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Maynard Handley

Isn't the reason for these rules precisely that there is so much money sloshing around college athletics that it tends to fall into the hands of the players one way or another? As long as the NCAA wants to maintain the pretence that these people are simple students who happen to play sports, they have no choice. The claim is that they want to avoid student athletes being paid (and, along the way, schools bidding on them), and if they didn't patrol private lives, you can bet that that's how money would be funneled into those students pockets. Frederick J Alumnus the third, when asked how best he can contribute to the school, would be told that rather than donating $100K, could he please take on this basketball forward as an intern over summer and pay him a $100K salary.

Now I honestly couldn't care less about this subject. IMHO the whole point of the NCAA laws has nothing to do with the lives of students and everything to do with schools being able to get these people to play for them and generate money through TV rights and so on, while not having to pay them as professionals, so it's pretty much traditional capitalist exploitation by a monopolistic cabal. On the other hand, it's not like student athletes don't get a pretty nice life out of it with free college and all the tail you can consume.

If you're going to attack the NCAA, attack the real issue, the attempt by colleges to avoid paying professional wages to professional-in-all-but-name athletes. If you accept the NCAA bullshit about maintaining the purity of sport or whatever their line is these days, you can't complain about their attempts to actually enforce this policy.

Steve Harper

Rhett Bomar is on a scholarship right? There are certain requirements that one must adhere to when they are on scholarship. Good, bad or indifferent, those requirements are there for a reason.

One of those requirements for example is an athlete can not take money from a booster to help with ancillary expenses that their scholarship does not or won't cover.

There is a great movie with Nick Nolte called Blue Chips that delves into the dark side of how athletic programs explore the underbelly of paying athletes. Though it isn't a "true story" you know there has to be some real truth behind the story.

Bottom line, Rhett clearly was overpaid for the position that he held and apparently rarely worked at. He is a smart guy even he knows that he benefited from ill-gotten gains. Wrong is wrong and the NCAA did the only thing they could do given the circumstances.

I believe the NCAA is forced to step in and correct these kinds of situations otherwise the lines between professional and amateur athletes will forever be blurred. More so than they are already!

Of course I live in Austin and have adopted the Longhorns so I can't say I was sad to see him go.

I would suggest he doesn't look for any cake-walk jobs in Huntsville while he attends Sam Houston State.

Great BLOG as always.

Ripple On!!!

Steve Harper

RoB Mangano

What your saying makes perfect sense. Essentially, the dealership can pay them whatever they want, since he's bringing publicity to the dealership. Let's say that using an athlete's name to sell more of something, is an endorsement. I mean really, that's what it was. Is an endorsement for an NCAA player a good thing? Would it make a difference if Reggie Bush would have gotten millions of dollars in college, or if he had receieved it after he announced himself eligible for the NFL draft, from Adidas? I think of it like this: Illegal drugs aren't a bad thing. People buy drugs, people use drugs, drug dealers make money, people get high, people get happy from being high. But there are HUGE negative consequences of drugs, we all know that. Likewise, paying college players for making money for you isn't a bad thing. But there are consequences of collegiate athletes receiving endorsements. Its not like people die but there are ramifications. If Oklahoma didn't act in a case like that, pretend next time instead of a local car dealership, the employer is Nike. It's something to really think about.

P.S., You are a great writer. I was a senior in high school last year, and although I read about one assigned english book, I read both of your books. You should definately write a book about sports. I think you would provide more insight than somebody like Sean Salisbury.

Chris Hanson

The NCAA has the authority to police his private life because he gave them that authority. The NCAA is a private organization that his university entered into an agreement with, and that he entered into an agreement with when he joined the sports program at his university. These contracts place requirements on the member institutions and on the players themselves that they freely enter into.

If David Sedaris were to go back to graduate school and enter an amateur essay contest, I suspect that he would be disqualified by the rules of the contest - and by entering the contest he would be entering into a contract that states he'll abide by the rules.

James B. Shearer

I agree with Maynard Handley. Your post seems naive. I happen to think big time college athletes are being exploited and should be paid but if you want to prohibit paying them you need rules against fake no show jobs.

Rob Moore

I think the key thing you're missing here is that Bomar wasn't overpaid because he brought exposure to the car dealership. He was paid to not show up for work. The owner of the dealership is a OU Booster that probably is an alum that owns season tickets and has his own reasons for wanting the team to contend for the national title.

The separate issue is that of endorsements. If players could earn money from endorsement deals, the NCAA would be frozen out of their own lucrative endorement deals. That's the real issue.


Everybody in college football pulls this racket.Why did they bust this guy in particular? That's the real story.

Some enterprising lawyer has to bust up this racket.

I'd like to see college sports privatized. If a college doesn't get any buyers for its team, then shut it down.

Jay Howard

Please stop writing about sports. Your field of knowledge, while vast, is severely lacking in the area of athletic competition.

Collegiate athletes should be paid. Bottom line. They should be paid in accordance with NCAA guidelines. Any other type of payment would distort the competitive recruiting of said players.

Rhett Bomar was not just "overpaid"...he was PAID. To call you naive would be redundant, but you are, at the very least incredibly misinformed.


Malcolm claims:

"It would be as if David Sedaris went back to graduate school at NYU. If you were a bookstore in Greenwich Village, would you "overpay" him to work the cash register? Of course you would. And he'd be worth every penny."

From ESPN.com:

"Bomar apparently filed for 40-hour work weeks at a Norman, Okla., auto dealership, making up to $18,000, when he only worked 5 hours a week, Schad reported. The car dealership in question is Big Red Sports/Imports in Norman, Okla., reports Schlabach. ... The dealership is part of the Sooner Schooner Car Program, which supplies vehicles to coaches and athletic department officials."

You're so lovably innocent, Malcolm. This wasn't a profit making off-campus business arrangement. This was just a scam by a fanatical booster ("Big Red" -- get it? Red is the OU color) to put cash in the pocket of a prized recruit.

Rob Smith

It is *very* doubtful that the player worked at this car dealership at all. I've been a student and professor at a major football University, and before that I worked at a firm that "employed" college football players. So I have some experience here.

There is no way this guy had time for a part-time job. Serious college football is a demanding full-time job. And, this scam of "employing" a college player has been going on for decades. It's a way for alum supporters (who are often given special perks in exchange) to give money to players for playing.

Note: when I was a professor, the 4 year graduation rate for football players was 14%.

These players should be paid, and we should stop pretending they aren't professionals already. They are a part of a NFL farm league. We should either admit this, and create teams that a "sponsored" by universities, or we should have real students play university ball, which would rapidly drop from national interest.

Or who knows, maybe watching lower quality players would be more interesting.

Jason L.

The claim of Malcolm's naivite seems harsh if not bogus. The NCAA is on the verge of criminal in it's lack of ethics and standards. In case after case, this collegiate association does almost nothing to help or ensure the future of student athletes, and rules in almost every case to cement it's stranglehold on college athletics and the financial windfalls of the universities.

Rob Smith gets to an idea that I have always wondered about, and that is the idea of the professional leagues using the college ranks as minor league systems. We are fooling ourselves to think that the bulk of the blue chip colege athletes are "student athletes." As Rob stated, it's like a full time job. Class is just a necessary evil.

Why? Wouldn't it make more sense to have honest minor league systems (and don't feed me some nonsense about the NBA D-league) where these kids can go to essentially learn how to be professional athletes. You can develop actual talent, have players that don't self-destruct as soon as they get to the big league stage, and the kids that want college can go to college. College baseball still survives, and even thrives in recent years, with the existence of the large scale farm systems.

So let the kids work 5 hour 40 hour work weeks, and we'll just consider it work/study.

Go Cards!


While many of the comments have been directed at whether the NCAA should be regulating jobs or students should be paid etc. I'd like to disagree with the assertion that "Everyone was allowed to make money off Bomar--except, of course, Bomar."

Bomar got ~$18,000 for his summer job where he supposedly worked on the order of 5 hours per week (or approximately $900-$1200 per hour worked depending upon the length of his summer) and Bomar also had tuition, room and board covered at Oklahoma.

Certainly one could argue that his compensation was not in line with what he would have received as a professional athlete/key employee of the NCAA/University (out of state Tuition, room, board, summer job = ~$40,000).

One could also argue that he must have been well aware that taken $18,000 for a summer job was, at best, a stretch of the rules governing his participation in Oklahoma athletics.


Great blog, as always. Small nitpick - should be "remunerated", instead of "renumerated". Proper use of that word is my own personal life challenge.


There are a couple of points I would like to make about this situation. First, Mr. Gladwell implies that this was a no tolerance policy, when in fact that is not the case. Had the University of Oklahoma chosen to do so, they could have allowed Mr. Bomar to repay the money and apply for reinstatement (Troy smith of Ohio State University did this last year, of course he only took $500). The university of Oklahoma, not the NCAA, chose not to do so (in fact it could be argued this decision fell, ultimately, to Coach Bob Stoops, who as well as anyone probably knows what kind of person Mr. Bomar was and knows the effect of removing him from his team). Second, this is not a one-time offense. Mr. Bomar has also been arrested twice in his Oklahoma career for alcohol related incidents. So in effect he had two, albeit minor, previous infractions of team rules.


There are a couple of points I would like to make about this situation. First, Mr. Gladwell implies that this was a no tolerance policy, when in fact that is not the case. Had the University of Oklahoma chosen to do so, they could have allowed Mr. Bomar to repay the money and apply for reinstatement (Troy smith of Ohio State University did this last year, of course he only took $500). The university of Oklahoma, not the NCAA, chose not to do so (in fact it could be argued this decision fell, ultimately, to Coach Bob Stoops, who as well as anyone probably knows what kind of person Mr. Bomar was and knows the effect of removing him from his team). Second, this is not a one-time offense. Mr. Bomar has also been arrested twice in his Oklahoma career for alcohol related incidents. So in effect he had two, albeit minor, previous infractions of team rules.


To many influential voices, "discretion" is a euphemism for bigotry and favoritism, and zero tolerance policies are away to tkae that out of the equation.

It is apparent to anyone with common sense that the case of Bomar is significantly different from the case of, say, Maurice Clarett. But if they were to be treated differently, there would be many voices clamoring that the treatment was evidence of racism. And to be sure, it's hard to say that this discretion would be completely free of racial bias.

But, I agree that "zero tolerance" seems to equate to "zero common sense." We've thrown the baby out with the bath water. Now we have to figure out how to get the baby back in.

Arnie McKinnis

After reading the various comments, I'm amazed at two things:

1. That anyone tell Malcolm Gladwell what he should write about on HIS blog. IMHO, the author of any blog can write about anything they want - whether they have "knowledge" about the subject or not. In fact, the blogosphere is full of people that don't know, don't care to know, and don't care what you think.

2. That there is a bigger problem here, and it's the ethical grounding of all involved. 1) Bomar had to know what he was doing, he just didn't think he'd be caught, and if caught suspended from the team. 2) OU/Stoops acted to save the program at large, once again, this thing might have been swept under the rug, but they were afraid they would be caught and get sanctioned - better to loose a few million this years, than hundreds of millions over several years. 3) The dealership knew what they were doing, once again, they just didn't think they would be caught - in fact, the dealership is under new management (a corporate entity now, rather than a family owned business) and they have repeated stated the new owners were not involved.

Regardless of which side you take on "should they be allows to make money?" -- right now, it's not allowed. BTW, If the University and Stoops wanted to make a real statement, Bomar would have been kicked off the team for Underage Drinking - but I guess that's OK (just boys being boys). Money on the other hand, that's a different matter entirely!


Maybe this is silly to point out, but if David Sedaris wanted a job in the NYU bookstore, they'd have a lot of trouble justifying "overpaying" him.

Which is to say that I'm sure that someone at the car dealership got in big trouble for paying a fictive employee.

It's just not done. That this young man would allow such a corrupt thing to be done on his behalf reflects very badly on his moral integrity. It leads one to wonder why a young man like this would not cheat in other ways?

Also, if he was so good for his team, why did he not have a sufficient scholarship instead? He should never had needed anyone to cheat on his behalf.


I agree completely. The NCAA is the greediest, wickedest cabal in all of American sports.


This all reminds me of the "boot money" scandals in British Rugby Union in the 1970s. I think that boosters providing fake jobs to stars was an issue there, although these weren't collegiate athletes. I guess it's a long standing, wide problem in amateur sports.


I think the issue of zero tolerance is important and topical. But I don't know enough about sports to comment on this particular case. On the other hand, I liked your example comparing the way promising students were treated in the past, with the way they are treated now (in your New Yorker article). It's possible that despite 'liberalisation' in some areas of our lives, a lot of other areas are much more rigid and controlled. It certainly seems as though there is an excess of rules and procedures for many aspects of life and punitive tendencies in the way that these rules are applied. Wasn't there even a move towards zero tolerance policies against children fighting in school in North America: a policy that suggested that fighting was violence on par with grown up violence? So even small children in schools can be kicked out for relatively small infractions such as hitting other children as if they were adults and capable of the kind of responsibility that is behind an action such as assault.

So where once we were tolerant of young people, unconventional people and idiosyncratic people, now we are less so. We used to look at children fighting and know that there was a part of that that was normal. Now we think: delinquent. We used to look at unconventional people and think they were quirky. Now, we think: serial killer.

I guess I would add that there seems to be an excess of hoops to jump through as well. This is true at least of hiring and firing. When my parents were young, people were hired after a conversation with the owner of a business. Now people seem to have to travel around with huge files on themselves guaranteeing that they are good people (resumes, portfolios and letters of reference, the works) and go through complex application processes with searching interviews and background checks etc..

Proof of identity is also an example of hoop jumping. In the past, people could show birth certificates and get bank accounts. Now a person has to have multiple high tech ID cards and a credit check before a simple bank account can be opened. Please take my money.

So yes, I think things have tightened up a lot in the last forty years (even before 9/11). I'm not sure why. Maybe people moved around less in the past, so there were fewer worries about having to judge strangers based on little information. If you hired a person, you might even know someone they knew. In the case of schoolyard fights you knew little Johnny's mother and knew that Johnny was having a hard time this year, etc. In the case of jobs: you hired through the old boys network. Now, because we don't know each other, relationships have to be formalised? But I'm speculating, here. It could also be a side effect or (anomic?) reaction to the fact that other areas have become radically informal. So people don't have ritual greetings or go to church as much (maybe that's not true in the US), or address their teacher as 'sir' but they do have elaborate rules and this somehow makes any perceived 'weirdness' more tolerable.


"Everyone was allowed to make money off Bomar--except, of course, Bomar."

Are you saying college players should be allowed to be compensated without limit?

Adam Morse

Exploitation? I understand where people are coming from, but this isn't exclusive to athletics...it's how Colleges and University's work. If I am a science professor at State University A and I invent (for arguments sake) Velcro...the college owns all profits made from that product. That's the price you pay...you work in the lab that they provide and they own the results essentially. The NCAA does make a lot of money from college football and college basketball, but you have to look at where that money is going. It isn't deposited into Myles Brands pocket. The money is dispersed throughout school systems and is generally used to subsidize smaller sports such as Cross Country running or Swimming that don't pull in the revenue to fully fund themselves. The use of the word "overpaid" is funny, I do agree that economically he was not overpaid. It was a valuable asset to have him on that lot. But NCAA guidelines strictly prohibit this kind of action, you are not allowed to benefit monetarily from your status as an athlete. If you don't put a very tight leash on this, then every school would essentially be in a bidding war for the top prospects...I think college athletics are tainted enough and are way to close to the professional line as it is, let's scale it back. I was a varsity athlete for four years in college and while I viewed some of the rules as silly in my circumstance I saw how if they were not there, athletes would be even more easily exploited.

Joe Wikert

How do they get away with this? By getting the student-athlete to sign the paperwork associated with a scholarship. Once you do that, you're NCAA property, baby! Nobody's holding a gun to the student-athlete's head, but let's face it: For a pro football career, college is the only game in town. Just ask Maurice Clarett...

Michael Byrnes

I'm curious about one thing... in his article, Gladwell mentions the complicity of Bomar's boss in the "overpaying".

That leads me to wonder... what would Bomar's NCAA standing be if he had simply stolen the money? Obviously, he'd be in hot water with the law, but would he have had the chance to make amends and continue his football career?

No question the schools use these players, and make a ton of money from them. I think they deseve to be paid at some level.

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