Monday, October 25, 2010

Post-NCAA Penalties?

Given all the recent noise regarding student-athletes accepting illegal benefits, largely in the form of money from player agents looking to land the next up-and-coming NFL stud, the NCAA, NFL and several representatives for both collegiate and professional players are meeting to discuss potential penalties for players who lose their NCAA eligibility.

One of the ideas on the table is to impose fines upon players who lost eligibility once they're selected in the NFL Draft. Another idea involved suspending the player in his rookie season -- maybe as many as six to eight games.

According to reports, progress is being made on this front and the group would meet again in a month.

On the one hand, I applaud this initiative -- it's nice to see steps being taken to punish those who actually break NCAA rules, rather than levying penalties on the program -- and players who did nothing wrong -- after the offending party has left (see: USC, Reggie Bush, Pete Carroll).

A monetary fine, so long as it's levied after a player signs his NFL contract and taken before the agent gets his cut, seems fair. If a player takes money he shouldn't, having money taken away upon the beginning of his professional career looks like an appropriate measure.

But if we start suspending players for these infractions, that's where I have a problem. If the suggestion of six- to eight-game suspensions for NFL rookies who were deemed ineligible by the NCAA comes to pass, the league will essentially be saying that taking money from an agent is worse than the first positive test for a performance-enhancing drug (four-game suspension) or a violation of the league's personal conduct policy (Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger only served four games due to his alleged sexual assault).

Which is worse to you? Roethlisberger allegedly forcing himself on a woman, or a student-athlete taking money from an agent?

I've already made my opinion regarding student-athletes accepting illegal benefits known, but I understand and applaud the NCAA and NFL's collective effort to address the issue. Hopefully, the punishment will be fair and reflect the infraction -- if we start suspending players because they took money, there's no telling how teams would operate in the draft.

Do you really want to take that star wide receiver in the first round if you know he has to sit the first six games? All because he took money, while a star cornerback from another team skates through despite three failed drug tests and an arrest?

The effort and the intention is admirable; I just hope the consequences don't get as out of control as the issue the solution is trying to fix.

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