Yup, it’s that week again- we find ourselves looking to the skies and hoping for an astronomical event to head toward… let’s see… this year the game is in South Bend, so that will do just fine. Just think, if Notre Dame’s previous coach was still on the sidelines, there just might be enough gravitational pull between the two head men to facilitate this.

Buckeye 411

  • Injury Update- Not much new on this front this week: We know that Carlos Hyde won’t be participating this Saturday, and there’s been no update on John Simon’s shoulder. That’s not totally true: the best thing to come out of Coach Meyer’s Monday press conference was commentary that Simon’s shoulder was a long way from his heart… meaning that he could work though the pain. Meyer then went on to comment that Michael Bennett was still injured, and that “He’s got to play some time. So I don’t know how far that groin is away from the heart.” If you needed proof that Urban Meyer understands the Ohio State legacy- his paraphrase of Woody Hayes’ famous quote regarding what his ’74 class should use to think with should seal the deal.
  • Bombs Away- One thing that Coach Meyer is concerned with against the Blazers of UAB is the deep ball. Several times over the past week, he’s talked about the strength of quarterback Jonathan Perry’s arm. This has to be a point of emphasis for the Buckeye secondary, who have given up their share of big passing plays during the first two games of the season thus far.
  • Good Hands, People- When the season started, Ohio State was looking for “playmakers”, and it seems that they’ve found a few. Corey Brown has shown flashes as a dependable “pivot” player in the new offense, and receiver Devin Smith continues to shine as a reliable option for the big play.  Wonder how long it is until he earns Cris Carter’s moniker of “only catching touchdowns”.
  • Bloody Tuesday- From what we’re hearing, Tuesday’s emphasis for the defense was… you guessed it… “Tackling”. And not just on the field, but in the weight room and film room as well.  In talking with a couple of folks, and in looking at the game again, the “chicken and egg” argument of “was it poor scheme or poor execution?” on Saturday is answered by “Yes”, although there are a number of clearly missed assignments on the big touchdowns that made everyone’s nightmare list Saturday afternoon. So, in at least the big play categories, it seems to be execution that was at issue.
  • On To The Next One- If you’re not following Samuel Silverman on twitter, you’re missing out on great Ohio State graphics- like this one:

 Commentary: “Student” Athletes

If you haven’t been following the Ed O’Bannon case, you’re not alone. The former UCLA Bruin has been challenging the NCAA’s amateur status policies, particularly the NCAA’s willingness and ability to sell licenses to video game companies to use the likeness of college players in their offering.  While O’Bannon initially pressed for former athletes to be compensated for their “appearing” in games after they finished their eligibility (for instance, a “legends” game where you could play with Jordan’s UNC team or Oden, Conley, and Titus at Ohio State), recently the suit has shifted to include current players- Braxton, for instance, could be compensated for the NCAA allowing EA sports to have an “Ohio State #5″ at quarterback that was the same height/weight/speed/etc. as Mr. Miller.  O’Bannon’s point: Why should the NCAA make money off of our backs without us getting at least a taste of it?

This question gets at the heart of something we’ve talked about a lot here at tBBC: If there’s so much money being made by high profile programs at high profile schools, what is fair “compensation” for the people actually participating in the sports in question? Is it the education, the grants in aid, the cost of living stipends, the buckets and buckets of free shoes and clothing, the housing, the meals? Or are those things merely a drop in the bucket compared to the millions and millions that coaches and other adminstrators see from the on the field and on the court successes.

What’s interesting, then, about this ESPN article is that one of the keystones to most of the arguments for the current model may be crumbling.  The idea of “student athlete” was created to help clarify the need for scholarships for these young adults to participate in the system… although, as we’ve said before, there may have also been another reason for this clarification- one that didn’t benefit the students in question at all.

The ESPN article is based on emails from university administrators nationwide, which were released as a part of the O’Bannon case. Many of these are quite damning for the current model, and show that there are even insiders who question the way that players are excluded from the profits that their work are reaping. Nebraska’s former chancellor and member of the NCAA Board of Directors writes in one correspondence with his conference’s commissioner-

This whole area of name and likeness and the NCAA is a disaster leading to catastrophe as far as I can tell. I’m still trying to figure out by what authority the NCAA licenses these rights to the game makers and others. I looked at what our student athletes sign by way of waiver and it doesn’t come close.

In response to the assertion that EA Sports doesn’t use “real” players when designing the game (and therefore, shouldn’t be seen as abusing the amateur ideal), the ESPN article has some pretty interesting quotes-

“Just a heads up, in case schools ask you this  all of EA’s latest 2008 March Madness basketball submissions have current players names on the jerseys in the game,” wrote Wendy Harmon, a CLC marketing coordinator. “I have called Gina Ferranti at EA about this (she submits all of these basketball ones) and she assured me that they will not be using those in the final version. She said they have to put the players names in so it will calculate the correct stats but then they take them off. Just don’t want the schools to freak out  she said a few have already commented on it in their approval.”

An hour later, CLC senior vice president and managing director Derek Eiler forwarded the email, notifying other top executives. He wrote, “Just an FYI on this in case word reaches the NCAA. This is exactly the type of thing that could submarine the game if it got into the media.”

Again, I’m not (at this point) arguing that what student athletes receive as a part of their experience is not significant- I believe that there are numerous cases where it is quite generous.  But what I am interested in seeing is some integrity in the form of honest acknowledgement regarding these matters- These students are only “amateurs” because the University refuses to find other ways to define them… ways that would include them in the sometimes billions of dollars that their efforts bring, nationwide.

And given that, for football and basketball players, there are few other options towards a professional career other than being involved in the collegiate system, it certainly seems to be a semblance of injustice in their abilities to create a livelihood. The irony is, if they were truly classified as “students”, then their earning potential would be dependent upon their skills and talents; “normal” OSU students can gain internships that pay based on their abilities and can lead to full time employment.

So, if the move is away from “Student-athlete” as Wallace Renfro suggests, and instead using “Student”, we’ll still have the same difficult questions to answer regarding what’s their share, given their role.

Around The NCAA

  • “Student?”, Part One- Tuesday, Kentucky released video of their new men’s basketball apartment complex student housing facility that just happens to be where the basketball team lives. There are other students who live there, as per NCAA guidelines, but from my recollection they were mostly academic support staff and others connected to athletics. I’m sure that the students who are paying full tuition and board and living in the Blanding Tower are enjoying the same amenities. Look, I understand that the ‘Kats are bringing in the Kash for the school, and should be treated as such. However, to say that they are students in the same way as a transfer from Pikeville is a joke- and it’s not just limited to UK.  The real shame is that all of these guys will only get to enjoy it for one year.
  • Floored-  Speaking of hoops, what’s your take on this mock up for a new court at the Schott?

And Finally

Thank you, Steve Sabol, for making our lives better by making our favorite sport more beautiful.