At the end of August, ESPN and Disney hosted the MEAC/SWAC Challenge in Orlando. I attended the Sunday afternoon football game pitting Mississippi Valley State against Florida A&M University (better known as “FAMU”). I had sideline passes, so I got to see the FAMU players up close. They reminded me a lot of my Division III college football teammates – some were gangly, some sculpted, but nothing really impressive. Unfortunately, the game and atmosphere turned out to be a terrible disappointment. The fans were far more interested in the halftime Battle of the Bands between the two universities’ marching bands.
The teams combined for five turnovers, none of the four quarterbacks were able to complete more than 45% of their passes, and the game had an awful disjointed feel to it. About midway through the third quarter, most of the staffers were more eager to find shade and hang out with the crowds outside of the stadium than they were to watch the rest of the miserable football game on the field.
You can imagine my surprise when I checked the College Football scoreboard to see Ohio State Buckeyes hosting Florida A&M University Rattlers this past Saturday. Whose idea was it to have such a lopsided matchup? After doing a little research I learned that The Buckeyes paid The Rattlers $900,000 to come to Columbus so that Ohio State could embarrass them.
For a sport that has serious issues with player safety when size, talent and skill are comparable, it is baffling that these types of games are still sanctioned by the NCAA. Would it be acceptable to for a college team to play a professional team? No. Would parents find it acceptable for a high school team to play a middle school peewee team? No. The NCAA has done all that they can reinforce amateurism amongst the student athletes and present themselves as the parental figures for collegiate sports and yet they allow this. The difference in the physicality in these games is astonishing and is well reflected in the scores of these games. The risk involved in playing football is barbaric enough, but add-in the unnecessary disparity size, speed and strength and there is an impending disaster on the NCAA’s hands.
It took the NFL decades to acknowledge concussions as a real problem in the league, why has it taken so long correct this wrong? It’s because of the money at stake, it’s the same reason the NCAA continues its faux amateurism. This pay-to-play scandal is as dangerous as it comes. The players assume all the health risks and the embarrassment and the entire school administration pockets the money. Of course the players don’t see a dime and that’s textbook exploitation. I could call it prostitution, but at least in those transactions the ones who are the taking risk are at least reaping the rewards. It’s human trafficking for profit and I hope it doesn’t take a tragic moment for the NCAA to do the right thing.