In a July 4 HoopsHype article by Etan Thomas, a former Syracuse men's basketball player who last played for the NBA's Atlanta Hawks, weighs in on the hypocrisy and greed of the NCAA.
While such critiques are normally reserved for football and men's basketball, Thomas turns his attention to his then-girlfriend-now-wife and former Syracuse women's basketball player Nichole Oliver who wasn't able to receive payment for a commercial that "grossed over $100,000" because it would have made her ineligible to compete.
The irony is that after making that financial sacrifice just to remain eligible, she had to threaten to sue the school just to keep her scholarship after suffering a career-ending injury before her senior year.
The irony in this is that she could have [paid] for her own education, but instead had to donate it to charity and be a broke "student-athlete"...Then, before her senior year, after her third knee surgery, the Syracuse specialist Dr. Raphael told her that if she wanted to be able to walk without a cane and play with her kids in the future that she needed to stop playing basketball...Then head coach Mariana Freeman, Felisha Legette and the rest of the staff of Syracuse women’s basketball program began a crusade to take Nichole’s scholarship away because after all, if you can no longer play what good are you to them.
We know that women's basketball isn't the type of revenue sport that is at the heart of the debate over whether athletes should be paid or be allowed to leave school early - most women's basketball programs aren't making money and the WNBA already has an age/education requirement.
But as Sean Keeley of SB Nation's Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician responded yesterday, "It's a harsh look at SU and the state of college athletics but its a fair one." More broadly, it reflects what SBN's Bomani Jones said in response to NCAA commissioners and presidents finally making a college football playoff a reality: "After all these years of saying a playoff wasn't possible because it conflicted with academics, they finally figured out that classes don't matter anyway."
To deny Oliver the opportunity to make the kind of money she would need to pay her way through college on one end but then attempt to take away her scholarship when she became a damaged commodity is irresponsible at best. Then again, who's to blame for that? Everybody, up to the very top of this system, can claim that they're not at fault because they're just following the rules.
But moreso than plausible deniability, this only reinforces something I wrote two years ago about the NCAA's farcical "principle of amateurism" - the almighty dollar clearly takes precedent over the primary function of so many institutions of higher education: to educate.
"This cartel is the National Collegiate Athletic Association."