Just when you thought the people running college athletics couldn’t get any worse, along come Cincinnati head football coach Tommy Tuberville and Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster, who are both terrible people.
In a long-overdue move, P5 schools (as well as AAC schools, including UConn) have begun giving student-athletes cost-of-attendance scholarships. Meaning, in addition to tuition, room and board, and (in most cases) fees, student-athletes receive a small stipend to cover remaining college costs. This is right and good, because athletes cannot possibly hold down jobs while also being athletes and going to class.
Oh, and student athletes in revenue sports are unpaid labor, prevented from profiting at all from their hard work. The NCAA requires students to give up the right to use their own name and likeness, the very essence of their being, for the privilege of playing college sports. But the NCAA can make all of the money selling jerseys with that kid’s number on it. Because reasons. But I digress.
What makes Tuberville and Foster terrible is that they want to be able to fine their student athletes (withhold stipend money!!!) for off-field rule violations. What the actual fuck is wrong with these people?
While universities are certainly within their rights to revoke a scholarship because an athlete commits a criminal act or fails all their classes, this is not that. This is coaches, who already wield tremendous power over the lives and futures of their players, using the minimal benefits these athletes rightfully deserve as a cudgel. It is wrong, pure and simple.
Luckily, VT’s athletic director has already put the kibosh on this. But Cincy’s AD is standing behind his coach. You know, the one making $2.2 million a year. These fuckin’ guys. Get your shit together, Cincy. You’ve already got Mick Cronin to live down. You’re embarrassing us.
It galls me that coaches talk about making their players live in “the real world.” In the real world, you get paid for your work. And absent a collective bargaining agreement reached between employers and unions (which is why NFL players can be fined) or an explicit provision in an employment contract, employers cannot withhold employee pay. Period. It’s super illegal.
The idea that coaches need to keep their athletes from buying sandwiches and toilet paper to impose discipline is beyond ridiculous. Coaches own their athletes. They decide who plays and who doesn’t, and that is a greater factor in their athletes’ lives than whether they can order DP Dough on Saturday night.
We reached out to UConn and a spokesman told us that he is not aware of any specific penalty, within the football program or elsewhere, regarding the stipends, but there are expectations and consequences regarding academics and off-the-field behavior.
So right now I’m going to talk to the coaches at UConn, and well, everywhere else: Don’t do this. Just don’t. It’s wrong and it’s ugly and it’s immoral. Do not be these people. There are more than sufficient ways to keep your kids on track. Stealing their pocket money is not the way to do it. And if you need to stoop to that level to get them to behave, then you are bad at your job.
If a kid forgets their playbook or skips class or dogs it during practice, do what coaches have done since the dawn of time: yell, make them run, and/or bench them. It worked for Jim Calhoun. It works for Geno Auriemma. But don’t steal from your players. Just don’t.