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Phillip Marshall: Myths and truths of college football

Sept. 12, 2013

It's all so predictable. Schools or prominent athletes are implicated in allegations of NCAA rules violations. There is immediately a wringing of hands about lack of morality or supposedly renegade programs or a leap to proclaim that amateurism in college football is a sham.

The particulars of how these things are viewed frequently depend on just who is involved. I'll leave that for your interpretation. In wake of reports at Yahoo! and Sports Illustrated, I have no way of knowing who, if anyone, is guilty of anything.

I don't claim to know all the inner workings of college football programs across the country. I don't even claim to know everything or close to everything about Auburn's football program. But I have covered college football for almost 44 years, and I believe I know a lot.

 Here are, from perspective, five college football myths and my view of what is true.

Myth: College football players are not legitimate students.

Truth: Some college football players aren't serious about school just like some 5-foot-6, 130-pound sons of doctors or lawyers aren't serious about school. Most are. If a player stays eligible for four years, he has to be a legitimate student. A large majority of players I've been around are very serious about school and take great pride in earning degrees.

Myth: College football players don't get legitimate degrees.

Truth: I know of no institution that offers majors that are available to football players only.

Myth: College football players routinely get paid under the table.

Truth: If they do, it's hard to figure why most of them don't live more lavishly than they do, why most of them drive old cars if they have cars at all. That's not to say no players get money. No doubt, some do.  No doubt, there are unscrupulous agents out there ready to hand out wads of cash to potential high draft picks. But the notion that there is an endless stream of cash just isn't true.

Myth: The rulebook to too large and complicated.

Truth: As far as players are concerned, the rules that matter are actually pretty simple. Don't take money or gifts under the table from boosters or agents, don't sign with an agent, don't cheat in school and don't sell autographs and the like. If a player adheres to those simple rules, any rule he might break will likely be inconsequential.

Myth: Using the Olympic model for college football, essentially allowing players to be professionals, would not harm the appeal of the game.

Truth: It wouldn't harm it. It would ruin it. College football fans support the schools they love and the athletes who represent them. Their attachment is emotional. Make the players professionals and you just have second-rate pro football.

The time is coming when college football players at BCS-level schools will get more than they do now. They'll get full cost of attendance scholarships, which will usually mean a couple of thousand dollars a year. That's as it should be. Maybe there will be a way found for them to eventually share in sales of memorabilia.

But, despite the constant drumbeat from some columnists and commentators, there is no move and little support for making college football a professional undertaking for the players.

Certainly, there is corruption in college football. There are players who are where they are only because they want to play in the NFL. But they are the exceptions. Mostly good guys play college football, but that doesn't mean all college football players are good guys.

Scandals and reports of scandals truly do get old for those who simply want to enjoy the game. But the answer is not to make the wrongdoing go away by declaring it no longer wrong.


The views expressed here are those of columnist Phillip Marshall and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Auburn University athletics department.


Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for Follow Marshall on Twitter:




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