Football, Featured Column, Column

Laremy Tunsil Saga Proves NCAA Must Pay Players

 Like many of you who cheer for Boston College and read my weekly rants, Roger Goodell makes me vomit. Not for Deflategate or his inability to accept the dangers of concussions, mind you. But for his disgusting comments with regard to the events that went down during the first round of the NFL Draft. Specifically, I’m talking about the legendary freefall of Laremy Tunsil.

The offensive lineman from Ole Miss was projected to go as high as the No. 1 overall pick, that is until the Los Angeles Rams traded up for a quarterback that isn’t worthy of trading away the future for. Tunsil’s talent is undeniable, and many believe he could be one of the NFL’s best linemen in a few short years.

Yet his judgment have been a little more … let’s go with spotty. His junior year was marred by accusations from his stepfather, Lindsey Miller, who claimed Tunsil received improper benefits from agents. As a result, head coach Hugh Freeze was forced to sit him out against Tennessee-Martin before the NCAA suspended him. And, as you might’ve guessed, the eternally benevolent Mark Emmert did that anyway for seven games.

Of course, anyone with a social media account knows that Tunsil’s draft stock tumbled on Thursday because of a video that surfaced on his own Twitter of the 21-year-old—can’t emphasize that enough—hitting a bong in a gas mask. At that point, the man who was then expected to be a perfect fit for the Baltimore Ravens at No. 6 would tumble even farther to the Miami Dolphins at 13. The freefall cost him an estimated $8-$12 million, a helluva lot of guaranteed money for a career in a profession that is only estimated to last, on average, four years.

To make matters worse, text messages were leaked on Tunsil’s Instagram of him asking a staff member for help paying rent and his mother’s electricity bill, a whopping $305. He later admitted that yes, his head coach did give him money and those text messages are real.

Where was His Royal Smugness? Lauding to all who would listen about how great this was for the NFL.

“I think it’s all part of what makes the draft so exciting,” Goodell told ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning. “Clubs make decisions. Sometimes they take risks. Sometimes they do the right things. Sometimes they don’t, and we’ll see. Hopefully he is going to turn out to be a great young player.”

NFLPA president Eric Winston put Goodell on blast on Twitter, stating how Goodell showed no understanding of the lives of these players and that the NFL isn’t a family, just a business. And he’s absolutely right. Goodell’s comments show an utter disregard for the conditions young players have to grow up in. And hearing those words come out of Goodell’s mouth makes me sick.

Yet, I’ll concede, it’s not his fault that he’s so ignorant. In fact, it’s Mark Emmert’s fault.

Now, before we go on, let’s get some things straight. Tunsil’s tumble is partially his own fault. No, I don’t believe a 21-year-old college student should be punished for marijuana, especially in an age when it’s being legalized. And yes, Tunsil should be allowed to film himself doing that without fear of it being released. At the same time, Tunsil has the responsibility to make sure he either a) doesn’t do that, knowing full well the NFL’s outdated policies or b) doesn’t film himself doing it, knowing that, in the social media age, no one is safe. So I can see it both ways.

In addition, I actually agree with ESPN’s Todd McShay, who said that the only thing that Tunsil should be faulted for is “ratting out” Freese, the only man who stood by him. To say it at this time is harsh by McShay, but at its core, the idea that, if Tunsil refused comment—or, more easily, if his agent or PR person didn’t allow Tunsil to go up there in the first place—Ole Miss would at least be spared a few months before the NCAA comes knocking.

Yet the overarching point is that Tunsil shouldn’t be forced to send those text messages in the first place. Student-athletes have no means of income that they can get within the NCAA’s bylaws. Many simply don’t have time to get a job. That goes double for football players, who often have to spend their summers at school.

Think about how much money a guy like Tunsil, an elite prospect starting at a crucial position at one of the country’s jewel programs, makes the NCAA. The Evil Empire had $989 million in revenue during the 2014 fiscal year alone, according to USA Today. The Equity in Athletics Data report states that Ole Miss alone earned $53,399,653 in revenue during that year as well. Freeze himself makes more than $4 million a year.

So is it really the immoral thing that the coaching staff at Ole Miss spared $305 to help a guy with rent and his mother’s electric bill? Yeah, it’s against NCAA rules. But if nothing else, it proves how ridiculous those rules are. Because now, Tunsil’s mistake will cost Freeze and Ole Miss for years to come, as the program is sure to undergo widespread investigations.

It’s time for the NCAA to cut the crap. Pay the athletes.

Featured Image by Rogelio V. Solis / AP Photo

May 1, 2016