny Manziel and the athlete who could, in theory, deserve compensation, are the minority. Same goes for the schools that could actually afford to pay them.

To listen to the likes of Jay Bilas and Jason Whitlock, you would think every school in the nation that plays Division I football and/or basketball is a cash cow franchise that is just churning out millions of dollars on the backs of its beleaguered, hard-working, exploited athletes. Nothing could be further from the truth. For every University of Texas, there is a University of Texas-San Antonio, a school who’s entire athletics budget practically equals Mack Brown’s salary alone and struggles to stay within that. They don’t have obscenely wealthy boosters willing to fund UT’s decision to fly its entire football team to Dallas for its annual game vs OU, when Dallas is just a three-hour drive from Austin.

It doesn’t matter what sort of “compensation plan” these so-called experts could come up with that they think is fair, because 90 percent of the colleges out there still wouldn’t be able to pay it. I don’t think enough people know quite how bad the disparity between the haves and have-nots is; it’s already similar to forcing AA and AAA baseball teams to play against the majors every year, and you want to make it even worse? It’s bad enough that small schools have to subject themselves to getting blown out on Big U’s home field in exchange for a big check. (Really, UT? You’ll buy yourself an easy win vs New Mexico State but you won’t play A&M any more?)

Thus you would essentially destroy college sports by making it financially impossible for almost all of the schools who don’t play in those elite conferences (are there still six of those? My head’s still spinning from all the realignment.) to field a team. They now have to offer stipends for their athletes along with a full scholarship for a chance to compete? Hundreds of schools would be forced to say “I’m out.”

I will not deny that I am biased from having seen this first hand for years. My alma mater, UT-Arlington, hasn’t played football at even the I-AA level since Back to the Future was in theaters. As long as I can recall, our men’s basketball team couldn’t offer the maximum number of 13 scholarships; I can only hope that moving to College Park Center has helped alleviate this. What they do have, however, is an athletics program with integrity. They have never faced NCAA sanctions for cheating. They make sure they get student athletes who go to class. They graduate players.

There are actually more UTAs out there than University of Miamis, who just look to buy football players over real student athletes. The schools who use athletics the right way – allowing kids to use their abilities toward getting an education – greatly outnumber those who are using America’s obsession with football to make millions of dollars.

But too many people with microphones and keyboards think the needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many.

Allowing the elite schools and programs to pay their athletes could only work if they were barred from competing against the rest of the NCAA programs. That’s even less likely to happen.

So, sorry to offend anyone, but here’s my take on Johnny Manziel and his cronies saying student athletes are being treated unfairly: Shut up.

You think it’s not fair that you toil for an organization that profits off your work without actually “compensating” you? Tell it to the millions of people who work unpaid internships during and after college just in the hopes that the experience will lead to something bigger.

Almost every athlete who could make money off himself from his play in college will once he’s eligible for the pros to come calling. Or, in the case of Manziel, just selling his own name.

The majority shouldn’t be forced to suffer just because you guys can’t be patient.