steffanie rivers

Stteffanie Rivers

*Playing in a college bowl game is supposed to be a privilege for individual players, the teams and the colleges they represent.

So last week when the NCAA told North Carolina’s Dwight Jones that promoting a birthday party on his Facebook page while wearing his team jersey could keep him from playing in the Independence Bowl the day after Christmas the university forced its star athlete to issue an apology and renounce his affiliation with the birthday party being held in his honor so he could be reinstated.

Two more players from the University of South Carolina faced the same scrutiny after a relative of one of the players promoted a Christmas party on Facebook using the duo as bait. I hope they learn a valuable lesson from all of this, albeit a different lesson than the one the NCAA probably was hoping to impart.

Although FB and other social networking sites allow members to post pretty-much whatever they want doesn’t mean it’s the appropriate thing to do. Some things are better left unsaid and unpublicized, especially on FB because anybody could be watching including prospective employers and even the NCAA. The next time ballers want to promote a party they should know the rules of the game to avoid getting played.

Apparently the NCAA has a rule against athletes using their own names or likenesses to promote a business or make money for themselves. It’s a hypocritical and self-serving rule, and for that reason alone it should be changed. There are at least 35 bowl games this football season to be played between Christmas and the first week of January. In past years there have been as many as 42 games. While there always has been controversy surrounding team selections for bowl game appearances the biggest controversy surrounds the millions of dollars organizers make at the expense of the colleges and the players involved.

It starts with the fee colleges are required to pay just to be in the game. Most people might assume a team’s winning record is all it takes to get in. But after playing well enough to get selected the team has to pre-purchase thousands of game tickets and be burdened with the challenge of selling them on the back end to recoup their money. Even the best teams have trouble selling their lot of (no less than 10,000) tickets, let alone the smaller colleges who are not regulars to the bowl game circuit. Most times the number of tickets they must sell amount to millions of dollars, because bowl game tickets ain’t cheap. Then colleges have to pay for travel and hotel expenses for the team, the band, cheerleaders and college administrators which often amounts to at least a half million dollars, depending on how far away the bowl game is. And all teams have to show for their appearance is what, a trophy and bragging rights for a year? Okay, players get gift bags. But the least sponsors can do is give away sneakers and iGadgets. It’s one of the few times players are allowed to accept gifts lest they be accused of breaking another NCAA rule.

Stadium owners that host the bowl games keep the money from ticket sales, sponsorship fees and concessions. Bowl organizers – each has a CEO – negotiate their own television contracts. While stadiums split their take with football conferences represented in their bowl games and the conference splits their portion with their member schools, CEOs and their executive teams walk away with hundreds of millions of dollars. Not one time, but every single year. No wonder some people think bowl game selections are rigged: the more popular the team the more fans there are to fleece.

And let’s not forget the coaches: Some of them command million dollar salaries and six-figure bonuses on top of that if their teams win. None of the aforementioned suit up and play, still they profit millions of dollars off the sweat of those who do. But a player who wants to host or promote a party while wearing his jersey and make some side money is breaking policy?! That’s a self serving policy that should be revoked. The NCAA should spend more time investigating the million-dollar rip off called the bowl game circuit and less time acting like the Facebook police.

Steffanie Rivers is a freelance journalist. Send your comments, questions and appearance inquiries to Steffanie at [email protected].