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BILL PLASCHKE

Miami case is a matter of greed, not need

There's no reason to pay student-athletes, who already receive room, board and a college education.

August 18, 2011|Bill Plaschke
  • Ponzi scheme crook Nevin Shapiro is a sad sycophant who was taken advantage of by entitled athletes at the University of Miami.
Ponzi scheme crook Nevin Shapiro is a sad sycophant who was taken advantage… (WFOR / CBS4 / Miami Herald…)

So, of course, in the wake of the latest college sports scandal, there echoes the latest college sports pablum.

Oh, those poor underprivileged children from the University of Miami. If only the NCAA allowed the football players to be paid, a sleazy booster wouldn't have been able to buy them. Oh, the hypocrisy, the unfairness, the shame.

In the words of a surely weeping Keith Jackson … whoa, Nellie.

Did you actually read the Yahoo Sports report on the many impermissible benefits alleged to have been doled out to the Miami football and basketball players by a Ponzi scheme crook named Nevin Shapiro?

Did you see how he provided starving linemen with free breakfast, homeless receivers with nightly shelter, and a threadbare running back with discount jeans?

Me neither.

This wasn't about feeding hungry kids, it was about getting them hookers. This wasn't about giving poor kids silver pocket change, it was about buying them diamond dog tags.

If you want to believe the argument that the Miami case illustrates a need to pay college athletes, then you must believe that, in addition to scholarships, athletes deserve NBA tickets, big-screen TVs and weekends in South Beach hotel suites.

This is all about entitled college athletes taking advantage of a sad sycophant, the same sort of kids who have currently landed Ohio State under the NCAA microscope. The benefit accepted by the Buckeyes? Tattoos. Oh, those poor unadorned waifs.

One of the purported stories of real woe in the Miami report involved a player who needed money to support his child. Another story involved a booster paying for an abortion. So I guess the wicked NCAA needs to be accountable not only for the athletes, but also for the results of their dalliances?

Although USC fans are properly claiming that their school's infractions are far less than those alleged to have occurred at Miami and Ohio State, the Trojans were struck down by the same sort of athlete. Really, like Reggie Bush needed to rent his parents a house?

The Miami case involves about 72 Reggie Bushes, and to think that paying players would have even made a dent in this number is to not understand the relationship between a booster with fat wallet and an athlete with an oversized sense of self. When a rich guy wants to buy a star athlete food and entertainment and women just for a chance to hang out with him, that athlete doesn't ask questions. He embraces it because he expects it. He expects it because, in different forms, this sort of star gazing has been surrounding him since he was 12.

Like most of the others, the Miami case is not only about a booster using a player, but also vice versa. In fact, the sight of players exploiting Shapiro was so disgustingly clear, one of his partners even testified his concern.

"Sometimes the things that players receive are more of a luxury than a necessity," acknowledged Teague Egan, the former USC student/agent who became infamous last fall when running back Dillon Baxter was ruled ineligible for a game after taking a ride across campus in Egan's golf cart.

Egan has since graduated and given up the agent dream after being decertified by the NFL Players Assn. His 1st Round company is involved strictly in music and apparel. I called him because he still has memories of hanging out with Trojans athletes, rich and poor, and how they all shared one thing in common.

"None of them would ever ask for anything," he said. "A lot of those players may have needed more than they were getting, but they would never ask."

Players don't approach boosters begging to stay in school because their enormous tuition is already paid. They don't beg for something to eat because their expensive dining hall privileges are already provided. And they don't beg to crash on a booster's couch because every scholarship athlete is essentially given a place to sleep.

If you still think players aren't paid, begging to differ is a country full of college parents writing a big check this month for students who are not nearly as blessed as these poor pitiable athletes.

Obviously, as with the entire student body, there are athletes who need financial assistance beyond the scope of a scholarship. And obviously, unlike other students, these athletes cannot take advantage of campus job programs offered those in their economic bracket.

You want to pay an athlete? Those are the kids you pay. You ferret through the financial statements and pay the kids who would have been eligible for these work-study programs.

You pay the minority of kids who need it. You don't pay the overwhelming majority of kids who think they deserve it.

bill.plaschke@latimes.com

twitter.com/billplaschke

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