Hypocrisy apparent in recent Todd Gurley suspension

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Hypocrisy apparent in recent Todd Gurley suspension

By Dan Sostek / Assistant Sports Editor

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“The only guy that has stopped [Georgia running back Todd Gurley] was the autograph guy,” Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson was quoted as saying earlier this week.

This happens to be the case more and more often in college athletics: The titans of the NCAA are being toppled not by strong defenses, intricate game plans or severe injuries. Instead, their downfalls are the result of archaic, prohibitive rules by the NCAA — rules so stripped of logic that it’s amazing they are still in place.

These rules, of course, are the ones that are in place to ensure that collegiate athletes maintain the status of “amateur.” The main stipulation of this is that the athletes may not profit off of their own likenesses. That means no selling autographs, no advertisement deals and no jerseys sold with their names on the backs.

The first issue with this is the overt hypocrisy of the rules. The NCAA expects the athletes not to earn a dime from their likenesses, yet the organization itself and the universities can squeeze every ounce of cash out of the players through merchandising, advertising and ticket sales.

Schools like Penn State and Michigan routinely sell out stadiums with capacities of over 100,000. Imagine the revenue generated each Saturday from those ticket sales. The schools see all of the profit, while the athletes serve as modern-day gladiators without even sniffing payment.

Even here at Pitt, promotional posters and tickets feature pictures of star athletes Tyler Boyd and James Conner, and the jerseys on sale at the team store just so happen to feature the numbers 23 (Boyd) and 24 (Conner).

When star quarterback Johnny Manziel was at Texas A&M, the highest-selling item on NCAA.com just so happened to be the No. 2 Texas A&M jersey (his number). Manziel would not see a lick of those earnings.

The issue of autographs is just as maddening. Gurley, a Heisman trophy frontrunner, was suspended four games for signing 300 different items, earning between $8 and $25 per item. For writing his name down on 300 items, Gurley was suspended a third of the season.

To put how seriously the NCAA takes this “infraction” in perspective, in 2004, University of Miami safety Brandon Meriweather stomped on an opposing player’s head with his cleat. He was suspended one game. The message from the NCAA is clear: Violence is not as concerning as holding on to the grand illusion of amateurism.

And that’s where the source of the problem lies. These athletes are not amateurs. They are always in the public spotlight. They are on-campus celebrities whose actions are constantly being scrutinized. Their games are televised to national audiences that care as much, if not more, about college games than they do about the NFL or NBA. ESPN keeps track of every pass they throw and every shot they attempt. They are being monitored by millions upon millions of people and are not the equivalent of some Independent League baseball player living in anonymity.

To blindly say that these athletes are amateurs because they are attending college is simply inaccurate. They work as hard, if not harder, than professionals and perform on just as big a stage. It’s about time that they are allowed to reap the benefits.

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