“All the power is in the coach’s hands — you can’t negotiate.”

Siri, what is the opposite of doing it for the kids?

Henry Bazakas embodied everything the University of California wants in a football player.

A third-generation Cal student who grew up in Berkeley, Bazakas arrived on campus five years ago as a walk-on offensive lineman. Three times he earned an award for having the team’s highest grade-point average. He and a teammate spearheaded a summer reading program at local elementary schools. He won another award, for his commitment to strength and conditioning while recovering from a torn knee ligament. And last season, after he finally earned an athletic scholarship, he started three games at left tackle.

But none of that counted for much in June, when Bazakas called the Cal football coach, Justin Wilcox, to say that he was opting out of his final season because of health concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The call was the beginning of an odyssey that illustrates the normally unseen, cutthroat side of the business of college football, with tensions that have been magnified for athletes by the determined push to play during the pandemic.

Nine days later, Bazakas found his scholarship had been cut off, and he was then billed more than $24,000 halfway through his summer term because the athletic department had revoked the financial aid that it had already paid.

Nice way to thank him for his service.

The summer school aid was ultimately reinstated by a university appeals committee, which said the school had violated N.C.A.A. rules by abruptly pulling Bazakas’s aid before giving him an opportunity for a hearing.

Chalk it up as another episode of enhancing the academic experience.


Filed under Pac-12 Football

8 responses to ““All the power is in the coach’s hands — you can’t negotiate.”

  1. sniffer

    Not sure Berkeley is the real world, but things like this happen innocently all the time. Admin’s fail to notify the right department, notices arrive at the wrong office, etc. It sounds to me like the Times found a story to push an agenda. One guy, one story. How many athletes have been taken good care of and their story made it to the Gray Lady? Said differently, shit happens to good people all the time.

    Ps. Cal Berk looks real bad in all this. They could/should have supported the kid.


    • classiccitycanine

      So they don’t deserve to be called out when they screw up? Odd, I thought that was the purpose of the press.


  2. stoopnagle

    And that’s at Cal – a place that only marginally cares about results in football.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. MGW

    And that’s at BERKELEY. They don’t even like football and they allowed the program to push that kind of hard line.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. RangerRuss

    So, what are we looking at? $144k yearly to play football, he quits and still gets paid. Helluva deal for Bazakas.


  5. And at that point it didn’t even look like the Pac12 was going to play!


  6. matt30531

    There may be an innocent explanation, but this LOOKS like the school viewed this as a benefit-of-the-bargain relationship. In their eyes, each side is providing consideration, and if the kid decides not to provide the consideration on his side, then we’re going to yank his scholly. Not good optics in an age (and in a state) where the schools are trying to argue that athletes are not employees.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. ASEF

    If it had to go to an appeals committee, it wasn’t an innocent mistake. An innocent mistake gets fixed with a phone call or two. An appeals committee is the athletic department digging in and saying, “F*** you, we’ll see you in committee.”

    It’s amazing me to how disconnected sports and the academic/administrative side are in the P12. (Which is why the presidents keep throwing money at Larry Scott; they just don’t want to be bothered by what’s going on.) Why does this not happen at SEC schools? Because everyone in the chain understands that these kinds of stories are self-inflicted wounds to the entire enterprise of the university.

    Don’t get me wrong, SEC athletic admins have their fair share of stupid. But if this was going down in, say, Arkansas, someone in the chain would have the good sense to say, “This is going to cost us a lot of bad press. Where’s the benefit?”