Shotgun Formation: Bernie Kosar, Johnny Football, and Paying Student Athletes

As a fullback, I used to love the shotgun formation.  It got me out a three-point stance and into a position where I could survey the field.  Here is a survey of some issues getting some press:

1.     Bernie Kosar: Former University of Miami QB Bernie Kosar is under some heat for his recent comments during last Thursday’s Browns vs. Rams pre-season game.  As a color commentator, Kosar made such comments as:

  • “I really think that he didn’t overthrow him and that Austin has to make that catch in the NFL. I see why Sam Bradford has been struggling watching how bad these receivers have been for him.”
  • “I’m checking through the itinerary here of guys and coaches to see who the receivers coach is to make sure I don’t know who this guy is because he’s not doing very good either.”
  • “Bless me father for I have sinned … I have to watch him the whole fourth quarter.” (referring to QB Clements who went 6-13 with a TD and two picks)

Basically, Kosar said what a lot of fans were thinking (with his own unique spin of course).  These comments now have many people, including Ram’s head coach, Jeff Fisher, up in arms.  TheKosar Miami head coach recently told reporters: “I’m just surprised that Bernie has such a lack of respect for players and this game.  To be honest with you, I lost a lot of respect for him.  It’s highly unlikely that he knew anything about our football team, but felt the need to make those comments.  I don’t think they were justified.”

Whether or not Bernie’s comments were in good taste – when did it become impermissible to critique a professional athlete?  These athletes are paid for their athletic ability.  They receive hundreds of thousands (if not millions of dollars) in compensation.  And an announcer can’t point out that a player isn’t up to snuff?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I would NEVER condone such comments being made against a college athlete.  College athletes are not professionals, plain and simple (see No. 3 below).  They are kids.  They are scholar athletes.  Hence the reason so many people were fans of Coach Gundy for sticking up for his QB at Oklahoma State.  We can all remember the infamous line: “Come after me!  I’m a man!  I’m 40!  I’m not a kid.  Write something about me, or our coaches.  Don’t write about a kid that does everything right, that’s heart’s broken and then say the Miami Glassescoaches said he was scared.  That ain’t true!”  Well Clements is not a kid.  He is 30. He is paid hundreds of thousands of dollars based on his football ability.  I may be looking through my green and orange shaded glasses on this one, but Kosar is still OK in my book.

2.     Johnny Football:  Johnny Manziel has been all over the news this offseason for his colorful antics.  Most recently, he has come under scrutiny by the NCAA for allegedly charging a fee for his signature.  Many people are defending Johnny by claiming the NCAA’s rules hare hypocritical and players should be able to sell their signatures.  Such an argument misses the issue completely.  The issue is not whether or not players should be able to sell their autographs – the issue is, given the fact that the NCAA expressly prevents players from selling their signatures, did Mr. Football break this rule?  Whether or not you think players are being taken advantage of by the NCAA and their universities, the fact remains, “this is not ‘Nam Jmoneythere are rules.”  If you break a rule, there are consequences.  If no rule existed, and Johnny Football sold his signature, and then the NCAA came investigating for the alleged impropriety, THEN you could argue that players should be able to sell their signatures, etc.  When there already is a rule in place, well, you get the idea.

The effects of Manziel Gate 2013 can already be felt in Coral Gables.  The NCAA’s investigation into Johnny Football has apparently led to the Hurricanes changing their autograph policy for the upcoming #CanesFest.  Fans will only be permitted to have school sponsored posters signed.  Going forward, athletes will be required to personalize all autographs.

3.     Paying Student Athletes: Since people want to debate amateurism, paying players, schools taking advantage of athletes, etc., I’ll tell you where I come out on the issue.  Call me nostalgic, but I love the idea of a student athlete.  An athlete that has to compete in both the classroom and on the field.  I still think that running out of the smoke before thousands of hollering fans is a privilege, not a reason for payment.  If I wanted to watch the absolute best football players in the world, I would exclusively watch the NFL.  I want to watch student athletes.  I want to watch kids representing their city, their school.  I want to see the historic rivalries and the way teams are forced to cycle new faces through their program every 4 years.  Additionally, as every person with student loans can attest, providing these athletes with an education that is paid in full is nothing to scoff at.

That being said, I see no reason why student athletes shouldn’t be entitled to “benefits.”  Off the top of my head: Every parent should have the opportunity to watch their kid’s games.  There is no reason why schools should be prevented from providing student athletes’ parents with tickets to every game (which are currently provided) AND plane tickets to every game.   Allowing athletes’ parents the “luxury” of attending their games shouldn’t be seen as an impermissible  “benefit.”  Rather, this should be a right. Amateurism is still protected and parents can see their kids play.  Do student athletes deserve more?  Possibly.  But this is a good place to start.  Just because people cannot agree on the full scope of compensation that players should receive, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t start with the obvious ones.

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