NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 10: Etan Thomas attends a press conference after the NBA and NBA Player's Association met to negotiate the CBA at The Helmsley Hotel on November 10, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
This one is from July 4th but if you haven't read it, you gotta check out former Syracuse Orange basketball player Etan Thomas' screed on the hypocrisy of college athletics. Unfortunately for Syracuse University, we're the example he uses. Uh-oh.
Thomas tells the story of his then-girlfriend-now-wife Nichole Oliver, who was a member of the SU womens' basketball team. She was on scholarship but, according to Thomas, was told by doctors to stop playing basketball for fear she was close to permanently-injuring herself. Her decision to stop playing in the face of injury apparently didn't sit well with then-head coach Marianna Freeman, who "began a crusade to take Nichole's scholarship away." In order to keep her scholarship for her senor year, Oliver was forced to threaten legal action against the school.
The reason why this happened is because they do not care. The bottom line is your are not a student-athlete as they love to profess to the world, you are an athlete-student, and you are there for one reason and one reason only. You can keep your grades up enough to remain eligible, but then again, that's only so you can be able to play.
Thomas also references Kansas State basketball player Jamar Samuels, who was banned from their game against Syracuse in this past year's NCAA Tournament over accepting $200 to "feed his family." Thomas points out that while Samuels' was punished for the money, the NCAA Tournament generated millions of dollars to to pay, amongst other things, NCAA President Mark Emmert's six-figure salary.
It's a harsh look at SU and the state of college athletics but its a fair one. I've seen some people react by saying they don't have too much sympathy for Oliver and Thomas considering they're still paying off college loans years later while scholarship athletes do receive quite a few perks while on campus, and, you know, fair enough.
To me, this only reinforces what the NBA Draft reminded me...that if a college athlete has the chance to go pro and make money sooner than later, they should always take it. Sophomores Dion Waiters and Fab Melo just went in the first round while senior Kris Joseph barely got picked and Scoop Jardine got nothing. Had Joseph left school as a sophomore, when he was more potential than reality, he probably would have gone higher.
We all love a college athlete who sacrifices for four, maybe five years, to make the fans happy. But at the end of the day, student-athletes, just like everyone else, should always look out for themselves first. Because when the s**t hits the fan, the university, just like the companies we all work for, will always protect itself over helping you.
If nothing else, I think we can all agree with Thomas' opening and closing statements, both of which are directed at the idiocy that is Dick Vitale.