1. Full of righteous indignation about the Green suspension, I was composing another post about it in my head last night, but I see this morning that almost everything I want to say about it has already appeared in the bloggerverse (including this Clay Travis piece that hit on the “do as I say, not as I do” aspect of the ban – go figure). But I think that the person who’s most aptly summed up how I feel is Andy Staples, who wrote this:
Green shouldn’t have sold his jersey. But since it never planned to give Green a piece of the action, Georgia shouldn’t have sold Green’s jersey, either.
I proudly admit that I buy into the romance of amateurism, even the bastardized version of it that permeates major revenue college sports. It’s part of the charm behind sentiments like these and much of what explains my love of college football. On some level, it’s not a job for these kids and I don’t ever want to see the sport approached like that by them. So I can’t say that I don’t have any appreciation for the bright line the NCAA is trying to draw when it penalizes players for taking compensation for their play.
But I won’t deny that there’s a fair amount of bullshit in the NCAA’s position on the matter, either.
If you’re going to tell an A.J. Green that maintaining some degree of purity with regard to amateurism and college sports is important enough to deny him doing something that essentially any other person on the planet is allowed to do – profit from his own name – how can you not insist on the same standard from the (allegedly) non-profit educational institution that enrolls him? Shouldn’t it be held just as responsible? Beyond that, can the schools not see how corrosive this whole situation is to the very standards of amateurism they seek to promote through the NCAA?
All of which is not to say that I condone Green’s decision here. But I can sure put it in perspective.
2. I’ve got to tell you that the most curious part of the NCAA’s ruling is this language: “the student-athlete sold his Independence Bowl game jersey to an individual who meets the NCAA definition of an agent.” Not simply “agent”, but someone “who meets the NCAA definition of an agent”. About that, Tim Tucker writes,
The NCAA did not name the individual who bought the jersey from Green but said the person meets the organization’s definition of an agent -– “any individual who markets or promotes a student-athlete.” That put Green in violation of the NCAA rule against receiving benefits from agents.
Think about that for a minute. If you draw that out to its logical conclusion, you could argue that anyone who buys or obtains memorabilia from a player and then turns around and sells it, or merely markets it for profit, is an agent under that definition. That’s absurd. Now maybe that didn’t factor into Green’s penalty, as the length of the suspension matches the NCAA guidelines for the amount of the improper benefit he received in payment, but if it comes into play in the appeals process, I sure would like to know the nature of the agency of the person with whom Green dealt. (Not that the NCAA is likely to be forthcoming about that little detail.)
3. And now the tough part falls on Green’s teammates and coaches. It’s foolish to deny that the suspension is a major distraction from Saturday’s big game in Columbia. Hell, I’m just a fan and I feel distracted by this. Somehow, every one of them has to tap into his inner reservoir of reserve and find a way to focus and excel against South Carolina in spite of that.
They can do it, though. I thought the program had hit the lowest of low points last season with that horrific home loss to Kentucky. I couldn’t imagine then how a team that had so thoroughly unraveled against a mediocre opponent (don’t forget that Georgia outgained the Wildcats by 200 yards in losing) could get its act together in a week to play a top ten opponent on the road. And yet that’s exactly what they did, with Willie Martinez, Jon Fabris, John Jancek and Joe Cox in tow – and without A. J. Green, I might add – in beating Georgia Tech.
UPDATE: Tony Barnhart elaborates on my “corrosive” point above.
… Yes, the financial end of college athletics is certainly to the benefit of the schools. It’s all one big double standard, we know that. But certain things are just a blatant slap in the face to these guys. The fact that A.J. Green may lose a third of his junior season for selling a jersey while the University Bookstore sells six different versions of it with his name on it, is a double slap. It’s the establishment telling these kids: We can make money off your talent and fame in every damn way we please. If you try it, though, we’ll use the rules to take you out and to keep you in line.
The NCAA enforcement people have been working overtime this summer trying to keep a lid on a bunch of these issues from Agent Gate to Hotel Gate. At the core of all of them is a system where the athletes realize on a daily basis that they are getting a raw deal. They get to the point where they don’t care any more. It’s “hey, if they catch me they catch me but I’m not taking this any more.”
We as fans wonder where the loyalty is to the institution. But through the eyes of a young kid from modest or poor circumstances, that loyalty street seems to only run one way.