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For Student Athletes, College Football Is A Broken ‘System’

Celebrated investigative journalists Armen Keteyian and Jeff Benedict go deep with us on the inside story of big time college football.

Former Ohio State University head coach Jim Tressel is carried by the members of his 2002 national championship team between quarters of an NCAA college football game between Ohio State and Michigan Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP)

Former Ohio State University head coach Jim Tressel is carried by the members of his 2002 national championship team between quarters of an NCAA college football game between Ohio State and Michigan Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP)

America loves its college football.  Rah, rah.  Cheer the team.  Road trip and tailgate and all kinds of bright autumn entertainment on TV.  Of course, we have come to know it’s not all pretty.  The big money and sharp elbows and recruiting hanky-panky.  The academic charade and injuries and young athletes glorified and exploited.  But we’ve never known the details like we’re learning them lately.  The sex and cash and broken rules and bodies.  Up next On Point:  two big investigative journalists have gone deep on college football.  They’re here to lay it all out.

- Tom Ashbrook


Jeff Benedict, co-author of “The System: The Glory and Scandal of Big-Time College Football,” special features contributor for Sports Illustrated and author of “Pros and Cons: The Criminals Who Play in the NFL.” (@AuthorJeff)

Armen Keteyian, co-author of “The System, ” lead correspondent for 60 Minutes Sports and author of “Money Players: Inside the New NBA.” (@ArmenKeteyian)

From Tom’s Reading List

The New York Times: A New Book Offers a View of the Game That Tailgaters Rarely Encounter — “In ways the typical Saturday tailgater may never know, and ultimately may not care, there has been and will continue to be harm done to young women whose lives intersect with powerhouse football programs — but also young men who sacrifice their bodies and wind up receiving little in return.”

TIME: It’s Time To Pay College Athletes — “Why shouldn’t a player worth so much to his school, to his town and to the college-football brand be able to sign his name for money, just as any other celebrity has a right to do? How much longer can everyone else make money from college athletes like Manziel while the athletes themselves see their cash compensation capped–at $0? According to a recent study, if college football operated under the same revenue-sharing model as the NFL, each of the 85 scholarship football players on the Aggies squad could see a paycheck of about $225,000 per year. Manziel is surely worth a great deal more.”

Sports Illustrated – ‘Special Report on Oklahoma State Football: Part 1 — The Money” — “Former Cowboys who spoke to SI estimated that between 15 and 20 players received money under the table in any given year, meaning that many contributors, including starters, never saw a dime. Why were some paid and not others? Often it was a willingness to request money. Players who sought financial assistance were often directed by teammates or sometimes a member of the coaching staff to a generous benefactor; in some instances they were paid on the spot.”

Excerpt from “The System: The Glory and Scandal of Big-Time College Football” by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian

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  • TomBSU

    The raison d’etre of the NCAA is to ensure that everyone
    makes as much money as possible from big-time college athletics… except for
    the athletes themselves.

    It’s a crooked system and that’s why these “scandals” about
    athletes getting paid don’t bother the general public much anymore. They think
    the players SHOULD get paid… at least a little something.

  • TFRX

    Is the Ok St pre-pology, from a couple days ago, for an SI article which had yet to hit the stands, going to be part of the “new normal”?

  • J P Fitzsimmons

    Colleges are the minor league for the NBA and the NFL. This should be recognized by the NFL and NBA. These organizations should pay athletes and should subsidize this minor league relieving colleges and the government of the responsibility.

  • Unterthurn

    Sports should be separated from the institutions of higher education. They are in conflict with the goals of academic training. The athletics would be better served and protected if the sports where evolved into sport leagues like Europe’s soccers clubs or tennis clubs for example.

  • Coastghost

    Back in the day the southern state university I attended as an undergrad elected to build a multi-million dollar athletic dorm while the university’s library concurrently lost its American Library Assn. accreditation. Granted, the athletic dorm was funded largely if not exclusively by alumni contributions, but I took the point: I have never contributed one thin dime as an alumnus.
    I am not at all opposed to the abolition of the NCAA: college and university intramural athletics can suffice.

  • hellokitty0580

    What happened to the idea that collegiate sports are supposed to accentuate the academic experience? College football has exploded into something that overshadows academics and I think that’s wrong. Either college football needs to be brought back into check or it needs to be completely disengaged from colleges and universities, and made into junior leagues of the NFL similar to the minor leagues in baseball. The way college football is now makes a mockery of the American academics it’s attached to. I don’t think it’s ethical and I don’t think we’re giving a fair shot to the young men that enter into college football. Are they getting the best academic experience? Probably not because it’s all about the football for them. But they’re not getting paid and their bodies are getting ravaged.

    • Coastghost

      It’s as bad as or worse than you intimate: the chief “beneficiaries” of post-secondary academic remediation are members of the college/university athletic corps. I’d be willing to give credit to college athletics alone for the proliferation of post-secondary remediation programs, which I find patently absurd when not gratuitously offensive.

  • creaker

    This is about money – so the players should share in that. Ask anyone involved if the players education or the players playing comes first.

    When we hear them announce in a game that # so and so is not on the field today because they had to study for a final, I’ll believe it has something to do with education.

  • creaker

    Universities should buy lottery tickets for the entire student body – that way they can all participate in the chance of a fantastic future.

  • 65noname

    so one of the dudes that you use as an analyst is someone who thinks that the ccoach of alabama is the “most interesting” peoson that he has eveer met in college sports AND a principled and ethical person. Everyone knows that the alabama athletic department is one of the most corrupt entities in sports and that coach is perhaps the most corrupt person in that department.
    As is usual, government radio is not willing to actually caall out not only what is going on but who is vrsopnsible and reaping the financial benefits. When it gets down to it, government radio is not willing to present guests who would honestly and accurately present both what is going on and who is responsible (and is making millions)

    • QtheCurtain

      “Everyone knows…” is not an argument. Can you provide evidence to back your statement? Also, consider proofreading your posts, you spell like you never made it through 4th grade. Everyone knows dropouts have a favorite college team that loses to Bama regularly. Sounds like sour grapes.

      • 65noname

        Thank you for your proof reading suggestions. you argue like a third grader. and critiqing spelling is not an argument. thank you for your pyschological analysis that I “sound” like I have “sour grapes” because the alabama professional football team beat some other team. however, your logic is of someone who never made it out the 2nd grade.
        By the way, ad homienen (?) attacks are not argument.
        And, yes, I used the rhetorical device of “everyone knows”. I didn’t realize that someone with a severe inability to differentiate casual discussion from literalism or a scientifc tretiste would read my words and become so confused and upset.
        I actually meant that 99.5 % of college football fans know that the alabama athletic department is one of the most corrupt in the country.
        SORRY to have so disoriented you!!!!!

        • QtheCurtain

          So, still no actual examples of how Bama is corrupt and lots of personal attacks. You must work for Fox News. Sheesh, dude, it’s a comment board, calm yourself.

          • 65noname

            Do you bother to read your comments? I know that its tough when people actually laugh at your silly comments and I certainly apologize (did I spell that word correctly?) for making fun of them. But you need to chill out and get a life.

  • Ridgewaycynic2013

    Boosters=lobbyists. ‘Nuff said.

  • frank

    It’s important to differentiate between “sport” and “football / basketball” programs.

    Consider hockey and baseball. A kid can:
    Play in the minor leagues, be paid, and maybe make it to the pros, or
    Play in college, get an education, and maybe make it to the pros.

    One of the problems is that college football and basketball programs have become the minor leagues of the NBA and the NFL – J. P. Fitzsimmons is right about that.

  • Coastghost

    Amazing: no reps of SI or CBS argue for abolition of the NCAA. Now THAT’S credibility!

  • sickofthechit

    Just imagine what we as a society could accomplish if for one of these Saturdays or football weekends if we all volunteered those hours spent tailgating and cheering to our communities….in comparison it all seems a little wasteful/sefish. .charles a. bowsher

    • 2Gary2

      amen–sports of all kinds are a complete waste of time and money. The wasted time could be used to much better purposes like fixing up our communities.

    • Johan Corby

      I know, so awful people wanting to be entertained. What a waste doing anything that isn’t work.

  • 2Gary2

    College sports (all sports actually) are trash and a waste of time.. college is for a education not to play with a ball.

    Eliminate all college sports and focus on education. could probably make tuition almost free to boot.

    • Johan Corby

      College sports are not funded by tuition. The money paid to coaches and for equipment is raised separately, but go ahead and pretend to know what you’re talking about.

  • twenty_niner

    How about go to college to try to jack hammer some knowledge into that oversized bocce ball sitting on your neck? If you don’t like the deal of getting a free education in exchange for running around with a ball, don’t take it.

  • ktslator

    The discussion of Nick Sabin made me think the authors had ingratiated themselves a little too much with the subject they spent many months covering and had lost a little of their objectivity. But when the discussion turned to T. Boone Pickens — whom they oddly referred to with the familiar “Boone” rather than “Pickens” — the commentary bordered on fawning. Especially when both authors felt the need to jump to Pickens’ defense when the discussion turned to the sleaziness in the OK State program that’s in the news and quickly interject that “it never touched Boone!” The admission that one of the authors accepted a ride in Pickens’ corporate jet to travel to an away game only added to the sense I got that they had become apologists for Pickens.

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