Mac Engel

Ex-Michigan star and Dallas Cowboys corner exposes flaw to Tebow’s pro-NCAA stance

Professional baseball star Tim Tebow upset the self righteous masses when he spoke of NCAA “selfish” athletes who want to get paid, and Dallas Cowboys defensive back Jourdan Lewis offered a more measured response in turn.

Last week, Tebow appeared on the ESPN talk show “First Take” and defended the NCAA against the proposed California bill that would permit NCAA student athletes to receive money from endorsements.

Tebow said, “I know we live in a selfish culture where it’s all about us, but we’re just adding and piling it on to that where it changes what’s special about college football. We turn it into the NFL, where who has the most money — that’s where you go. That’s why people are more passionate about college sports than they are about the NFL. That’s why the stadiums are bigger in college than the NFL.

“Because it’s about your team, about your university, about where my family wanted to go, about where my grandfather had a dream of seeing Florida win an SEC championship, and you’re taking that away so young kids can earn a dollar. And that’s not where I feel like college football needs to go.”

Social media and my brothers and sisters in the media promptly crushed the 6-foot-3 Tebow into 63 inches.

When it comes to social media, one can only attack the NCAA. Anything else gets you killed.

No one ever wants to introduce logic, reason or Title IX into this debate. The NCAA model is flawed, but the vast majority of student athletes take advantage of a system that benefits them. For instance, any complaints over the rowing team not being paid? Or the volleyball team? Track? Tennis? Golf?

Dallas Cowboys defensive back and former Michigan Wolverines star Jourdan Lewis introduced a component to Tebow’s argument, however, that never receives enough attention.

In response to Tebow’s defense, Lewis Tweeted, “Don’t talk to me about a free education, because when I got to school I was told I couldn’t major in graphic design. It didn’t fit my, ‘schedule.’”

This is something that receives almost zero attention: Student athletes, typically in revenue in sports, who want to pick one major but are dissuaded and or told by athletic department advisors they can’t because it does not fit into their practices schedules.

“They sit down with you, an advisor, and you see what you want to do. I said, ‘I want to do that (graphic design).’ And they said, “Naah. That’s not what you want to do,’” Lewis told me. “I said, ‘Why not?’ They said, ‘Because it does not really fit what the football team is trying to do.’ That is not an anomaly in college.”

This does not speak well of the University of Michigan football program, but Big Blue is like every other program.

“There are a lot of programs that have the same formats where you can’t go to certain curriculum,” Lewis said. “I went to sociology, which I do like. I love to study groups of people but I had a passion for graphic design. That was what I wanted to do. You have to do what you have to do and you are there to play football. We do live in America, and this is a capitalist economy. I just feel like you need to be paid for our labor.”

Lewis’ story is not abnormal. Review the published majors of players in major college football programs and it’s easy to see where the departments push the students. Generally studies and communications are common.

They do so because the course schedules are more football friendly.

“They try to push you to the same ones; they do circulate the same guys to the same (majors),” Lewis said. “It’s hard to say it’s a ‘free education’ when you are not getting free choice to pick what you want.”

The NCAA should have its own “Contradictions and Hypocrisy” department, but handing out cash to student athletes is Pandora’s Box where the biggest winners will be attorneys, specifically Title IX lawyers.

That said, Lewis is dead on. If the NCAA and all of its members are for student-athletes, the kid should be allowed to pick the major of their choice even if it does not fit the practice schedule.

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Mac Engel is an award-winning columnist who has extensive experience covering Fort Worth-Dallas area sports for 20 years. He has covered high schools, colleges, all four major sports teams as well as Olympic games and the world of entertainment, too. He combines dry wit with first-person reporting to complement a head of hair that is almost unfair.
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