The term student-athlete is a joke.

I have had the privilege of knowing several scholarship athletes in different sports. When you are a scholarship athlete you are basically signing away your life for four years for a free education.  The things some of these young men and women go through for a free education are dumb.

Granted a free education is nice but the difference between someone who gets an athletic scholarship and an educational scholarship or a grant is vastly different.  Someone who has an educational scholarship is a regular college student.

Student-athlete’s I believe truly don’t get the full college experience and they’re missing out on a major life event while pumping millions of dollars into the university kitty.

Regular students attend their classes, live in their dorms, study for their finals and get to partake in and enjoy college life.  They can go out with classmates at the end of the day to get something to eat or watch one of their schools teams play.  They can go on a date with a fellow student, and on that date the pair can decide who is paying and how they’re paying.  Then can take a job to earn money to so those things.  Try that if you’re a “student-athlete”.

They can’t go with their friends and have them buy them a beer or burger or a pizza.  It’s against the rules.

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Have you ever wondered why you see the female athletes and the male athletes dating each other and not really dating a “regular” student?  That’s because only another college athlete can truly understand what it’s like to be a college athlete.  The demands on their time, the stress they go through.

Sure these kids, get free clothes that they can’t keep, at the bigger schools they stay in nice hotels, eat at decent restaurants and fly on charter flights.  But is it all worth it?

I have seen these college students have to study for final exams on locker room floors, hotel rooms and in conference rooms.  I have seen them spend holidays away from their families, get a four day Christmas vacation while other students get a month and never go on spring break.

I’ve known many college athletes who have chosen to go to school far from home for a number of reasons but most times they fall into a few categories.  They always wanted to go to that school.  Maybe the school of their choice has a big time program so they’ll get to be seen by having games televised.  Some chose a certain school because they may have a chance at a career as a professional athlete and they know that schools exposure will help them get there. And in some cases that school 800 or 1,000 miles from home may have been their only scholarship offer.

Money money moneyAnd people wonder why these young men and women chose to break the rules like the football players at the University of Miami or Ohio State University are accused of.  Taking money from boosters, getting taken to clubs, having hookers paid for, selling their personal memorabilia like jersey’s and Bowl rings or those trading items for other products or services, like tattoos.  It’s not hard to figure out.

They aren’t allowed to take anything.  Food, cash, items; even a ride could potentially be a NCAA violation.  Yet all the while the school is making money off their backs.  They’re selling tickets for premium prices to football and basketball and Bowl games.  They sell replica jerseys with the kid’s number and the athlete gets zero.

How many Maya Moore #23 jerseys and shirts do you think UConn sold the last four years?  How many #5 Reggie Bush shirts do you think USC sold earlier this decade?  Or how many #2 Terrelle Pryor jersey’s are on the backs of kids in Big Ten country?

It’s wrong that the university gets to expose the athlete and use them for four years.  The school can even use their likeness to sell tickets to future sporting events like season ticket sales but the athlete isn’t allowed to sell their own image or likeness for gain.  That’s why there’s no Andrew Luck Nike ads, Austin Rivers Gatorade spots or Chris Kreider Under Armor commercials.

As a photographer I am prohibited from selling the photos from NCAA events to people for personal use.  So technically if Player A’s parents, who I know personally, say “I love that shot of Player A can I buy an 8×10?”  I have to tell them no.  I am not even allowed to make money off a student athlete because it could jeopardize their eligibility to play their sport.

While the institutions continue to get rich off the back of the college athletes, the athletes themselves don’t have $5 in their pocket to go Subway. It’s really very sad and truly a joke.

The worst part of this entire saga is the NCAA themselves.  They make up these absurd rules that are written on mountains of paper and expect the institutions, its employees, boosters, students, athletes and anyone who comes in connection with them to obey them.

It truly is time for change in the way student-athletes are compensated for their education and time.  There has to be some fair, logical solution to be able to pay scholarship athletes evenly across the board, from school to school, from conference to conference, from revenue generating sports to non-revenue generating sports.  Maybe we need Robert Kraft and Jeff Saturday to figure this crap out because no one else seems to be able to.

Why can’t a student-athlete receive a scholarship, funds for books, room and board or a housing allowance, meals and get some piece of the athletic department pie? I’m not saying pay a kid $20 grand to play football at Florida, Alabama or USC or basketball at Duke, Georgetown or UConn.  But why can’t every student athlete be paid $2,000 per season for walking around money.  Granted it’s not a lot but it will allow them to be a college student or some semblance of one.

The rules on other things need to soften as well.  The student-athletes should be allowed to share a ride home from someone or be able to accept a meal.  I still feel there needs to be limits like no cars, no trips, no gambling etc. It is possible to live a normal life under normal rules and conditions and be a student athlete.  In the wake of these current scandals it’s proof something needs to be done and it’s time for the NCAA to take a bold step and start looking into it.