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Bob Stoops Makes Poor Defense of Amateurism

Matt Hayes of Sporting News has an excellent article on Oklahoma head football coach Bob Stoops’ defense of amateurism. In it, Stoops makes many good points, including the value of a scholarship and the difficulty in determining whether a fan bought a jersey or a ticket because of a specific player or because of the university. But in the headline quote, Stoops shoots the NCAA right in the foot:

“I tell my guys all the time,” Stoops says, “you’re not the first one to spend a hungry Sunday without any money.”

As a policy matter, Stoops appears to not have considered the counter to his argument. The accusation advanced by groups like the National College Players Association is not that players do not get enough. It is that they are going into the red; that the limits on what a full grant-in-aid can pay for impose a cost on athletes that runs into the tens of thousands of dollars over four or five years. Stipends and full cost-of-attendance scholarships are not about pay-for-play. They are well within the NCAA’s definition of amateurism since they cover actual and necessary expenses of being a student-athlete.

The other problem is the perception of a football coach making $4 million a year telling athletes to suck it up and go hungry. Whenever an institution says their problem is messaging, not what they believe but how they communicate it, the institution is roundly criticized. But it is a serious problem for the NCAA. Many of the people attempting to defend the NCAA’s definition of amateurism and whether it is appropriate in college athletics are doing as much damage as the critics.

The combination of external (O’Bannon lawsuit) and internal (multiple legislative solutions coming) pressures mean it is only a matter of time before the value of a scholarship goes up. OU can afford it, so there is no reason for Stoops to agitate against it. Instead, his attempt to provide some perspective to his players and good arguments for NCAA policies set him up to become the latest person in college athletics who just doesn’t get it.

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