The current controversy over former Trojan O.J. Mayo has elicited two reactions, from what I can tell. One side sees this as yet another (USC) athlete spitting on the rules regarding amateurism in college athletics; the other prefers to view this as being entirely the fault of the NCAA for making tons of money and not sharing it with the players.
I say: Stop it you two, you’re both right.
On the one hand, it’s time that we started putting pressure on the NCAA to stop exploiting these athletes. Yes, they are getting expensive college degrees (if they are smart enough make the most of the opportunity), but judging from the amount of money being made off of college athletics, their performance is worth even more than that. There’s not going to be a perfect system – but it makes sense to me that every division 1 basketball player is entitled to some small (and equal across the board) percentage of the money being made.
On the other hand, the sad reality is, any reasonable solution to this problem will not do away with the kind of behavior we’re seeing from O.J. Mayo and the many athletes like him. Even if Mayo was getting paid as a collegiate athlete, he’d still have potential agents throwing cash his way, and let’s face it, he’d probably still accept it. This is why we simultaneously need to condemn the behavior of Mayo. Even if an athlete believes that the system is unfair, we as sports fans still expect him to act with (a little) integrity. By playing for a university (even USC), they are claiming to be amateurs. They’ve been lying to everyone.
So if you are mad at the athlete, or made at the system, don’t forget that the other side shares its own burden of guilt as well.