The Norman Transcript

June 27, 2013

Give players same rights as coaches


The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — The NCAA put Oregon football on probation Wednesday. But if you’re a Duck fan, don’t worry. 

Though it will last three years, it means very little in real terms. There is no postseason ban. The program is losing only one scholarship for the next two years. There are some restrictions pertaining to how the Ducks go about recruiting, but it shouldn’t be too bothersome. Just more work for the compliance staff.

Oh, and the coach under whose watch it occurred must appeal his way back into college football, should he seek to return to it over the next 18 months. Of course, Chip Kelly is too busy laughing all the way to the bank as the new head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles to mind.

At least we can feel better knowing Kelly is choosing to “accept my share of responsibility for the actions that led to the penalties.” 

Though it’s not clear how that acceptance amounts to anything more than issuing a statement claiming that acceptance. It’s a circular acceptance.

The hard part is figuring out what the NCAA might do to make it better.

It could come down much harder on the Ducks, but that tends to punish the innocent more than the guilty. It could levy a big fine on the program, seven figures perhaps, but that still leaves the guy under whose watch the violations occurred fairly untouched. That’s the way it goes when that guy flies the coup for the NFL riches. 

The NCAA could begin the 18-month clock on Kelly the moment he tries to come back to collegiate athletics, but that’s probably bad legal pool, suspending punishment until it can really be delivered.

It’s enough to make you completely re-evaluate the way players are treated.

Huh?

Holy topic changes.

Not really.

Then-Southern Cal football coach Pete Carroll got out of Dodge and to Seattle just ahead of the NCAA hammer coming down. For crying out loud, we’ve seen basketball coaches leave for greener hardwood pastures as their old programs go on probation over and over again.

The head coach gets every break. Seems like the playing field should be evened. Seems like the players should get some breaks, too.

A coach can exit a contract whenever he wishes. But when a school wants to rid itself of a coach still under contract, it better be ready to buy its way out of that contract.

A coach can send a player packing whenever he wishes; scholarships are not four- or five-year contracts, but four or five one-year contracts. They just can’t be treated that way by the player. Instead, the player must be released from the scholarship by the coach. And, assuming the coach allows it, he retains veto power over where that player may transfer.

Hello Mike Gundy.

There’s a move afoot to give players stipends above and beyond their scholarship. It may seem like a step forward in player rights, but it won’t be until every scholarship athlete in every sport gets the same stipend and nobody’s pushing that agenda.

What can be done is granting the football or basketball player the same freedom of movement he or she enjoys in all the non-marquee sports.

Want to transfer?

Go ahead.

Which school?

You choose.

A coach leaves after you’ve signed your letter of intent? Don’t worry. You’re out of the commitment, no need to appeal your way out.

Is there a good reason athletes should have fewer rights of movement than the regular student?

Football and basketball programs may scream an investment has been made in such athletes and they can’t be allowed to offer another program, willy nilly, a return on that investment.

It makes some sense, just not in the face of the way coaches can break any contract they wish, whenever they wish, be it their own or the scholarship belonging to a player.

What to do about Chip Kelly or Pete Carroll, or, back in the day, Kelvin Sampson, when he escaped to Indiana.

Not much.

The system is rigged for the guys who run the programs.

It’s also rigged against the players in those programs.

Why doesn’t the NCAA do something about that?

Clay Horning

Follow me @clayhorning

cfhorning@normantranscript.com