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Todd Gurley and the Future of College Athletes

University of Georgia running back and Heisman Trophy frontrunner Todd Gurley has been suspended indefinitely, reportedly for receiving impermissible benefits for signing memorabilia. Gurley’s 773 yards rank him atop the SEC and he is already third in total yards in Georgia history. He may not be around long enough to break that record.

Arguably the best player in the country, the Atlanta Journal Constitution is reporting that Gurley may miss the entire season – and one would guess he will enter the NFL draft as a likely first-round pick. The freight-train of a running back is not the first player to break this questionable NCAA rule. Fellow Georgian AJ Green sold his jersey from a bowl game for compensation, Cam Newton allegedly took money to attend Auburn (though unproved), and most recently, Johnny Manziel signed autographs for compensation. Manziel was suspended for just one half of a game due to inconclusive evidence. The suspension cannot be questioned – Gurley knowingly broke a rule and should pay for it – but the rule prohibiting players from being able to profit off their name? That can certainly come under fire.

ISH writer Josh Nooromid and I break down the “Pros and Cons” of the much-maligned NCAA rule.

Pros (Josh):

The current NCAA system is viewed as horrible to most people around college sports but in actuality some aspects makes sense.
The reason that the system should remain the same is to protect the players. If players are allowed to accept money and bribes from outside sources, college scores and outcomes could be tampered with. I believe that players definitely need to be paid in some way but they need not accept outside money.
As a UGA fan myself, the current Todd Gurley situation made me angry about college football’s rules, but it is truly not a bad idea to penalize athletes for talking to outside sources. The only issue is that the NCAA makes billions off of NCAA players but those players sometimes can’t afford things for themselves. For example, Todd Gurley is a future millionaire right? OF COURSE! But currently the only help he gets financially is from his mom whoever works at a laundromat.
Don’t get me wrong, the NCAA offers some help for these players but not enough. Now another major pro to the current system is how will this happen? Who will monitor the amount given or the amount taken by players? How will this help? Recruiting would become a nightmare! Would recruiting become a bidding war? Will all NCAA athletes get paid including female athletes? If men get paid for playing football, Title IX claims may get called out and females will want payment also. 
All I am trying to say is that the NCAA definitely can not jump into this yet. They have to explore options and see what else they can do. Last year the NCAA gave all players free food anytime which was a huge deal at the time on ESPN and other networks, and some people believed that payment was next. Lets hope so.

Cons (Max):

The University of Georgia can sell a jersey with #3 on the back and make $90 off of it, but Gurley can’t make money off of his own name? The Georgia athletic department will make nearly $100,000 in revenue in 2014 – almost all of which will be through the football program – yet the players, the true generators of that revenue, will receive none of that money. The system is broken and it needs to change.

It’s a pure joke that Todd Gurley, unlike his fellow classmates, cannot get a job, nor can he earn any money. How can Todd Gurley – a good kid, by all accounts – turn down thousands of dollars for simply putting his name on some merchandise when he will be a top-10 pick in the draft just months from now? From a purely logical point of view, Gurley actually made a wise choice. Why risk injury, while accumulating the wear and tear of another season for free, when the NFL is just on the horizon for him? If the rule was to remain in place, I would not be surprised to hear about agents and advisors urging kids to do just what Gurley did. In trying to maintain the cliche of “sanctity” in college sports, the NCAA has blatantly ignored a necessary change. There’s nothing sanctifying about the ungodly sums of money the NCAA accumulates in the process of extorting college kids.

The real question is: what is the solution? You can’t simply dole out a stipend to each and every player of every sport at every major university. The revenue sports (football and basketball) need to be judged on a completely different playing field (no pun intended) than the others. Primarily, players should be able to profit off their own name. Period. However, a clearly defined boundary needs to be outlined before any of this can be implemented. Otherwise, recruiting will be even more of a bidding war than it already is. It’s time for a culture change in college athletics, and the Todd Gurley incident is just a reminder of that.

What do you think about the Gurley situation and NCAA player compensation? Leave a comment and start a discussion!

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