the final 30 for 30 in the set and one of the few feature length documentaries they made. this one is about the smu football program and the “death penalty” judgment that the ncaa handed down after a second violation of pay for play rules. my views on this are probably well known if you know me – simply put, i think that the athletes that generate billions of dollars of revenue that is shared by the schools, apparel manufacturers, media outlets, video game makers, etc. should get a cut of the pie. they are the ones taking the physical risk, they are the talent, they should get something more than a free education. you can decide where to draw the line as to amount of compensation and who gets it (only division 1a? only the marquee players? only men’s programs with media contracts?), but the bottom line is that they deserve more than they are getting monetarily and the ncaa should also do more to protect the kids from the vultures and leeches who inevitably work their way into these programs.
the smu case is somewhat unique (at least in terms of programs that have been caught) in that they displayed a pattern of skirting the regulations and putting their players under contract. they were de facto professional players at a college program. did they deserve the punishment they got? probably, especially after they were warned before. should it have ever gotten to that point in the first place? not in my opinion. in order to make things right, we need to do the right thing by these kids – educate them on fiscal responsibility, educate them to the fact that only 3% of scholarship division 1 football players are going to make it to the professional level, educate them about the pitfalls of stardom, inform them of the kinds of people who are going to try to take advantage of them, and (not least of all) pay them. if the ncaa made things right in those ways then they could get on their high horse and hand down punishments with some actual moral authority. until they fix a broken system, though, i really can’t be all that critical of a program like smu or usc or unc or miami. there are degrees (least to worst offenders: usc, unc, miami, smu), but even a case like this can’t get me too upset because of the degree to which the system is unjust.