Treatment of LSU football players shows true colors of current NCAA climate

November 6, 2020

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When the NCAA board of governors voted unanimously to, “allow student-athletes to be paid for the use of their name, image and likeness,” on October 29, 2019, many among the world of college athletics saw this as a massive step in the right direction. However, the more recent events involving the Louisiana State University (LSU) football program, LSU alumni Odell Beckham Jr, and the NCAA has shown that we are still yet far from any justice that our college athletes need.

On October 21, Sports Illustrated first reported that former LSU Tiger and NFL star Odell Beckham Jr. had been banned two years from the school facilities because of an incident involving some money handed out post-victory in the NCAA Championship in January. Beckham was famously pictured handshaking LSU football players with handfuls of cash on the football field, seconds after the final whistle. As this video spread around the internet, many wondered if/when the NCAA would take action against this and over 10 months later, they finally did (sort of).

In addition to Beckham’s ban from the team facilities, LSU took it upon themselves to add additional punishments for themselves in an attempt to loosen the attention from the NCAA. Among these punishments, is the plan to cut eight current scholarships over the next two years and as well as reducing their recruiting/visiting days by 21 and banning communication with recruits for six weeks, according to the statement from LSU officials.

By enforcing these restrictions on themselves, LSU has basically stated their intent to stop the controversy right here and now, without any extra investigations from the NCAA. Why did they do this exactly? Well, these self-imposed punishments are an attempt to distract the investigations of the NCAA and they give the university the least amount of accountability as humanly possible.

According to the original communication between LSU and the NCAA when deciding the punishments, LSU believes that their violations reflect those of Level 1 in nature, the most serious of NCAA violations. However there are three different degrees of Level 1: aggravated, standard and mitigated. LSU’s self-imposed restrictions are most along the line of a mitigated Level 1 which would not include a post-season ban like the other options do, and this may be the most important aspect for LSU because it seems as though they will do anything to avoid this.

We believe these self-imposed penalties are appropriate and we will continue to coordinate and cooperate with the NCAA on this matter.”

— Robert Munson

LSU Senior Associate Athletic Director Robert Munson said, “We believe these self-imposed penalties are appropriate and we will continue to coordinate and cooperate with the NCAA on this matter,” in the statement provided to Sports Illustrated. But is this situation really about cooperation with the NCAA or is it more about the university deflecting the blame?

The most frightening aspect about his incident is who is actually being punished through these actions made by the university. First of all, the scholarships that are set to be taken away are those of current players on the team. According to the report from Sports Illustrated, this ban shall have no effect on the amount of scholarships given to new recruits, only those that have been already awarded. Although this is not all fine and dandy, as these will most likely be the players that need these scholarships the most, not the players who even made these “violations” in the first place.

Players such as Justin Jefferson and Joe Burrow are players that have been documented in the scandal, with Jefferson being on video taking money from Beckham and Burrow admitting to taking money. However these two players are not even on the team anymore and currently play in the NFL, with no punishments whatsoever. Meanwhile, because LSU has self-imposed this punishment they will be also self-enforcing the proposed plan and can cut the eight scholarships on their own. This means that of course high profile players on scholarship will not be the ones losing scholarships, the players will be ones hanging onto roster spots and the ones deemed “expendable.”

These said players could potentially only afford to be attending LSU because of their scholarship and if they are truly “expendable,” then they more than likely do not have a future in the NFL. This means that they NEED the scholarship because they NEED the school and its classes. These players are going to a school that they can potentially not afford, with no future in the NFL so their education becomes that much more important. If these are the people being punished in the final outcome of this scandal, this entire situation is evidence that nothing has truly changed regarding the power hold the NCAA has over all other players, coaches and programs.

Pure fear of the NCAA from the side of the university is what has caused the unjust punishment of these student-athletes, and this just goes to show we are much farther from Fair Play in college sports than we first believed when the NCAA passed the Fair Pay to Play Act. Now, this legislation seems more like a smokescreen than a real attempt to change the lives of student-athletes.

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