NCAA getting pressure to change some of its ways

It’s been more than 50 years since I was a college athlete trying to play my way toward a degree on the McNeese State baseball diamond. Strangely, in that half-century, not much has changed for the athletes under the jurisdiction of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
   
My teammates and I never had much money while attending college and the coaches pretty much knew where we were, at least during the daylight hours. They could check the baseball wing of the dormitories any time they wished, and if they couldn’t find us after bed check, it sometimes meant a one-way bus ride home.
   
Today’s college athletes have better housing facilities, more modern sports equipment and better technology to treat athletic injuries. But most of today’s college players still don’t have much extra change in their pockets while attending school.
   
And the NCAA makes darned sure its athletes don’t accept transportation to visit their hometown, a meal at a restaurant or receive a free tattoo for an autograph.
   
This is what forced Ohio State head football coach Jim Tressel to resign recently after five of his Buckeye players were suspended the first five games of the 2011 football season for allegedly trading signed jerseys, championship rings and other items for cash and discounted tattoos from a Columbus tattoo-parlor owner.
   
And the NCAA also is investigating Ohio State players who allegedly received improper benefits and special deals on cars.
   
Tressel allegedly had knowledge about the players’ involvement but not reporting it as required by his contract and NCAA rules cost him his job.
   
One of the five Buckeyes suspended, quarterback Terrelle Pryor announced last week that he would not return to Ohio State for his senior season.
           
Almost immediately, the Saskatchewan Roughriders acquired negotiating rights to Pryor and have talked to him about joining their Canadian Football League franchise.
And it didn’t take Pryor very long to issue a statement turning down the opportunity in the CFL to focus his efforts on being selected in the NFL’s supplemental draft this summer.
When Pryor signed a letter-of-intent to attend Ohio State in 2008, he was considered the nation’s No.1 quarterback. He should be able to make an NFL roster if he is selected in the upcoming supplemental draft.

Since the Ohio State fiasco, many have questioned the foundation of big-time college football where universities and coaches make millions of dollars off athletes, yet the players get in trouble with the NCAA for accepting cash for autographs or memorabilia.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier recently suggested that college football players receive $300 per game to pay for expenses, a cost that would come out of the coaches’ pockets.

Seven Southeast Conference football coaches, including Florida’s Will Muschamp, Alabama’s Nick Saban, LSU’s Les Miles, Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen, Ole Miss’ Houston Nutt and Tennessee’s Derek Dooley all signed Spurrier’s proposal that was presented to the athletic directors at the SEC spring meetings last week.

“I just wish there was a way to get our players a little piece of the pie,” Spurrier said. “It’s so huge right now.”

Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany recently floated the idea of increasing athletic scholarship benefits and advocates of his plan carefully explained the idea wasn’t to pay student/athletes to play sports.
   
Instead, they said it was about providing them with spending money to cover what’s been categorized as “the actual cost of attendance.”
   
The question at the heart of the debate is whether college athletic departments should be allowed to provide players with more than tuition, books, room and board.
   
However, legislation of this nature would have to come from the NCAA level and would also have Title IX implications as well if only athletes playing the big revenue sports receive the stipend.
   
KWICKIES…Congrats to former West Orange-Stark football coach Mark Foreman for the success of his second Southeast Texas Ford Dealers All-Star Classic Football game Saturday night that was won by the East Team 20-13. The game was played at Lamar University’s Provost-Umphrey Stadium. Little Cypress-Mauriceville’s Zach Sonnier ran for a touchdown, intercepted a pass and was named the East team’s offensive MVP which includes a $500 scholarship from the Southeast Texas Coaches Association. Sonnier plans to play football this fall for the Northwestern State Demons in Natchitoches, La.  West Orange-Stark defensive back Wilson Washington was named the East’s defensive MVP.
   
Houston Astros 20-year-old rookie right-hander Jordan Lyles and two relievers pitched their butts off and held the Atlanta Braves to two runs while getting 27 outs in nine innings Saturday night. With the score deadlocked at 2-2, the Astros’ $5 million closer Brandon Lyon started the 10th inning and gave up four runs WITHOUT getting an out. He almost got booed out of Minute Maid Park as he departed. The front office needs to ship him down to the minors until he learns how to get hitters out again.
   
The Texas Longhorns advanced to the College World Series with a 4-2 controversial victory over Arizona State in Sunday’s super-regional championship game. Longhorns freshman catcher Jacob Felts, an Orangefield grad, made an errant throw on a 3-and-2 pitch that ended up being ball four. The ASU runner proceeded to third base on the miscue, but Texas Coach Augie Garrido argued the batter interfered with Felts’ throw and the ump agreed and called the batter out and made the runner return to first base. In the fifth inning Texas scored a run on a balk called on the Sun Devil’s pitcher that replays showed no violation occurred. Texas will meet Florida in the CWS first round game this weekend. Other teams qualifying for the CWS at this writing include North Carolina, South Carolina, Vanderbilt and California. Virginia-UC Irvine and Texas A&M-Florida State played their championship games Monday evening.
   
Texas golfer Harrison Frazar won his first PGA golf tournament on the 355th attempt Sunday with a par on the third hole of a sudden-death playoff at the St. Jude Classic in Memphis. Frazar contemplated quitting golf and had a job lined up at the end of the year. The win was worth $1,008,000 and an automatic entry in the Tournament of Champions in Maui next January and his first-ever Masters Tournament in April. Memphis was just the fourth cut he had made in 10 events, although he just qualified for the upcoming U.S. Open at Congressional.
   
Ruler On Ice, a horse that had not even earned enough graded stakes money to qualify for either the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness, slopped his way to a Belmont Stakes victory Saturday afternoon. The three-year-old gelding defeated a field that included the first seven finishers in the Kentucky Derby.
   
JUST BETWEEN US…Although we predicted the Miami Heat would win the NBA Championship, we really are happy for the Dallas Mavericks, who hand-picked several seasoned veterans before the season began with the sole idea of beating the Heat out of the championship they tried to buy. There’s no doubt the best team will wear the championship rings this year. And as far as my hometown friend Pat Riley is concerned, he may have to wait until next year before his dream of an NBA dynasty at Miami comes true.