If you are like the majority of college sports fans, you probably hold one of two opinions when it comes to the NCAA paying athletes or letting them make money off their name and likeness: student-athletes should be paid because the NCAA makes billions of dollars off them, or they shouldn’t because they’re receiving a free education.
Those are both perfectly fine stances on a pressing issue that seems to make its way into the news cycle some 50 times a year. The matter is never really addressed by the NCAA, presumably because it’s more focused on cracking down on Clemson’s rule-breaking confetti shower and Jeremy Pruitt’s tweet congratulating his alma mater high school boy’s basketball team.
But maybe — just maybe — you find yourself in the same, tiny boat as University of Louisiana at Lafayette football coach Billy Napier, who apparently thinks not only should student-athletes not be paid, they should also pay the school.
During his mid-week press conference, the Sun Belt Conference coach talked about his new team rule for the Ragin’ Cajuns football team. All scholarship players are encouraged to donate at least $50 to the school’s athletic fund, the Ragin’ Cajuns Athletic Foundation (RCAF), while it is optional for walk-on players. That amount is the lowest you can donate to be a RCAF donor, while at nearby LSU it’s only $20.
Why on Earth would he Napier think this is a good idea?
Kevin Foote of The Advocate revealed Napier’s reasoning behind his rule, which he first stated was mandatory but was corrected by a UL athletic department communications assistant that it was voluntary (probably because he realized it’s a really dumb move).
“That’s probably a little bit unheard of and a little bit unique, but I think this is a place where that would be appreciated,” Napier said of the new team rule. “I think it’s part of the type of program that we want to have. We want our players to be educated and understand the benefits that come with being a student-athlete and that is not something that should be taken lightly — the effort and time and investment that the people that support athletes at UL have put in into this program.”
And here’s what the communications assistant had to say:
“The Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns Department of Athletics is thrilled that head coach Billy Napier’s football program and its student-athletes expressed their collective desire to give back and show gratitude to the Ragin’ Cajuns Athletic Foundation. Members of the football program have started an initiative to demonstrate their appreciation to the RCAF, including its board of directors, staff and investors, when they are able to do so.
“Additionally, student-athletes will be encouraged to join the RCAF at the introductory level during their college careers, an initiative the program and its coaching staff supports in order to give back to the foundation that has done so much to support the Louisiana football team and the department of athletics.”
Uh, yeah, it’s “unheard of” for a reason. Napier’s players probably put more collective hours into playing, practicing, training and studying film and playbook than any standard 40-hour full-time employee at the school. And all for what? What exactly are these lavish benefits his football players receive? Fifty bucks obviously isn’t that big a deal, but it’s the principal of even asking players — who have zero time for a job — for money. It almost sounds satirical.
We know that many NCAA student-athletes are not receiving what some think is a glorious, free education. Sure, they might graduate with a degree, but it might be in a major they never really wanted to pursue and may not even help them land a job after college. It’s called clustering.
Many football programs restrict players from choosing harder, time-consuming majors because, well, the sport they play is essentially a full-time job. Also, the professors in certain colleges may be more lenient on absences than others.
What’s also particularly noteworthy about this is that Napier is a Division-I college football coach who made $850,000 last year and yet is asking unpaid UL football players to donate. Maybe Napier could open up his own wallet or ask his well-paid assistant coaches to pay everyone’s $50 as that would only total less than $5,000.
I’m curious to know what the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns football team thinks of this. In the meantime, let’s hear Napier try to explain it.