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Georgia’s big win shouldn’t distract from Gurley suspension

By Imaz Athar / Staff Writer

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The Georgia Bulldogs beat the Missouri Tigers on Saturday. But I wanted them to lose. Actually, I wanted them to get blown out. It’s not because I’m against the Bulldogs or anything. Their dominant 34-0 win just took away from something much more important.

Bulldog star running back Todd Gurley was suspended indefinitely two days before the team’s game against the Tigers for violating team rules. Soon after, reports surfaced on ESPN and other outlets that Gurley may have violated NCAA rules by signing 80 autographs for $400 in the spring. There was an uproar, as people from all over argued that this was another example of the NCAA overstepping its bounds and that it repremanded Gurley too harshly. Several analysts cited the hypocrisy of the NCAA rules, while former high-profile players like Johnny Manziel tweeted their support for Gurley.

This isn’t the first time a college athlete has been suspended for accepting money, but judging by the reaction to the Heisman candidate’s indefinite suspension, it seems like it could be the last. Based on public reaction, it appeared that there was enough pressure on NCAA President Mark Emmert to change the unfair rules against student athletes.

But, I was wrong. After Georgia blew out Missouri, the loud voices in support of Gurley and against the NCAA had suddenly faded away. The attention shifted from Gurley’s suspension to the Bulldogs’ impressive win. It’s great for the Bulldogs to continue winning games without their best player, and it’s great for the NCAA that one of its best college teams can still draw ratings through outstanding performances. But none of this is great for Gurley or any other college athlete. The rules are still against them, but no one seems to care.

The NCAA refers to college athletes as amateurs and emphasizes that amateurism is the “bedrock principle of college athletes and the NCAA.” Part of being an amateur athlete, according to the league, is to maintain an environment “in which acquiring a quality education is a first priority.” 

At first glance, these are reasonable principles for young adults attending a university. Nonetheless, while NCAA wants college athletes to accept this, it isn’t the truly conveyed message. College athlete lead schedules so busy they are more like full-time employed athletes than students.

College athletes are recruited based on their athletic performance in high school. While there are some academic standards that athletes must meet before they can play, they aren’t selected for their ability to succeed in the classroom. Their lives revolve around the sport. According to a study by the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago, college football players may spend up to 50 to 60 hours a week on football-related activities. College athletes can’t be considered amateurs because they’re in school to be athletes. Contrary to NCAA statements, the athletes’ education is not designed to be their top priority.   

The NCAA and individual colleges are using their athletes’ so-called amateurism against them. NCAA rules state that athletes are not allowed to receive payment or else they will face consequences, including repayment, suspension and even permanent ineligibility. Universities, on the other hand, are able to make as much money as they want based off of their athletes’ performance from television and merchandise revenue. For instance, the Southeastern Conference (SEC), the most successful conference in college football, introduced a 24-hour TV network this year, which it projects will generate more than $600 million. Meanwhile, the college athletes that create this extremely lucrative product do not receive any compensation.

Just last year, the NCAA online store sold college players’ jerseys while trying to preserve the idea that college athletes are amateurs. It wasn’t until ESPN analyst Jay Bilas pointed out the NCAA’s insincerity that it stopped selling players’ paraphernalia. Georgia was selling jerseys with Gurley’s number on it for $134.95 on its website but then took them down after Gurley’s suspension.

Why should the NCAA and universities profit from athletes, while the athletes — who rope in revenue for these institutions —can’t?  Averaging 8.2 yards per carry, scoring eight touchdowns and producing highlight after highlight for ESPN, Gurley should have the basic right to profit from his hard work and performance. Every college athlete should.

The NCAA is profiting from players who don’t receive any compensation, while justifying their actions with the facade of amateurism, which simply doesn’t exist in college athletics. And we accept it. For a very short period, we showed our support for college athletes and criticized the NCAA for its unjust rules. Our attention completely shifted when the Bulldogs won on Saturday, and I question whether we care about the players as much as we say we do. The NCAA needs to make some kind of change, but it won’t happen if we continue to let the NCAA’s actions pass. We need to stand up for Gurley and all college athletes while the NCAA, an association that should support the college-athlete, stands against them.

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Georgia’s big win shouldn’t distract from Gurley suspension