In recent months, the NCAA has come under scrutiny for the way it profits from the likeness and images of its student-athletes, as well as the big business its sports have turned into. Houston Texans running back Arian Foster has become the latest to question the collegiate athletics policy regarding players taking compensation for their work, recently admitting to taking money while he was at the University of Tennessee.
Foster made his comments in a recent interview for the upcoming documentary Schooled: The Price of College Sports according to SI.com.
“I don’t know if this will throw us into an NCAA investigation — my senior year, I was getting money on the side. I really didn’t have any money. I had to either pay the rent or buy some food. I remember the feeling of like, ‘Man, be careful.’ But there’s nothing wrong with it. And you’re not going to convince me that there is something wrong with it.”
In today’s world, taking money while playing college sports is a huge deal. Just ask Johnny Manziel and his recent autograph investigation. Heck, a college golfer was just sanctioned for washing her car with a school hose. The NCAA has taken a stance against such rewards for athletes.
The nearly four hour long interview with the star of the Texans offense revealed the struggles that many collegiate athletes face during their time in school. Foster cited that he was short on money, and as a result struggled to pay rent and buy food.
He says that many of his teammates shared in his struggles, yet the money they were generating for both the school and coaching staff were easily apparent.
“There were plenty of times where throughout the month I didn’t have enough for food. Our stadium had like 107,000 seats; 107,000 people buying a ticket to come watch us play. It’s tough just like knowing that, being aware of that. We had just won and I had a good game, 100 yards or whatever You go outside and there’s hundreds of kids waiting for you. You’re signing autographs, taking pictures, whatever.”
“Then I walk back, and reality sets in. I go to my dorm room, open my fridge, and there’s nothing in my fridge. Hold up, man. What just happened? Why don’t I have anything to show for what I just did? There was a point where we had no food, no money, so I called my coach and I said, ‘Coach, we don’t have no food. We don’t have no money. We’re hungry. Either you give us some food, or I’m gonna go do something stupid.’ He came down and he brought like 50 tacos for like four or five of us. Which is an NCAA violation. [laughs] But then, the next day I walk up to the facility and I see my coach pull up in a brand new Lexus. Beautiful.”
Although Foster admits to breaking NCAA rules while at Tennessee, he does not see anything wrong with what he did, and believes it is time for the policy to change. Student athletes rarely have the free time to earn money by working do to the requirements of school and practice. It just isn’t practical to have a job.
Foster ended his interview by saying “I’m a firm believer that an employee should get paid for his work. And, 100 percent, I see student athletes as employees. Hiding from it is just cowardly.”
Sure, there are options for student athletes who live on campus, but many upperclassmen want to get away from the dorm room lifestyle. Playing a sport should not prevent that. It’s hard to fault Foster for choosing to live off campus his senior season, he is far from alone in choosing to do so.
So far the NCAA has remained steadfast in its belief that free tuition is enough for student athletes, however the pressure is building for them to change their ways. How this plays out remains to be seen, but it does not appear to be an issue that is going to simply blow over for the collegiate sporting world. It will be interesting to see what develops as a result of Foster’s comments of his time in Tennessee.
Senior Sports Editor
The Guardian Express