A voice from the wilderness – that’s what Jay Bilas is. Bilas, an ESPN analyst and former hoops star at Duke, deserves fist-bumps for risking his reputation by speaking the truth.
And how can anyone argue that his comments on how the NCAA exploits college athletes are not the truth?
With Twitter as his medium of choice, Bilas has accused the NCAA of hypocrisy for its refusal to allow athletes to profit from their reputations. He took direct aim at the controversy that surrounds Johnny Manziel, aka “Johnny Football” and the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.
Yet he’s no place where other big-name athletes have not been. Manziel saw the dollars and grabbed them. How is what he did different from what Terrelle Pryor did a couple of seasons ago at Ohio State?
“Tattoogate,” as the Pryor affair came to be called, was the textbook example of why collegiate athletics and campus poverty should not coexist. Athletes like Pryor and Manziel have personal worth that they should be able to cash in on, but the NCAA won’t let them.
That, Bilas said, is the hypocrisy. Room and board are no fair exchange for the millions of dollars high-profile athletes bring to colleges like A&M and Ohio State, and to the NCAA.
Want to get donors to dig deeper into their pockets? Recruit a talent like Manziel and let him perform his magic. Want to bring in more revenue? Have a megastar like Manziel take the old alma mater to the Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Rose Bowl or Fiesta Bowl.
The revenues that schools rake in each year can hit nine digits, and the NCAA puts its hands on hundreds of millions, which it shares unevenly with the programs under its watch. Still, even those unfair shares are fairer than what athletes get.
How is it fair to see so much wealth and have star athletes get so little of it? How is it fair to allow this exploitation to continue in the face of all the evidence that shows its unfairness?
What has been a conspiracy of silence might soon become a screaming match that echoes across the collegiate landscape. Bilas has made the loudest noise thus far.
But we know hypocrites don’t give in easily, and the NCAA is already waging a MMA-like fight over its money with Ed O’Bannon, a former NCAA basketball star.
The NCAA, with all its influence, might beat O’Bannon in court, but can it defend and win in the court of public opinion?
No one who follows college sports should see justice in letting the NCAA pimp athletes while not letting them earn a few dollars for signing autographs or for making public appearances.
Bilas certainly didn’t see justice here, which is why he’s become the voice for this public fight to right a wrong.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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