Ohio State has been plagued by compliance issues. The athletic department has responded with an absurd degree of vigilance. The number of compliance officers has doubled. The budget has gone into the seven figures. Now, Ohio State will force student-athletes to open checking accounts, so their personal finances can be monitored by coaches.
“Some of our guys from low socioeconomic environments were getting a $3,000 Pell Grant, and all of a sudden they’re spending it on an iPhone and whatever else today’s bling is,” says Gene Smith, the Buckeyes’ athletic director. “Now, we’re teaching them about their cars, their apartment leases, and how to have a budget. An assistant coach is engaged—not just the compliance office.”
Sound virtuous? It isn’t. Student-athletes are students. What Ohio State plans is the equivalent of forcing Engineering students to open checking accounts to be monitored by an Engineering faculty advisor. Promoting financially solvency may be well-intended, but the means for attaining it is an incredible invasion of privacy. This would not be tolerated (or even considered) elsewhere on campus. Students don’t place their academic status at risk hiring representation.
This wanton privacy invasion is ineffectual. What percentage of extra benefits are strict monetary transactions? What student-athlete would be responsible enough to deposit cash slipped to him by a booster but dumb enough to deposit it in that checking account? This is exerting control because Ohio State can get away with it. This accomplishes nothing except making Ohio State appear to care about compliance.
Such a harsh action serves no greater good. NCAA laws are not moral laws. There is no virtue being protected. Profitting from one’s talents is wholesome and American. The NCAA enforcement regime serves no higher purpose than protecting the tax exempt status of a billion-dollar basketball tournament. Ohio State resorting to monitoring students’ finances only testifies to the lengths schools and the NCAA are willing to go to keep the faltering “amateur” regime intact.
Amateur athletics are noble. The only “amateur” aspect of sports with multi-million dollar salaries, state of the art facilities and conferences adding teams to force their television network onto basic cable is not paying the labor force.