With each passing day, the NCAA's unjust system of profiting off of student athletes who can't earn a dollar from their own talents is facing more and more scrutiny. The billion dollar collegiate organization is reeling from being royally embarrassed recently by ESPN's Jay Bilas after he challenged then for selling jerseys on their website under current or recent star players' names.
Bilas was upset at the NCAA's heavy pursuit of the sports' megastar of the moment, Texas A&M University's and reigning Heisman Johnny Manziel for possibly making money from signing autographs, and wanted to expose their long lasting double standards. It was a move that resulted in NCAA president Mark Emmert producing a mea culpa, vowing they would end the practice for good—though there are no current plans to stop the schools making their own jersey dollars.
It was a real treat to see Bilas' actions, as well as current college players joining former athletes in their ongoing lawsuit (O'Bannon vs the NCAA) against the college behemoth and video game maker EA Sports, place more sleepless late nights for the NCAA fat cats. But a full reform and end of the NCAA's scam of not allowing student-athletes to get paid will only happen if a star player publicly humiliates the organization. And I think a Black player from a challenged background would be the right person to do it.
Unlike Manziel, University of Louisville's quarterback Teddy Bridgewater fits the bill perfectly and is just the elite college athlete who should have every right to demand his pay from the NCAA machine. The oldest of seven kids from a rough neighborhood in Miami, Bridgewater is the complete opposite of Manziel's rich, Texas oil family upbringing.
With his star big enough for his own media hype, Bridgewater has every characteristic of the athlete that the NCAA dreads the most: cognizant, hungry, impoverished, humble, and tough. He represents the countless number of Black, Hispanic, and even lower middle class and poor White athletes who see all the money made off their blood, sweat and tears from their labor go upstairs to mostly rich White men.
Unfortunately, Bridgewater provides the answers of a player that the NCAA loves the most—those of a player fully content with being a "student-athlete," indifferent to how much money the organization is making off of him.
"I know if all of my hard work on this level pays off, then I'll be able to make money on the next level." Bridgewater said in a recent interview. "I feel my education is priceless. As long as I can get a quality education, great education, then I have no problem with the guys out there doing what they're doing."
"I'm blessed to even be on the game."
Bridgewater isn't the only Black star quarterback coming in as a headliner this upcoming college football season. Clemson's Tajh Boyd (from Virginia Beach, Virginia) and Ohio State's Braxton Miller (Springfield, Ohio) are star QBs from modest backgrounds who could rattle the NCAA while millions watch. However, like Bridgewater, neither are willing to lead a revolutionary charge.
Boyd admired his Clemson teammate Darius Robinson for joining the O'Bannon lawsuit but wasn't throwing his own weight into ending the NCAA's sneaky, successful scam. "Do I think players should be compensated?" Boyd asked in an interview with ACC.com. "I don't think there's much you can do in that regard. Everybody's competing their hardest to get to the next level. At the same time, it's hard to compensate."
Miller, who is as benevolent and quiet as any star collegiate athlete ever, is also one not to ruffle the feathers of the collegiate status quo. "He's a quiet person in general," said one teammate last season about his star signal-caller.
Bridgewater, Boyd, and Miller are all standout young men, but it sure would have been a more luminous moment for us all if one, two, or all three of them proceed to have a press conference outside of their August training camps expressing how shady the NCAA and their colleges are.
Imagine if Bridgewater's classmate at Louisville, basketball player Kevin Ware, chastised his school profiting off of his jersey and T-shirts wishing a sound recovery for him after his gruesome leg breaking injury in March.
But until one prominent player takes the chance in a post-game interview or championship ceremony to call out the NCAA once and for all, the likes of Bridgewater, Boyd, and Miller will continue to miss a chance at fixing another real moral problem in this country. A problem that the NCAA wants to exist for as long as they can.