Change would be in order if certain SEC players took Myles Brand's job
Posted: Tuesday August 3, 2004 1:56PM; Updated: Tuesday August 3, 2004 1:56PM
Not to send folks at the NCAA headquarters into a panic, but the college football behemoths beginning practice in the next week or so aren't an entirely happy lot.
No, they're not about to march on the president's office or act like 1960s radicals. They still thrive on being Saturday-afternoon, Saturday-night and even, when TV lights demand it, Thursday-night heroes. And our sampling of opinion is puny, to be sure. But chatting up some prominent players from the high-and-mighty SEC, hauled to Birmingham, Ala., last week for the conference's media days, affords a nice glimpse of how they and their brethren view their place in the collegiate food chain.
Given the hypothetical of playing NCAA boss Myles Brand for a day (which pays about $2,000), every player spoke up for changes they'd rush to make. Suggestions ran the gamut from freeing players to wear dark helmet visors, to cutting back on the anti-celebration movement, to setting up a national championship game. The most popular idea -- no great surprise here -- was to put money in the players' hands, which isn't likely to happen anytime soon.
Consider the opinions.
David Pollack, University of Georgia All-America defensive end: "Pay us, that would be good. With as much work as we do and time we commit, we can't have a job. We should at least get money for a little more than living expenses. We don't get enough to pay for rent, bills and food.''
Mike Degory, University of Florida center: "All the players are probably going to point their finger at this -- the need for some sort of stipend to be paid to athletes. Athletes understand that we're making a lot of money for our programs and it's definitely like a business or industry. It has always been that you're playing for room, board and tuition, but it's hard being a college student. A lot of kids are struggling [financially].''
Travis Harris, University of Florida linebacker: "Maybe not a salary, but there needs to be an allowance for people who need things. If you don't feel like you're fed, or don't have the clothes or the things that you need, it is hard to perform and hard to do the things you need to do if you're in financial hole or bind. And it results in people doing some things they normally wouldn't do.
"How do I say this? There are a lot of temptations out there. You don't want to act on those, but at the same time when you need certain things, that puts a player in a bad predicament.''
Temptations may exist, but the folks running college sports aren't heading down the pay-for-play track. The athletes themselves are worn down on the subject and don't stay around long enough to mount a sustained challenge, anyway. So it's accepted as a no-win situation.
Conference commissioner Mike Slive duly notes that he's running the SEC, not the NFL -- though his league managed to generate more than $108 million in revenue last year. And he can't fancy writing checks to the talent during his tenure. He also doesn't believe athletes are an impoverished lot, saying that most football players are on the receiving end of a scholarship, plus federal Pell Grant money and other financial aid covering the full cost of college.
As for changes he'd like to see in college sports, Slive politely ducked the question, though he suggested that Brand, since taking over the NCAA, has done an adequate job of meeting with and seeking out opinion from the various coaching associations.
SEC players, it turns out, are a tad more opinionated.
Charlie Peprah, University of Alabama strong safety: "I would loosen up some of the restrictions they have, because football is supposed to be fun. I guess even in the NFL, you can see it is not as fun as it used to be. They just don't let players play anymore. There is a difference between unsportsmanlike attitude and letting players have fun.''
McKinley Scott, Mississippi State wide receiver: "I know some rules I don't agree with, like the redshirts and all that. I think if you've been hurt and didn't play the whole year, I think you should be granted a year back."
Eric Oliver, University of Mississippi free safety: "Me personally, I want to wear a dark visor [on my helmet]. Now, you can only wear it if you have some medical reason. They don't want you wearing it, because if you get knocked out on the field, they can't see your eyes.''
David Greene, University of Georgia quarterback: "You have to think of something to do with the whole national championship situation. You work so hard during the year that you don't want to be a co-whatever. You want to win the national championship.''
What football fan can argue with that?
Mike Fish is a senior writer for SI.com.