I wrote only a few weeks ago about the excitement and the heartbreak of the NCAA Championship Tournament. Let’s be clear: I love March Madness, I don’t like the NCAA. The case of Jamar Samuels is the latest reason why.
Samuels is a senior on the Kansas State Wildcats men’s basketball team. He was undoubtably one of the team’s core players. Just minutes before an NCAA Tournament game on March 17, Samuels was suspended for the game against the Syracuse Orange over concerns about his eligibility. K-State lost the game to Syracuse, thus ending their season and Samuel’s career as a Wildcat.
The suspension was an act of pure hypocrisy by the NCAA. Jamar Samuels was suspended for taking $200 from a former AAU coach and family friend. Better yet, that $200 was used by Samuels so that he could keep from going hungry. He couldn’t afford to eat. Samuels comes from a poor family, which left the AAU coach to lend him some money. Taking the money is clearly an NCAA violation, but that is not what I’m arguing. I want some better compensation for NCAA student-athletes.Samuels is at K-State on a full-ride scholarship. The bargain with Samuels, just like it is for every athlete in his position, is to get an education in exchange for basketball skills. This is a great system, but the scholarship only covers school and I’m pretty sure athletes have to eat too.
The worst part is that the story ends right here. Samuels is 22 years old and he can’t do anything about the suspension. He has no rights to challenge the ruling. He can only be humiliated like some kind of criminal by the NCAA –– which made $10.8 billion in television revenue alone last year –– for taking $200 to eat. Nobody is condemning the NCAA for wanting to make money through television contracts, but shouldn’t there be some compensation for the athletes who make the money for the NCAA? My answer is yes.
Institute some kind of program in which student athletes do get money to play sports. Not a lot of money, but enough to fill the crevasses of college life. Enough money to eat, enough money for gas and enough money to be a college student. It’s impossible for student athletes to work so give them a little money and save yourself some hypocrisy.