Greg Bishop of the New York Times took a look at both sides of Ohio State’s insistence that football players have checking accounts and that assistant coaches keep an eye on spending:
[Athletic Director Gene] Smith stressed that Ohio State would not ask players to “show me your grocery list and go over every line.” But where he saw this as educational, others saw more oversight, a way to protect the Buckeyes from rule violations, which tarnish the reputation of universities and lead to millions of dollars in lost revenue. Players who do not budget properly, Smith said, “would be more likely to look for opportunities to solve their financial problems.”
Bishop’s article raises an important point: the insistence that the NCAA and colleges only regulate with pure motives. Set aside the monitoring and privacy concerns for a second. If Ohio State is making a commitment to improve the financial literacy of its athletes, who cares why it is doing it? If the NCAA has given OSU and other universities the incentive to provide this education to athletes, that is an example of successful NCAA regulation and enforcement.
Bringing back those privacy concerns, if the NCAA has provided an incentive to closely monitor spending habits, that is more troubling. But teaching athletes to budget, how to use checking and savings accounts, how credit cards work, what expenses to consider, and what unplanned events to save for is an unqualified win. If our professional athletes are almost always going to pass through college, some basic personal finance knowledge should at least be part of the minimum.
It would be lovely if everyone in colleges athletics wanted to do the right thing all the time. But given that is impossible, we have to settle for the next best thing, which is using sticks and carrots encourage schools to follow the rules and provide more for athletes. If Ohio State can do this with adequate privacy protections, questioning why they would do it is counterproductive.