My rant on the NCAA

After reading The Atlantic’s The Shame of College Sports, my eyes were opened up to the corruption of the NCAA. For those who don’t have the time to read this lengthy article, author Taylor Branch makes the point that the very structure of universities and private companies benefitting from the college players is unjust, making the further argument that the NCAA should pay their “student-athletes”.

When scandals arise of “student-athletes” receiving money or “improper benefits” under the table, people get upset for deliberately going against the rules of the NCAA. But the real injustice is the NCAA taking total control and taking advantage over the athletes. I agree with Branch; the NCAA, and all athletic conferences for that matter, should pay their athletes in more ways than giving them an education. I feel that this article brings up the bigger issue of the NCAA treating their “student-athletes” improperly and denying them rightful benefits.

In an episode of Last Week Tonight comedian John Oliver discussed the corruption of March Madness and the logistics of the NCAA, exposing very unsettling truths about what these players go through. At the 3:06 mark of the video, we meet Orlando Magic point guard Shabazz Napier, who played for the UConn Huskies and reveals a disheartening truth.

“Sometimes, I gotta say, there’s hungry nights where I’m not able to eat, but I still gotta play up to my capabilities. There are hungry nights were I go to bed and I’m starving.”

This testimony really disturbed me. Many of these athletes don’t come from wealthy backgrounds, so they don’t have Mommy and Daddy paying for their groceries or such things. And having the schedule of a student athlete, between classes, meetings, and practice, there isn’t time for them to get a job where they get a paycheck. It really breaks my heart to know that an athlete who sometimes doesn't have the means to eat at night is still expected to play consistently at a high level.

This article caused me to think of my cousin who faced the mistreatment of athletes during his college experience. My cousin Ikaika Curnan was sent to Oʻahu to attend his high school years at the St. Louis School, which has been celebrated as the Hawaiʻi’s high school football powerhouse. He was not strong academically, but what he lacked in the classroom he made up for and even more on the field.

My Uncle Marty and Aunty Corrine weren’t willing to leave Kaua’i, so they had Ikaika live with our Aunty Pili on O’ahu while attending St. Louis. As Ikaika reached his junior and senior years at St. Louis, Aunty Pili would receive letters upon letters from multiples universities recruiting Ikaika. During his senior year, college coaches called my Auntyʻs house all asking for Ikaika. In addition, during his senior year he was named a USA Today All-American. Ultimately, Ikaika turned down offers from schools like Arizona State and the University of Southern California for UH Mānoa.

He played well at UH, even though the level of play wasn’t as top-tier as he hoped. He was progressively getting better, getting more playing time, making great defensive plays, and was named as an honorable mention all-WAC player his sophomore year. His junior year he suffered an ankle injury, but played through the remainder season only missing three games. It was later revealed that there were several broken bones in his ankle, and it never fully healed and never regained the ability to play. And just like that UH was done with him. He didn’t finish school. And that was the end of his football career.

This frustrates me because I feel like they treated my cousin like a piece of meat. They took him and made him work for all he was worth, they drove him into the ground. When he got injured UH never gave him the right treatment and didn’t nurture him as they should have. Yes, he was valuable to the team, but at the end of the day he was just another number on the roster. But I believe that all players should get the attention they need for injuries or whatever hinders them from playing at their best ability.

After Ikaika’s injury UH just threw him away, like he was any other number on the roster. And with this argument that the NCAA holds players on such a high leash with their rules makes me even more disconcerted.

Among the issues like living in constant fear of injury causing them to lose their scholarship, being verbally abused at by their coaches, or not even being able to eat some nights, college athletes have a long list of concerns that are unfathomable. The NCAA needs to reevaluate where their priorities are. They need to take a long, hard look at themselves in the mirror and ask themselves if profiting millions on behalf of players without paying them a cent is really the right thing to do.

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