The 2010 Heisman Memorial Trophy will be awarded to college football’s best player tonight. Auburn University quarterback Cam Newton is the favorite to win the award in a walk. Newton has been far and away college football’s best player this season. He has thrown 28 touchdowns and scored another 21. At 6’6, 250lbs., Newton is the prototype of a future professional star. No one questions his speed, strength, or skill. The questions arise with the young man’s integrity. Newton began his college career at the University of Florida in 2007. He later withdrew from school amid charges of receiving a stolen laptop. Newton spent the 2009 season in junior college and re-emerged as a top recruit.
Mississippi State University seemed to be the front-runner to land Newton, but he elected to attend Auburn instead. In November, Mississippi State officials alleged that Cecil Newton, Cam’s father, was looking for a cash payment for his son services. I am not going to address whether or not I think any money exchanged hands. The Cam Newton controversy has stirred up the argument of whether or not major college athletes should be paid for their services. Sorry, I’m not touching that one either. This post is about the rules we like and the ones we don’t – and whether or not we should follow them.
Earlier this year, former Heisman winner Reggie Bush chose to return his trophy after the NCAA ruled him ineligible during the 2004 season. That was the year Bush won the Heisman and his school, the University of Southern California, won the BCS National Championship. It was found that Bush had received “improper benefits” while a student-athlete at USC. There are seemingly countless stories of investigations involving universities and their student-athletes. The consistent attention has caused some people to call the rules regarding eligibility “outdated” and “naive.”
Let’s be clear, athletic scholarships are very valuable to students. University costs continue to rise. Many of you reading this blog (the author included) are still re-paying student loans. We chose to borrow against future earnings for an educational opportunity. This is something that Newton, Bush and thousands of other fortunate student-athletes will never have to worry about. Sallie Mae won’t be calling them to establish a payment plan. I’m not writing this as a guy who wishes he possessed the talents of a Division I student-athlete. I’m writing this as a guy who sees the value of his education sent to him in a monthly statement. I’m writing this as a guy who realizes it was worth every penny.
My mother used to say “if you’re going to live in this house ,then you’re going to follow my rules.” Her words make so much sense now and they relate to the student-athlete. You cannot accept the scholarship, break the rules, then get mad and talk about how unfair they are. Tuition, fees, and room/board costs more than $37,000 a year at Auburn. Your college may have cost less. Maybe it cost more. While the scholarship does not provide a “free” education, it does provide the opportunity for an education without incurring debt. Maybe that’s enough. Until next time…
Be a Good Sport!