Bowl boycott would shock unfair system

Dan Wetzel
Yahoo Sports
Bowl boycott would shock unfair system
.

View photo

Former UCLA linebacker Ramogi Huma is the president of the National College Players Association

It took just 10 days across five athletic departments for the National College Players Association to gather more than 300 signatures from athletes. Each one dutifully put their name to a petition asking the NCAA to set aside some of the additional $784 million in new television deals to further benefit players.

It could be used to help cover educational expenses should a scholarship end before a player has achieved a degree. It could just go the players once they're done with school.

The plan isn't perfectly defined. The purpose of the petition is: Major college athletes want a better deal than just tuition, room and board.

"The things we go through, the hours we put in, what our bodies go through, we deserve some sort of (results)," Georgia Tech defensive end Denzel McCoy told the Associated Press. "College football is a billion-dollar industry."

The petition is a terrific start, and here's to the players at Arizona, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Purdue and UCLA that were willing to step out and stand up. It's long past time for college athletics to make a better offer to its workers; the free-ride concept originated when stadiums were only 20,000 seats and there was no such thing as television, Internet, shoe deals, video games, memorabilia and other revenue streams.

And yet these college coaches and administrators still cry amateurism as if they operate a local Little League team. Then they turn around and demand salary, country club memberships, his-and-her luxury cars and the use of private planes as if they run the New York Yankees.

There is no austerity in the NCAA version of amateurism.


As the new television deals rolled in over the last couple of years, one seemingly richer than the next, the NCPA, a California-based athlete advocacy group, and Drexel University teamed up for a study and found more than three-quarters of a billion dollars annually in brand new funds.

"The players said, ‘we can't just sit on the sideline with all this going on,'" said NCPA president Ramogi Huma, a former UCLA linebacker.

Particularly galling was an August "Summit" held by NCAA president Mark Emmert on the future of college athletics that didn't include a single college athlete. Hence, here comes the petition, which will be circulated at additional campuses in the weeks to come.

"The NCAA president obviously didn't bother to ask college athletes about the future of college athletics," Huma said. "So this is college athletes inserting themselves into the discussion."

It's a fine, overdue and appropriately polite start. It's also unlikely to be enough, which is why the next step – for college football players in particular – is to consider a far bolder, impossible to ignore and historic move.

Get together and boycott a minor bowl game.

Nothing will rock college athletics like players refusing to play. And nothing will get the attention of people more powerful than university presidents than a canceled nationally televised game. It will be a bomb blast to the system – grabbing the attention of non-sports media, local and national politicians, and reformers of all kinds. A bowl boycott will get everyone talking, immediately.

Suddenly, university presidents who've spent decades dragging their feet on reform might be forced to act. It's been an embarrassing series of scandals that's helped shame college leaders into proposing a small $2,000 per year stipend ($38.46 a week) to cover some living expenses.

Pressure works with these people.

A lower-grade bowl game is essentially useless anyway.

It's too much to ask a player to sit out a Final Four or a BCS title game – as has been plotted before. Even regular season games are difficult. Players want to play. They work too hard for the chance to compete. Having guys give up a shot at a championship isn't realistic. No one wants to let down coaches and teammates.

Calling off some minor bowl – where the bowl executive is still pocketing $400,000-plus – isn't such a sacrifice. It is, however, high profile enough to rock the system.

No one will remember who won the game anyway. The team that sits out for more equitable treatment will be hailed both immediately and forever – books will be written, documentaries will be filmed, history will lionize.

It's the drastic move that's desperately needed – going beyond the petition and demanding that they won't just earn someone else money without having their voice heard at the table.


College athletes don't have a union or a collective bargaining agreement. Every few years in professional sports there is a knock-down, drag-out fight between the players and the owners over the course of business. Sometimes it goes smoothly. Sometimes, such as the current NBA lockout, it's ugly.

Either way, the players have the right to hire the best lawyers, negotiators and public relations people to make their case. There's a debate. There's a battle. Sometimes one side wins; sometimes the other. Checks and balances. In the end, progress inches along.

"College athletes have never even been at the table," Huma said.

A scholarship is undoubtedly a great opportunity and can't be simply brushed off as nothing. It isn't enough though. It's too easy – as the NCAA public relations machine pushes – to dismiss that more can be done or to use Title IX as a shield from even discussing something new.

This isn't just about paying the players. It's about paying attention.

It can be a commitment to actual education, not just eligibility. It can be about lifetime health care for catastrophic injuries or fewer full-contact practices or the end of the ridiculously lopsided national letter of intent and transfer rules. It can be dozens of ways to sweeten the deal that don't just involve some lump payouts. (I'm personally for a complete overhaul of the system, but I won't let better be the enemy of perfect.)

Consider this: The NCAA prohibits college athletes from having agents, denying them professional representation. It's a combination that keeps the workers powerless and coaches in total control. Having professional counsel is protection, not professionalism. In California, child actors must have an agent to save them from their own parents.

One of the long-held arguments in college athletics is that it's protecting 18-year olds from shady reps who might stick them with an unfair contract, because players at that age wouldn't be able to decipher such a deal.

Then, in the next breath, it requires student-athletes to sign a contract that grants the NCAA the right to market and profit off their likeness for the rest of their lives. That's a deal worth tens of millions of dollars to high-profile athletes whose jersey sales, appearances in commercials and video games and the rebroadcast of old games, including on conference-owned channels, lives on and on. It's likely the worst deal they'll ever sign.

Right now you can buy a trading cards featuring Oscar Robertson as a freshman basketball player at the University of Cincinnati. That was 55 years ago. The Big O not only doesn't see a penny of the money, he's not even allowed to approve or disapprove of the project.

"The arrogance and greed of the NCAA knows no bounds," Robertson, 72, said.


Unfortunately that's a realization too often formed after a player leaves campus. The ones still playing are consumed with trying to help the team, have fun and get an education. Without an agent, they rarely understand the business of college sports they're driving.

Such as how much money is being made by a bowl game, to which their university leased their talent.

Was it really a fair deal for generations of football players to make, using one example among many, former Fiesta Bowl CEO John Junker a multimillionaire? Was it their job to provide him nearly $700,000 in annual salary, four complimentary county club memberships, a $2,250 a month car allowance (you know where a guy might get a reliable ride for that?) and an AMEX Black card on which he wrung up $4,856,680 over the last decade, an average of $1,330 a day, every single day, for 10 years?

That's not playing for Old State U. That's being an unwitting cog in a lavish machine.

The petition is a great first step. It will make some leaders uncomfortable in their refurbished corner office. It will raise headlines and build awareness, perhaps most importantly in the locker room.

"The players couldn't believe how much money was there," Huma said. "Actually, I couldn't either. It's a lot of new money. They always say, 'Where's the money going to come from?' Well, here it is."

Eventually though, if the players are serious, it'll come time for one courageous group to step up the fight for awareness, for discussion, for action from the powerful figures that control the game.

Some third-tier bowl game is the ultimate stage – just waiting for some heroes to say they aren't playing until we make steps toward a fair deal.

Other popular stories on Yahoo! Sports:
Award reminds Ken Griffey Jr. of how he missed out
Silver: NFL teams' fortunes rest on quarterbacks
Tickets to NHL's Winter Classic causing controversy

  • Soderberg sets up Lucic in front of the net

    Soderberg sets up Lucic in front of the net

    Boston Bruins forward Carl Soderberg sends a quick centering pass to Milan Lucic who buries his shot past Detroit Red Wings goalie Jonas Gustavsson. … More »

    NHL Highlights - 6 minutes ago
  • Buffalo Bills cheerleaders stop appearances after lawsuit over pay, work conditions

    Buffalo Bills cheerleaders stop appearances after lawsuit over pay, work conditions

    BUFFALO, N.Y. - Pack up the pom-poms in Buffalo, because the Bills will be playing without the support of their official cheerleaders this year. Stephanie Mateczun, whose company manages the Buffalo Jills cheerleading squad, said Thursday she has … More »

    The Canadian Press - 7 minutes ago
  • Phelps loses to Lochte in 100 butterfly final at comeback meet in Arizona

    Phelps loses to Lochte in 100 butterfly final at comeback meet in Arizona

    MESA, Ariz. - Michael Phelps is 0 for 1 in his comeback to the pool. The 22-time Olympic medallist lost to Ryan Lochte in the 100-meter butterfly final at the Arena Grand Prix on Thursday night. … More »

    The Canadian Press - 8 minutes ago
  • Trip Tips: Brazil's beachless metropolis is a foodie's paradise

    By Todd Benson SAO PAULO (Reuters) - If your idea of Brazil is beaches and bikinis, São Paulo is not the place to go. But if you're a seasoned traveler who tends to shun traditional tourism hot spots for urban adventures off the beaten trail, then … More »

    Reuters - 9 minutes ago
  • Icher impresses in cold Day 1 at Swinging Skirts

    Icher impresses in cold Day 1 at Swinging Skirts

    Karine Icher of France birdied four of her first seven holes and finished with a 6-under 66 on Thursday to take the lead in the inaugural Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic. The start was delayed two hours because of fog and play was suspended because of … More »

    AP - Sports - 11 minutes ago
  • Curry to Lee

    Curry to Lee

    Stephen Curry crosses up Chris Paul and whips a pass across the lane to David Lee for the dunk. … More »

    NBA.com - 13 minutes ago
  • Jeff Teague hits ridiculous (and controversial) running-out-of-bounds 3 as Hawks beat Pacers (Video)
  • Moyes left all at sea by scale of United job, says former coach

    Moyes left all at sea by scale of United job, says former coach

    (Reuters) - David Moyes lost his job as Manchester United manager because he ignored advice and failed to appreciate the scale of the job, said Rene Meulensteen, a former coach at the Premier League club. Moyes was sacked on Tuesday after a … More »

    Reuters - 14 minutes ago
  • Conley on the Break

    Conley on the Break

    Zach Randolph picks up the loose ball and hits Mike Conley on the break for the layup. … More »

    NBA.com - 15 minutes ago
  • World sports diary April 26 - May 3

    April 25 (Reuters) - World sports diary from April 26 - May 3 - - - - SATURDAY, APRIL 26 SOCCER Premier League (1400 unless stated) Southampton v Everton (1145) Fulham v Hull City Stoke City v Tottenham Hotspur Swansea City v Aston Villa West … More »

    Reuters - 17 minutes ago
  • Hawks take 2-1 lead on top-seeded Pacers

    Hawks take 2-1 lead on top-seeded Pacers

    As the final seconds ticked off the clock, the Atlanta Hawks celebrated and their fans serenaded the Indiana Pacers with chants of ''Overrated!'' Game 3 did nothing to change that perception. The top-seeded Pacers are on the ropes again at the hands … More »

    AP - Sports - 17 minutes ago
  • Teague scores 22, Korver 20 to lead Hawks past top-seeded Pacers 98-85 for 2-1 lead in series

    Teague scores 22, Korver 20 to lead Hawks past top-seeded Pacers 98-85 for 2-1 lead in series

    ATLANTA - As the final seconds ticked off the clock, the Atlanta Hawks celebrated and their fans serenaded the Indiana Pacers with chants of "Overrated!" The top-seeded Pacers are on the ropes again at the hands of the eighth-seeded Hawks, who … More »

    The Canadian Press - 17 minutes ago
  • Postgame: Mike Budenholzer

    Postgame: Mike Budenholzer

    Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer addresses the media following Atlanta's Game 3 win over the Pacers. … More »

    NBA.com - 26 minutes ago
  • Postgame: Frank Vogel

    Postgame: Frank Vogel

    Frank Vogel talks to the media following the Game 3 loss to the Hawks. … More »

    NBA.com - 28 minutes ago
  • No Bills cheerleaders in 2014 after suit

    No Bills cheerleaders in 2014 after suit

    Pack up the pom-poms in Buffalo, because the Bills will be playing without the support of their official cheerleaders this year. Stephanie Mateczun, whose company manages the Buffalo Jills cheerleading squad, said Thursday she has suspended … More »

    AP - Sports - 30 minutes ago
  • Durant Jams

    Durant Jams

    Kevin Durant drives and finishes with the right-handed slam. … More »

    NBA.com - 30 minutes ago
  • Phelps loses to Lochte in comeback meet

    Phelps loses to Lochte in comeback meet

    Michael Phelps is 0 for 1 in his comeback to the pool. The 22-time Olympic medalist lost to Ryan Lochte in the 100-meter butterfly final at the Arena Grand Prix on Thursday night. Phelps was second in 52.13 in his first meet since retiring after … More »

    AP - Sports - 34 minutes ago
  • Westbrook's Amazing Three

    Westbrook's Amazing Three

    Russell Westbrook gets fouled and buries an amazing 3-pointer during the 4th quarter. … More »

    NBA.com - 34 minutes ago
  • Michael Phelps beaten in first comeback final

    Michael Phelps beaten in first comeback final

    By Julian Linden PHOENIX (Reuters) - Michael Phelps suffered a narrow loss to old rival Ryan Lochte in his comeback to competitive swimming on Thursday, but still showed enough to suggest he will be a force to be reckoned with. Racing for the … More »

    Reuters - 35 minutes ago
  • Westbrook's Big Three

    Westbrook's Big Three

    Russell Westbrook draws the foul and sinks an incredible three-pointer. … More »

    NBA.com - 36 minutes ago
  • Lolo's track transition continues at Drake Relays

    Lolo's track transition continues at Drake Relays

    Lolo Jones will continue her quick transition from bobsled to track this weekend with a hometown advantage. Jones will compete Friday at the Drake Relays in her native Des Moines, just two months removed from an 11th-place finish as a brakeman for … More »

    AP - Sports - 37 minutes ago
  • Everest climbing season in disarray as climbing teams cancel and more Sherpas leave base camp

    Everest climbing season in disarray as climbing teams cancel and more Sherpas leave base camp

    KATMANDU, Nepal - Nepal's attempts to salvage the Mount Everest climbing season took another hit Friday as more Sherpa mountain guides packed and left the base camp for their village homes a week after the deadliest disaster on the world's highest … More »

    The Canadian Press - 37 minutes ago
  • Senna had so much to offer, says sister

    Senna had so much to offer, says sister

    By Andrew Downie SAO PAULO (Reuters) - For Brazilians of a certain generation, the death of Ayrton Senna is not unlike September 11 or the assassination of John F. Kennedy. "It’s funny, it doesn’t seem like it was 20 years ago," hissister Viviane … More »

    Reuters - 41 minutes ago
  • Reds' Simon accused of sexual assault

    Reds' Simon accused of sexual assault

    A woman who said Cincinnati Reds pitcher Alfredo Simon sexually assaulted her in a Washington hotel a year ago when the team was in town to play the Nationals is suing the player for $15 million. The woman, identified as Jane Doe, filed the civil … More »

    AP - Sports - 42 minutes ago
  • Everest climbing season in disarray after deaths

    Nepal's attempts to salvage the Mount Everest climbing season took another hit Friday as more Sherpa mountain guides packed and left the base camp for their village homes a week after the deadliest disaster on the world's highest mountain. Their … More »

    AP - Sports - 45 minutes ago
  • Udrih Spins and Hits

    Udrih Spins and Hits

    Beno Udrih spins off his defender to the rack and finishes with a layup. … More »

    NBA.com - 47 minutes ago
  • Cruz extends RBI streak, Orioles win

    Cruz extends RBI streak, Orioles win

    TORONTO (AP) -- Chris Davis had two hits and three RBIs, Jonathan Schoop homered and the Baltimore Orioles beat the Toronto Blue Jays 11-4 on Thursday night. … More »

    AP - Sports - 58 minutes ago
  • Pacers vs. Hawks: Game 3

    Pacers vs. Hawks: Game 3

    Jeff Teague scores 22 points and dishes out 10 assists as the Hawks knock off the Pacers in Game 3. … More »

    NBA.com - 59 minutes ago
  • Phelps beaten in first comeback final

    Phelps beaten in first comeback final

    By Julian Linden PHOENIX (Reuters) - Michael Phelps suffered a narrow loss to old rival Ryan Lochte in his comeback to competitive swimming on Thursday, but still showed enough to suggest he will be a force to be reckoned with. Racing for the … More »

    Reuters - 1 hour 6 minutes ago
  • Martin shoots course record 62, leads by two in New Orleans

    (Reuters) - Ben Martin fired a course record 10-under-par 62 to take a two-stroke lead in the opening round of the $6.8 million Zurich Classic of New Orleans on Thursday. Martin made light of gusting afternoon winds to reel off 10 birdies, capped … More »

    Reuters - 1 hour 7 minutes ago
  • Toronto Blue Jays fall back to .500 mark after 11-4 loss to Baltimore Orioles

    TORONTO - The Toronto Blue Jays wasted a quality start by Drew Hutchison and fell back to the .500 mark by dropping an 11-4 decision to the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday night at Rogers Centre. Hutchison worked six solid innings and left the game … More »

    The Canadian Press - 1 hour 7 minutes ago
  • Conley's High Scoop Shot

    Conley's High Scoop Shot

    Mike Conley drives to the basket and sinks an amazing shot. … More »

    NBA.com - 1 hour 16 minutes ago
  • Prince Down the Lane

    Prince Down the Lane

    Tayshaun Prince drives the lane for the finger-roll finish. … More »

    NBA.com - 1 hour 17 minutes ago
  • Swimming-Phelps beaten in first comeback final

    * Phelps narrowly beaten by Lochte in comeback race * Still satisfied with return despite loss * Qualifies for national titles later this year (Updates after final) By Julian Linden PHOENIX, April 24 (Reuters) - Michael Phelps suffered a narrow … More »

    Reuters - 1 hour 20 minutes ago
  • Golf-Martin shoots course record 62, leads by two in New Orleans

    Ben Martin fired a course record 10-under-par 62 to take a two-stroke lead in the opening round of the $6.8 million Zurich Classic of New Orleans on Thursday. Martin made light of gusting afternoon winds to reel off 10 birdies, capped off by a … More »

    Reuters - 1 hour 24 minutes ago
  • Blatter wants to revive 6+5 proposal

    Blatter wants to revive 6+5 proposal

    FIFA president Sepp Blatter wants to revive his so-called 6+5 proposal which would force clubs to field at least six players from their own country. The idea won the backing of the FIFA Congress in 2008 but was ditched after it fell foul of … More »

    Reuters - 1 hour 28 minutes ago
  • Fresno St. finalizes DeRuyter extension

    FRESNO, Calif. (AP) -- Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter has signed a contract extension that runs through 2018 worth at least $7.5 million. … More »

    AP - Sports - 1 hour 29 minutes ago
  • The day Senna grabbed F1's attention

    The day Senna grabbed F1's attention

    By Alan Baldwin LONDON (Reuters) - While Formula One remembers Ayrton Senna on the 20th anniversary of his death at Imola, happier memories of another race 10 years earlier highlight just why the great Brazilian is still so sorely missed. The 1984 … More »

    Reuters - 1 hour 32 minutes ago
  • Senna's simple grave a magnet for fans 20 years on

    Senna's simple grave a magnet for fans 20 years on

    By Andrew Downie SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Ayrton Senna is as discreet in death as he was lively in life. The last resting place of Brazil's most charismatic Formula One champion is marked by a brass plaque on a circular lawn, surrounded by almost … More »

    Reuters - 1 hour 34 minutes ago
  • Ayrton Senna's Formula One career

    Ayrton Senna's Formula One career

    (Reuters) - May 1 marks the 20th anniversary of the death of Brazil's triple Formula One champion Ayrton Senna in the San Marino Grand Prix at Italy's Imola circuit. The following details the main points of his career: - - - - * Born Ayrton Senna … More »

    Reuters - 1 hour 36 minutes ago