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RobSMith had it right. We should stop pretending that big-time college football (and basketball for that matter) are amateur sports and acknowledge that they are minor-league feeders to the NFL and NBA.

The solution is for universities to continue to have teams, but to drop the pretense that the players are students. Players would not have to enroll at said unviersity as students, but instead would be paid wages as other professionals are.

The university would in essence be sponsoring the team, as opposed to the team being composed of students at the university.


It is easy to consider the case rather than the overall point being made here. The specifics of the Bomar case are not as important as the points that arise. Should college athletes make a profit, themselves being integral parts of a multibillion dollar industry?
While the easy answer is to argue that any hardworking (or hard playing) American deserves a cut of what he or she is bringing in, the NCAA is already doing this. As a graduate of UCLA, I know firsthand how difficult it can be to gain entry into and then proceed through a top-flight college. I also quickly became aware that most of our "student-athletes" were more of the latter and less of the former. Rhett Bomar (and countless others) receive a completely free, usually undeserved education in exchange for their services. Mr. Bomar could be a Rhodes scholar for all I know. But the fact is, a substantial number of ahtletes in the "money making" sports (read football and basketball) would not have had the opportunity to attend the schools they attend without the NCAA. And, as all but a select few do not ever end up making any money in professional leagues, the NCAA has provided them with a college degree; for playing a game they are given an invaluable piece of paper. So, rather than wait out his career at Oklahoma and reap the rewards of a pro career or a college education, Rhett Bomar got greedy and now must pay the price. Kudos to the NCAA.


When I read your New Yorker article, I was dismayed. I've had a lot of respect for your work, but in this case I think you're off the mark. No, "zero tolerance" doesn't work, but this football thing is a terrible example.

I work at a Big 12 school, and believe me, there is no "zero tolerance" for anything people - I mean men- on the football team, or in the revenue generating athletic department do.

Joe Marier

Anyone here think that maybe things would have worked out better for the world if Robert Oppenheimer was punished a little bit more for that apple?


Good point Steve, except that the point is not that there is "zero tolerance" but that the institutions claim that they need to practice zero tolerance when in fact it does not exist. Some people are simply not going to receive the same punishment for an infraction as will others. In Ontario, zero tolerance policies within the school boards have been successfully challenged (and are being replaced) because they have been shown to be racist in their application.
How about zero tolerance if necessary but not necessarily zero tolerance...


Not sure that's the example you want to be alling out, Steve, considering we were all getting ready for the tarring and feathering of a group of athletes, and cancelled their seasons over rape allegations that now appear to be false.


The “Comment” piece concerns far more than just the Bomar case, and I think it distorts this particular news item by comparing it to other cases that are vastly different. I don’t find Bomar’s “overpayment” to be at all analogous to Oppenheimer’s case. Oppenheimer’s misdeeds were a one-time act that amounted to a cry for help – his actions could be explained, if not excused, as a momentary lapse of judgment due to depression and frustration; Bomar’s transgression was clearly more calculated.

The root of Oppenheimer’s actions may have been “complex and muddy,” and the punishment reflects that, but I don’t think that Bomar’s motives, or those of his employer, were especially complicated – it was greed, pure and simple, on the part of both parties, and it’s likely that both were also fully aware that the arrangement was a clear violation of NCAA rules.

I don’t see how this case differs greatly from NCAA athletes having others do their school work for them – in each case, the athletes benefit from a system set up to ensure that they receive the maximum reward for minimal work. Bomar’s eligibility was contingent upon fairly easily-achieved standards of academic and “amateur” integrity, and I don’t see why we should accept the systematic, ongoing and knowing breach of either one.

I’m more forgiving of, for example, LeBron James’s acceptance of free merchandise from a store during his senior year of high school – it was a one-time act, and I’m willing to believe that he didn’t really understand the nature of amateur eligibility rules. But the nature of Bomar’s acts, and the involvement of University of Oklahoma boosters, makes this a more problematic situation.


Although Malcolm is right in his comment about the dangers of zero tolerance policies, the alternative he defends isn't much better. By adding discretion into the equation-- "Jimmy is incorrigible, and needs the shock of expulsion. But Bobby just needs a talking to, because he's a decent kid"-- schools end up exercising discriminatory discipline, whether purposefully or not. (Blink and the Implicit Association Test can teach us all how easy it is to make subconscious judgments.) Who decides if the offender is really a decent kid? This approach lets prejudice seep into the decisionmaking process and ultimately furthers the school-to-prison pipeline for racial minorities, low income students, and anyone else who school administrators believe to be "incorrigible."

Steve M

This idea that college athletes should be paid because they bring money to the school misses the point on what college athletics are about (or at least supposed to be). Part of the large draw to watching college sports is the knowledge that the players are students and NOT being paid millions. Even though I hated USC, I have to admit I rooted for Leinart last year when he passed up millions of dollars in the NFL to play his senior year. Economists will always miss this point. It makes it far more authentic to root for a team which is why so many people watch it.

I always will favor college sports to professional because there is no NCAA comparison to the Yankees, a team that can always buy the best players. Granted certain colleges consistently get great recruiting but it's not from large payouts to the athletes. Bidding wars for players (even in the form of boosters giving fake jobs or allowing endorsements) would destroy the appeal of it all.

Lets be honest too, these players are being paid in the form of a free education, free meals and a free room (which was mentioned in a few posts before). I'm O.K with that. It's a reasonable expectation for what they do. Capping the freebies to the athletes there isn't hurting anyone.

George Beinhorn

In his recent book "Bowerman and the Men of Oregon," Sports Illustrated feature writer Kenny Moore takes on the self-serving heads of the then-AAU. Puritanism is so, so often brought into service by power-mongers. Nothing's changed.


I agree with a previous commentor who mentioned this really wasn't an example of zero tolerance. Not only had Bomar been busted twice for alcohol-related incidents (one while driving), this decision was made in the context of other recent trouble at OU.

Earlier this summer, the athletic department here (I am in Norman, OK) escaped a "lack of institutional control" ruling for basketball and gymnastics violations (mostly illicit basketball recruiting).

I believe the school acted decively here to give the appearance of being hard-line, and avoiding NCAA sanctions.

Previously, Coach Stoops had reinstated a D-lineman who stove in the skull of one of his friends (sending him to the ICU in a coma). This lineman had a history of other drunken, violent behavior.

Trust me, OU and Stoops were playing CYA. Whether it works remains to be seen.

Droo Mercer

Mr. Gladwell said:
"They were entirely complict in 'overpaying' him. (Don't you love that word, by the way? It's so quaint! That word hasn't been used, with prejudice, in, oh, at least twenty years)."

See: Shawn Kemp
See: Chris Webber
See: New York Knicks

This game, it's fantastic. Fantastically overpaid.


I live in Norman, have season tickets, and was very disappointed about this particular turn of events, but those of us who followed the exploits of Rhett Bohmar over the previous season (and off-season) were not surprised by this. The kid was a time bomb that finally went off.

This has probably already been mentioned, but I'll repeat just in case. It's not that he was paid more than the average worker at the car dealership, but that he was being paid by the car dealership while he was at practice (and otherwise not working)! Something to the tune of 18,000 dollars in total, plus a nice sports car to drive around in, for free.

The real looser here is the OKC car dealership that purchased the locally owned Norman dealer, discovered the discrepancy and reported it to the OU athletic dept. Sales have tanked and they have sustained so much vandalism that they now have radio adds begging people to stop damaging their cars.

Jason Asenap

This current blog entry makes tons more sense than the Newyorker online piece I read yesterday. The online piece reeked of pretentiousness and seemed not very informed. I cringe everytime a writer gets lazy when referring to Oklahoma, lines such as "even in Oklahoma" seem trite, but to be honest, that isn't the point I want to get at.

I wanted to point out that context is key in this situation, especially when it comes to Oklahoma and football and past violations and the Oklahoma state psyche in relation to all of the these things mentioned.

Oklahoma has suffered penalties before under the great and greatly misunderstood Barry Switzer. Most Oklahomans, and more importantly the current president of OU David Boren remember this. Bob Stoops, great football coach that he most assuredly knows this, being a student of the game himself.

Until the game of collegiate football changes the rules, the universities will have to adhere to the policies they enforce.

okie from muskogee

uhm, yeah, if we wanted college sports to be a bunch of corrupt, backstabbing, hand washing scumbag liars like the publishing industry, like your sedaris example... then sure, we could try to bring the moral turptitude of that festering NYC crap pile to the universities of the nation.

unfortunately your analogy is crap. it would be more like if bob dylan was a 'student artist' when he came out with songs in the 60s, and the university boosters gave him a bunch of money in the summer for not doing any work. then you could have art-school bribing wars, so that various art departments could send scouts to various regional art shos, and then bribe young artists to come to their college and 'paint for the team'. now theres not a lot of money in TV deals for art shows and admission tickets to art shows. but there is some money in hot new bands, boy bands, girl singers that hump the floor alot, top 40 hits, etc. then there are graphic design and logo design and corporate photography, videos, etc. and, you know, why shouldnt the university make a little money off its students in that fashion? we can have university based 'american idol' which becomes a farm team for the corporate music world. and bribe young artists to come to the school.

yeah, and then you can whore out the engineering department to do work for corporate sponsors. hell why not turn the university into one gigantic money making machine?

i think alot of you folks dont seem to care about the purpose of a university. it is supposed to educate and encourage social, technical, and moral progress in the population. to uplift our society.

the more you sully it with crass commercialism, the farther you get away from that purpose. and as the poster above wisely pointed out, that is one of the things that draws people to college athletics. you say that 'bad players' would hurt viewership? having a bunch of overpayed primadonnas using your tax dollars to kick a ball around, that would hurt viewership too. a university has absolutely no legitimate business funding a professional sports league that employs a bunch of players who are not students.

colleges are payed for by taxpayer money and tuition money. to use that money for anything other than educational purposes is not only a bad business decision against tuition payers, it is a betrayal of the function of government in collecting taxes in the first place. because thats what you are doing in your plan to 'privatize' college sports: having workers tax money go to fund farm teams for professional leagues. you are basically advocating the public subsidizing of the NFL and NBA.

now, maybe you decide there should be 'government funded sports'... which seems like a bizarre idea to me. absolutely bizarre. but maybe you want to go that route. hey, it worked great for the romans.

the real question is why supposedly good magazines, like the new yorker, pay good money for people to write these bland, unimaginative diatribes. and why supposedly liberal new york intellectuals need to have the principles of integrity and anti-corruption explained to them.


Great point MG.

Marketing Recruiter

Sounds to me like Bomar and the car dealership were leveraging Bomar's celebrity to sell cars. That's the same thing as using one's celebrity to sell shoes in a Nike commercial -- only on a much smaller scale. Based only on what I know from your post, Bomar was hoping to fly under the radar and got busted. Rules are rules.

Mojo Risen

Why couldn't they just give him a salary and scrap the clocking in and clocking out- Is a college athlete not eligiable for a salaried position- it has to be an hourly paid position? What is the rule on that- seems to me they could give him a salary for apperances- or not let the atheletes work at all- it is exploiting them regardless...

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