TIME College football

Georgia Indefinitely Suspends Heisman Hopeful Todd Gurley

Georgia v South Carolina
Todd Gurley #3 of the Georgia Bulldogs looks on during the game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium on September 13, 2014 in Columbia, South Carolina. Joe Robbins—Getty Images

The player is reportedly being investigated for allegedly selling his image

Georgia Bulldogs tailback and Heisman trophy frontrunner Todd Gurley has been suspended indefinitely, pending an investigation into the possible violation of NCAA rules, the University of Georgia said Thursday.

The school did not immediately say what the possible violation was, but Fox Sports and ESPN, citing unnamed sources, report that the investigation will look into whether Gurley accepted extra benefits from memorabilia brokers for the use of his likeness.

“I’m obviously very disappointed,” head coach Mark Richt said in UGA’s statement. “The important thing for our team is to turn all our attention toward preparation for Missouri.”

Gurley, a junior at the college, leads the Bulldogs with 773 yards rushing and eight touchdowns in five games this season. The No. 13 Bulldogs are set to play No. 23 Missouri on Saturday.

[Fox Sports]

TIME College football

Florida Quarterback Under Investigation for Sexual Battery

Florida Gators football helmut
Joe Robbins—Getty Images

He has been indefinitely suspended from all team activities

Florida quarterback Treon Harris is being investigated by university police for sexual battery after he was accused of sexually assaulting a female student in a residence hall early Sunday morning, the school announced Monday.

Harris has been indefinitely suspended from all team activities. Gainesville police are assisting campus police department in its investigation.

In its statement, Florida said it had no update on possible charges against Harris. According to reports, no charges have been filed.

Harris’s attorney, Huntley Johnson, said following news of the investigation, “No, [Harris] has not been arrested and I don’t expect him to be.”

Florida president Bernie Machen made the following statement:

We have no tolerance for sexual assault on our campus. The university is committed to providing a safe and inclusive environment for every member of the UF community. We must strive to protect all of our students from sexual harassment and assault, and do everything in our power to promote a safe learning environment.

Florida coach Will Muschamp canceled his weekly press conference Monday. No reason was given for the cancellation at the time.

Harris, a true freshman, relieved starter Jeff Driskel in Florida’s game against Tennessee on Saturday in the fourth quarter. Harris led the Gators to a comeback 10-9 win, orchestrating two scoring drives after Florida had been shut out to that point.

A Miami native, Harris was named the No. 3 dual-threat quarterback in the class of 2014 by Rivals.com.

Florida is 3-1 this season.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME Sports

Why I Can No Longer Root for Michigan Football

Minnesota v Michigan
Quarterback Shane Morris (#7) of the Michigan Wolverines is helped off the field by Ben Braden (#71) during the fourth quarter of the game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Sept. 27, 2014, at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich. Leon Halip—Getty Images

David Westin, principal in Witherbee Holdings, LLC, is the former president of ABC News and author of Exit Interview.

When quarterback Shane Morris was kept in the game after a brutal shot to the head, the university forgot its priority: keep kids safe

I never thought I’d feel this way. I never thought I’d feel ashamed of my Michigan Wolverines.

I’m a Michigander through and through, born in Flint and transplanted in my teens to Ann Arbor. My senior year in high school was Bo Schembechler’s first as coach of the Michigan football team, the year of that spectacularly unlikely win over Ohio State and Woody Hayes. I spent seven years at the University of Michigan as an undergraduate and a law student, with student season tickets every year. Working my way from deep in the end zone around the corner toward the 20-yard line. Each year brought heartbreak as we lost the last game of the season — either to Ohio State or to some Pac-8 team in the Rose Bowl.

Through it all, I’ve always been proud to identify myself as a Wolverine. Sure, we liked winning more than we liked losing. And sure, we complained bitterly when we lost the big ones. But we loyally suffered through it all — even the Rich Rodriguez era, which seemed so completely out of step with the long, storied traditions of the great U of M. We wore our navy blue sweaters with the maize block M. We branded our cars with bumper stickers. We flew the Michigan flag in our yards every year on the day of the Ohio State game. We thrust our fists in the air when we sang “Hail to the Victors.” Win or lose, we stood firm with our school. We were proud when we said “Go Blue.”

Last Saturday the seemingly impossible happened. Michigan lost to Minnesota, giving us the third loss in September — something we hadn’t seen in 135 years of Michigan football. But that wasn’t the impossible part. What could not have happened, but did, was the decision to leave our quarterback, Shane Morris, in the game after a brutal shot to the head from a defender that left him clearly woozy and shaken. Anyone with any sense could see that he most likely had a concussion (which medical tests later confirmed). But the Michigan coaching staff left him in to play another down — and then later put him back in the game for another play, after which he was taken from the stadium in a golf cart.

Head coach Brady Hoke first said it was his decision to leave Morris in the game. Then he changed his story to say it was his medical staff on the sidelines. He insisted that Morris hadn’t really been injured. Then he said he didn’t even realize that his quarterback had been hit. The athletic director, Dave Brandon, issued a statement early Tuesday that said there had been a “serious lack of communication” on the sidelines and admitted that Morris had a “probable concussion.” Now, some are saying the real problem was that Hoke doesn’t wear headphones on the sideline, so no one could tell him that his quarterback was in no shape to keep playing.

What we have here goes way beyond a failure to communicate. Even if Hoke wasn’t watching, even if he had no one to tell him something was horribly wrong, even if he hadn’t been in the stadium, the Michigan football program I thought I knew and had rooted for loyally for all these years would have known on its own what to do. This is, after all, a university. This is where parents send their children for learning, for growing and, yes, for athletics. One would have thought that everyone would know from Day One that there’s one priority that ranks above all others: keeping the kids safe. Not winning a game; not filling the seats; not getting the most out of television-rights contracts. First and foremost, don’t hurt the students.

If Hoke and Brandon and, for that matter, university president Mark Schlissel haven’t ingrained this simple principle in the minds of every single person who works at the school — much less on the football coaching staff — then we’ve got something much worse than a breakdown in communications. We’ve got a breakdown in values.

I know college football leaves much to be cynical about. I know there are immensely successful programs that put football success above all else — above educating the students, above keeping them safe, above making sure they behave themselves in their off time. But we Michigan fans thought our university was different. That belief has made me a loyal alumnus and fan of the University of Michigan. For the first time in my life, I’m having to question whether Michigan truly is different from all those other large state universities that let their hugely profitable football programs do pretty much what they want.

I haven’t been asked for my advice on what the university should do now, and I don’t know what went on behind the scenes. But there’s one thing I’m sure of: the leaders of the University of Michigan have to take decisive, unambiguous action to reassure all of us that they understand what matters most to them, to their students, to their students’ parents and to all of their fans. The reputation, the brand, the pride we Wolverines used to have — all of it hangs in the balance.

Westin, principal in Witherbee Holdings LLC, is the former president of ABC News and author of Exit Interview. The views expressed are solely his own.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Football

My Dream After Fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan: To Play College Football

Rise: A Soldier, a Dream, and a Promise Kept
Rise: A Soldier, a Dream, and a Promise Kept Courtesy Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Daniel Rodriguez is a decorated war hero, a Division I football player for Clemson University, and the author of the forthcoming memoir, RISE: A Soldier, a Dream, and a Promise Kept.

I know the difference between Death Valley and the Valley of Death. I’ve seen both. Football is not war. Football is a game. But right now, for the moment, it’s enough

October 20, 2012
Clemson, South Carolina

The noise is almost deafening.

No question about it — when you put 80,000 people in one place and unite them in purpose, they can shake a building (and the surrounding countryside) to its core. As I stand here now, at the top of Memorial Stadium, preparing to lead the Clemson football team on the long downhill run to Frank Howard Field — there’s a reason they call it Death Valley — I can feel the earth trembling beneath my feet.

I am at the front of the line, an unusual and somewhat disori- enting position for a first-year walk-on. But then, this is no ordi- nary day, and I suppose I am no ordinary college football player. For starters, I’m twenty-four years old, which makes me the old- est guy on the team, despite the fact that I’m only a freshman. I’ve spent most of the past six years in the military, serving tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Along the way I had the misfortune of being involved in the infamous Battle of Kamdesh, one of the bloodiest encounters in the Afghanistan conflict. I lost friends that day, and no amount of hardware (I received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star with Valor in the aftermath) can ever change that fact or make the memory any less painful. But I guess this is one of the ways I deal with it: by fulfilling a promise I made to a friend who died that day, on October 3, 2009.

“Someday, when I get out of this sh*thole, I’m going to play college football,” I had said, although I didn’t really know how I was going to make it happen.

And now here I am, dressed in orange, padded up, at five-foot- eight, 175 pounds, the smallest guy on the Clemson football team. But no matter —ain’t the size of the dog in the fight, as they say. I’d be just as happy at the back of the pack, but today is unique. Not only are we playing Atlantic Coast Conference rival Virginia Tech, but it’s also Military Appreciation Day. As I wave the American flag at the top of the stadium steps, generic cheering and shout- ing give way to something more organized, something more pro- found:

“U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!”

I understand the reality of being a soldier in the modern army. I know that most people are deeply disconnected from the violent and exhausting work of the American military half a world away. I know that the patriotic chanting is a gesture soon forgotten. But you know what? That’s okay. It feels good now, in this place and this time, and I’m honored to be a part of it. There’s one other thing: it’s my father’s birthday. Ray Rodriguez, who was not just my dad but also my best friend, passed away shortly after I gradu- ated from high school. I was still just a kid when he died, and not a particularly ambitious or focused one at that. I can’t help but wonder how he’d feel if he were here now to share this day with me and to see the man that I’ve become. I like to think that he’d be proud.

Suddenly we’re moving, careening downhill, nearly a hundred strong, rolling into the stadium, into Death Valley. It’s a nickname, of course, and nothing more, signifying the supposed fate of Clemson opponents. I know the difference between Death Valley and the Valley of Death. I’ve seen both. Football is not war. Football is a game. But right now, for the moment, it’s enough. I’m lucky to be here. I’m lucky to be alive. I was given a second chance, and I plan to make the most of it.

Excerpted from RISE: A Soldier, a Dream, and a Promise Kept, by Daniel Rodriguez with Joe Layden, to be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on October 7, 2014. Copyright © 2014 by Daniel Rodriguez and Joe Layden. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Rodriguez is a decorated war hero and a Division I football player for Clemson University. He served tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, rising through the ranks to sergeant. In 2009 he fought in the Battle of Kamdesh and earned a Purple Heart and the Bronze Star Medal with Valor.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY Sports

Why Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games

Bleachers at Michigan Stadium.
Bleachers at Michigan Stadium. Simon Bruty—Sports Illustrated/Getty Images

With college football ticket prices soaring and expanded conferences leading to less exciting matchups, fans—students in particular—are more likely to watch games from home.

There’s no denying that college football is a hugely successful business enterprise, arguably the second-biggest, most popular sport in the U.S. right now (after pro football in the NFL). But there’s one glaring crack in the armor that college football conferences and storied college programs have been struggling with for years: Fewer and fewer fans are actually buying tickets and attending games in person.

The problem is particularly evident among students, who aren’t buying tickets like generations past. For the upcoming season, the University of Michigan, the winner of no fewer than 11 national championships and 42 conference crowns, projects that student attendance will hit around 13,000—a shocking 40% less than the figure hit last year (roughly 19,000).

It’s not just a problem in Ann Arbor. The Wall Street Journal reported that student attendance fell 7.1% from 2009 to 2013, and that it has even fallen over the past few years at games hosted by perennial powerhouses such as Ohio State, Michigan State, Florida State, LSU, and the University of Florida. A year ago, observers took note that home attendance was down for the majority of teams in the SEC, even though the conference has thoroughly dominated college football in recent years.

The two most frequently cited reasons for the ticket slump are simply: 1) higher ticket prices; and 2) less interesting games. A student season ticket package at Michigan, for instance, now costs $295, up from $205 not long ago. There are only six homes games in the package, mind you, so that breaks down to just under $50 per game. “There are students who are being priced out,” a Michigan business student named Michael Proppe explained to the WSJ. “People are looking to trim costs, and for a lot of folks, football is an easy thing to cut. It’s not essential to going to college.”

What makes the decision easier for students at Michigan and other schools is the expectation that the games they’re missing aren’t going to be that good. The shifting and expansion of college football conferences has led to incredibly lucrative TV contracts for the programs involved, but it has also meant that traditional rivals don’t play every year like they used to. Michigan’s biggest rivals are Michigan State and Ohio State, but for the first time in nearly 40 years, the Wolverines won’t be hosting either team this season. Instead, Michigan will welcome the likes of Appalachian State and Miami (Ohio), opponents that many fans apparently think aren’t worth paying $50 to see.

As ticket prices have soared, and the quality of the product has declined, it has become more of a no-brainer for fans—poor students in particular—to stay home and watch the game on the couch. After all, this option has gotten cheaper and more entertaining and convenient in recent years, thanks to the declining prices of big-screen TVs and the advent of DVRs, multi-angle replays, and other innovations. Sure, the exciting roar of the crowd may not be there if you watch the game at home, or the frat house, or heck, in the parking lot while tailgating outside the stadium. But the way trends are going in terms of shrinking attendance at games, the crowd might not be all that loud inside the stadium either.

MONEY Sports

How College Football Sacked the NBA and MLB

Houston football fans singing the National Anthem
Dave Einsel—AP

With the college football season upon us, it's time to take stock of just how valuable this "amateur" sport has become.

Want to know how rabid fans have become for college football?

Well, the season kicks off in earnest tonight when the South Carolina Gamecocks (ranked 9th in the country) take on the Texas A&M Aggies (ranked 21st).

The game will be played in Columbia, South Carolina, in front of 80,000 screaming fans — an amazing feat given that Columbia has a population of just 133,000. The Aggies, for their part, play in Kyle Field, which in 2015 will be able to hold almost every single College Station, Texas, resident.

Last year, the Gamecocks opened with a game against the University of North Carolina, and 3.7 million people across the country tuned in. That may not sound that impressive, but consider that Columbia is just the 77th largest television market in the U.S., behind cities like Omaha and Toledo.

There’s no doubt about it. Americans love football.

More people watched the NFL Sunday Night pregame show last year than watched the Boston Red Sox win the World Series. In fact, professional football games comprised all but four of the 50 most-watched sporting events of 2013. The National Football League is the most popular spectator sport in America.

What’s No. 2? Not the NBA, not Major League Baseball—but college football. And with college football introducing a new-fangled playoff system this year, expect America’s infatuation to only grow.

Here are a few measures of its influence.

Ratings

The 2013 NBA finals featured perhaps the most popular athlete in the world, Lebron James, as his super team battled against the San Antonio Spurs for seven unforgettable games. An average of almost 18 million viewers saw James secure his second NBA title. A few months later, 15 million baseball fans saw the Red Sox win their third championship since 2004.

How many viewers watched Florida State beat Auburn in the 2014 BCS title game? Twenty-six million, per Nielsen ratings.

This isn’t a one-off event. On average, 2.6 million people watched NCAA regular season football games last year, according to Nielsen. Take Saturday, October 5, 2013. Both the University of Georgia and Tennessee were enduring less than stellar seasons. Nevertheless, 5.6 million people tuned in to see the two Southeastern Conference schools play each another on CBS.

Viewer demand is only likely to increase. Starting this year, college football will institute a four-team playoff to decide the national champion, and rejiggered rules allow the biggest football programs more control over their finances. According to USA Today, these developments will lead to the biggest schools earning 71.5% of the $470 million annual television revenue for the playoff.

Baseball and basketball simply don’t attract as many eyeballs. About 700,000 people watched an MLB regular season game on television in 2013, and 1.4 million watched a non-playoff NBA game in the 2012-13 season. (All are based on nationally televised games.)

The total attendance for 835 NCAA Division I football games was a little more than 38 million, with a per-game attendance of 46,000. The NBA, which has almost 400 more total games in its season, drew 21 million people, while the MLB attracted 30,500 per game. (Major League Baseball has almost three times as many games and brought in a total of 74 million fans.)

Reach

Part of college football’s popularity might be its reach. While the NBA and MLB have 30 teams collected mostly around large metropolitan areas, college football programs exist where there are colleges – which is everywhere. Consider that New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco have 15 professional baseball and basketball teams. That’s a quarter of all the teams in only four cities.

Now look at NCAA football. The top five teams play in Tallahassee, Tuscaloosa, Eugene, Norman, and Columbus. While it’s true that a number of the West Coast schools play in big cities (UCLA, Stanford, and the University of Washington), most of the big-time schools are the only game in town. If you live in Boise, Idaho, do you really care about anything else the way you care about Boise State Broncos football?

Riches

There is something a bit unsettling about college football’s popularity, and corresponding affluence. A college football coach is the highest paid public employee in 27 states – including South Carolina and Texas. Alabama’s Nick Saban made more than $5.5 million last year, despite the fact that his and every other team’s players weren’t paid anything. (Many were given athletic scholarships, but those can be taken away if a “student-athlete” becomes injured. Just for some perspective: the University of Texas’s football program earned $82 million in profit last year.)

Plus, football is a dangerous game, and it’s an open question whether an institution of higher learning should even be in the business of promoting a sport that causes severe head trauma. (Google: Owen Thomas.)

College football, though, is inexorably linked to American history. The first intercollegiate game took place four years after the end of the Civil War, and the college game itself was saved by then President Teddy Roosevelt.

Otherwise normal, hard-working Americans revert to 20-year-old fanatics every fall Saturday afternoon and cheer on their alma maters. Tonight’s game in Columbia is just another page in the never-ending story of America’s love with her second-favorite sport.

TIME

USC Football Player Suspended Indefinitely for Fake Drowning Story

Southern California cornerback Josh Shaw lines up against California defensive back Isaac Lapite during the first quarter of a NCAA college football game in Berkeley, Calif.
Southern California cornerback Josh Shaw lines up against California defensive back Isaac Lapite during the first quarter of a NCAA college football game in Berkeley, Calif. Eric Risberg—AP

Shaw has been suspended "indefinitely" from the Trojan athletic program

University of Southern California’s cornerback Josh Shaw said Wednesday he lied when he told his coaches he sprained his ankles while attempting to save his drowning nephew. In response, the USC Trojans suspended Shaw indefinitely from the athletic program as a result of what he referred to as a “complete fabrication.”

“We are extremely disappointed in Josh,” USC coach Steve Sarkisian said in a statement. “He let us all down. As I have said, nothing in his background led us to doubt him when he told us of his injuries, nor did anything after our initial vetting of his story.”

USA Today reports that members of the school’s athletic department doubted Shaw’s story from the beginning. The investigation into Shaw’s injury had been ongoing since Monday when the school posted the initial story in which Shaw claimed to have sprained his ankles after jumping onto concrete from an apartment balcony in an attempt to save his drowning 7-year-old nephew.

In a statement issued through his lawyer, according to USCTrojans.com, Shaw apologized saying, “I made up a story about this fall that was untrue. I was wrong to not tell the truth. I apologize to USC for this action on my part.” The statement did not include any information about the real reason behind Shaw’s injuries.

Shaw is a fifth year senior at USC where he was a team captain on the football team.

TIME College football

Oklahoma University Suspends Running Back Over Misdemeanor Charge

Oklahoma Mixon Football
Oklahoma freshman running back Joe Mixon leaves Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla., after being arraigned on misdemeanor assault charges Monday, Aug. 18, 2014. Jay Chilton—AP

Freshman Joe Mixon allegedly punched a woman in the face

The Oklahoma University football program has suspended running back Joe Mixon for the entire season after he pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge, the team announced on Twitter Monday. “He will be excluded from all team activities, including being removed from the team roster,” the statement read.

The freshman was charged on Friday with misdemeanor assault for allegedly punching a woman in the face. Mixon, a top recruit, could receive up to a year in prison if convicted.

A fellow Oklahoma student, 20-year-old Amelia Rae, told police that Mixon knocked her unconscious and broke four bones in her face, according to the incident report. Mixon’s lawyer maintains he was protecting himself from “a very intoxicated and troubled young woman,” according to ESPN.

The school said that under appropriate conditions, Mixon will be able to continue as a student, and could still be eligible for financial aid.

TIME College football

Notre Dame Benches 4 Football Players Over Cheating Charges

The players are suspected of submitting papers that others had written for them

Officials at the University of Notre Dame are investigating four members of the school’s football team for suspected academic dishonesty, the school announced Friday. The players, who helped the team win the 2012 Bowl Championship Series, will not be allowed to attend practice or play in games for an unspecified period of time.

“Young people sometimes make bad decisions, but our job is to hold them accountable,” said Rev. John I. Jenkins, the school’s president, in press conference.

Evidence of the cheating, which consisted of submitting classwork that had been written by others, emerged on July 29, and the school’s general counsel initiated an investigation, according to a press release.

“We’re going to have this investigation go wherever it leads us, and we’re going to be thorough,” said Jack Swarbrick, director of athletics at Notre Dame.

Jenkins said the investigation is still ongoing and that the school would initiate a committee to consider the allegations in accordance with the school’s honor code. There is no evidence that any of the coaching staff or academic personnel knew about the alleged misconduct, he said.

Notre Dame’s football team has fared well in recent years. The four players in question played on the 2012 team that made it to the BCS national championship. Jenkins said that the NCAA has been notified of the investigation, and said that it is possible that the school will vacate its wins during past competition as the players would have been ineligible under NCAA rules due to their academic dishonesty.

Notre Dame’s opening home game against Rice is scheduled for August 30th.

TIME College Sports

Some College Athletes Will Now Get Paid—a Little

Cabrinni Goncalvesof the Maine Black Bears tackles Trevor Siemianof the Northwestern Wildcats during their college football game at Ryan Field on September 21, 2013 in Evanston, Illinois.
Cabrinni Goncalvesof the Maine Black Bears tackles Trevor Siemianof the Northwestern Wildcats during their college football game at Ryan Field on September 21, 2013 in Evanston, Illinois. John Gress—Getty Images

Power conferences gain autonomy to make own rules, which will include cash stipends for athletes

Some colleges are going to pay athletes.

The NCAA voted Thursday to allow 65 teams from the so-called Big 5 power conferences—the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12, and SEC, plus Notre Dame, a football independent that is now a member of the ACC in other sports—to make their own rules. These conferences will to offer their athletes not only a scholarship, but the full cost of attendance: money for extras like food, clothing, the occasional trip to the movie theater and more. Depending on the school, this could amount to athletes receiving an additional $2,000 to $5,000. With further autonomy, these schools will also ease restrictions on contact between athletes and agents, and be able to do things like pay for post-season travel for the families of athletes and invest more money in athletic health care coverage.

The move in many ways reflects an economic reality. These conferences drive the most interest in college sports: Between 2003 and 2012, for example, annual football revenues for teams now in SEC jumped 91%, to $759.9 million. The college football playoff, which starts this season, and the continuing expansion of lucrative conference television networks—the SEC Network debuts on August 14—will continue to pump more riches into college sports. NCAA leaders are recognizing that in this environment, the long-criticized inequity of college sports—that none of this additional money flows into the pockets of the talent actually doing the core work, the athletes—is no longer tenable.

“It’s important for the student-athletes and their welfare,” Ken Starr, president and chancellor of Baylor University, said of the vote. “There are things that we would like to do, and we need to be empowered to do those things.”

While the vote is historic in nature, college sports critics contend it doesn’t go far enough.

“I hope it’s the first step towards players being able to negotiate their own working conditions,” said Richard Southhall, director of the College Sport Research Institute at the University of South Carolina. “The crumbs are more nutritious than they used to be, but they’re still crumbs.”

The move falls short of giving athletes in the high-revenue sports full salaries, or allowing them to capture their true worth on the open market. To college leaders, such reform would dredge up the dreaded E-word. Athletes would serve as employees, which administrators have determined is incompatible with education.

“If you’re an athlete, going from $0 to $3,500, mathematically, is infinitely better,” said Andy Schwarz, an economist who has done work on behalf of the plaintiffs in the Ed O’Bannon anti-trust case, in which the former UCLA hoops star and other athletes are challenging the rights of schools to profit off their name, image and likeness without compensating them. “But qualitatively, it still misses the point entirely.”

A decision in the O’Bannon case, which is pending, and a successful effort by Northwestern football players to form a union could accelerate the destruction of the NCAA’s so-called “amateurism” model. But for other critics of the NCAA’s vote, that would be a disaster. To them, autonomy for Big 5 conferences, and cost of attendance subsidies, already goes too far. It will destroy competitive balance in college sports, as the extra benefits offered by the big schools will allow them to attract even more top talent, leaving schools outside these conferences helpless. “The NCAA cannot fall prey to phony arguments about student welfare when the real goal of some of these so-called reformers is create a plutocracy,” Boise State president Bob Kustra wrote in statement in May, “that serves no useful purpose in American higher education.”

Stipends for athletes, however, won’t destroy college sports. Competitive balance doesn’t really exist in college sports now, as almost all of the top high school players are already going to the top schools. In a 2011 paper entitled “Excuses, Not Reasons: 13 Myths About (Not) Paying College Athletes,” Schwarz studied 10 years worth of recruiting data and found that 99% of the high school football players listed as Top 100 prospects on Rivals.com went to power conference schools and Notre Dame. And despite this trend, football teams like Northern Illinois, and basketball teams like Wichita St., have cracked the top of the national rankings, because, as West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck puts it, “recruiting is an art, not a science.” Plenty of talented players are overlooked by big schools, and will continue to be overlooked by big schools, even though players at top conferences are receiving a few thousands dollars extra in stipends. At lower schools, plenty of players blossom into pros, and will continue to blossom into pros, even though their Big 5 rivals are receiving some cash.

Sure, a few players on the margin may choose to possibly sit on the bench at a big conference school, rather than star at the lower levels, because of the extra benefits. But all talent won’t flow upwards, because of simple supply and demand. Schools offer a finite amount of athletic scholarships; every player who wants to play basketball at Duke can’t go to Duke. So they’ll go to, say, Lehigh. And what can happen? We’ll still have charming upsets. If Lehigh could knock off the hyped stars from Duke during the 2011 NCAA tournament, they could still beat them tomorrow, even if the Duke players receive more money.

“Having a little bit of cash doesn’t spoil the entire amateur status,” Luck said.

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