This is the story that you have not heard.
This is a story that demands your immediate attention.
This makes me angry; it should make you angry, and if you are a student-athlete, it should infuriate you. It's starting to feel like a good portion of the NCAA is thieves. It’s starting to feel like these are small individuals who steal futures away from others.
Devin Pugh was a college football player. He played under a scholarship at Weber State. Before he was a college football player, he was a high school football player. He excelled at football in grade school and earned a scholarship to play football in college. He earned a free education.
He earned an opportunity to receive a college degree. We should remember the operative word in all of this: earned. Suddenly all of that hard work was destroyed, and his scholarship was taken away from him.
Devin Pugh received a yearly, renewable scholarship from Weber State in 2010. He redshirted in 2011 and 2012. After the 2012 season had completed, a coaching change occurred. After this coaching change, a USA Today report states, Pugh was told his scholarship was not going to renew. That report says that Pugh was told to look into transferring to another school. Pugh appeared in 18 career games in two seasons for Weber State; he recorded 42 tackles and four interceptions. He wasn't exactly exploding on the football field, so perhaps you can understand why he was asked to transfer.
I have an essential problem with that, but that's another discussion for another day.
Now, a lawsuit has been filed on behalf of Devin Pugh in US District Court in Indianapolis, IN. The suit challenges the rule that athletes are required to sit out a season once they've transferred from a Division I University. You see, once Pugh was told he needed to find a different team, he begun to field offers from both FBS and FCS programs. The one problem? He was told that earning a scholarship from those Universities was contingent upon him keeping both of his two years of eligibility. That wouldn’t happen without a hardship waiver; we know that.
Here's where I have a problem with all this. Here's where I deem that the NCAA has robbed Devin Pugh of a future. Here's where things turn ugly: Once Pugh realized he would not receive a scholarship from these programs without keeping two years of eligibility, he applied for a hardship waiver that would allow him to play immediately. The NCAA denied it. Short-sighted, immoral and unjust.
Pugh eventually transferred to Colorado State-Pueblo, a Division II school, that allowed him to play immediately. There he encountered another issue since the scholarships offered by Division II schools are traditionally worth less than Division II ones, the full scholarship did not cover room and board. This predicament forced Pugh to go from $3,000 in loans to $6,000 in loans rather quickly.
During the 2013 season, Pugh's career ended at Colorado State-Pueblo when he received a season-ending injury. He decided to leave school for a full-time job, presumably to pay off student loans. An ESPN report says he was just nine credits away from having a college degree. Nine credits. A life was ruined, or a least a life changed to an extreme degree, only because the NCAA refused to do the very thing that seemed so logical.
Imagine this: You are told at the beginning of your apartment lease that your rent will be $500 per month. You plan accordingly for this expense, you have a job that pays you the amount of money that allows you this expense. Suddenly you are told your rent will be doubling in two months to $1,000. How do you react? What are you able to do? If you do not find another place to live in those two months, would you end up evicted and homeless?
According to a USA Today report, the lawyer representing Devin Pugh claims the following:
"The NCAA's limitation on the mobility of college athletes is patently unlawful. For a striking contrast, one can simply examine the unfettered mobility of the players' coaches. Football coaches, including assistant coaches, are free to leave a school at any time they choose to take another job at the college or professional football ranks. This ability to better their own situation has allowed coaches to reap enormous financial benefits."
Though I would rather a lawyer concentrate on the needs of his client, he makes a valid point that must be discussed when these problems arise. The coaches of these players, the ones who make millions of dollars while the players are given hardly close to that? The ones that stand on the sidelines when their players take part in potentially life-altering activities with the little promise of insurance?
They are free to leave a school, whenever they please, to roam from school-to-school with little or no punishment. How backward can this system be? How have we strayed so far from the very thing college athletics is here to promote - the student-athlete, itself?
Sadly for Devin Pugh, the recent events in Missouri came too late. They offered the blueprint for college athletes to get things accomplished. That blueprint that is not lawsuits, but action. That’s not possible for Devin Pugh, he has no games to threatened to skip or current teammates left to band together. Maybe in the future, we’ll see this rule change when multiple players threaten not to play. That’s possible, but even now, it is unlikely.
Here’s what we can learn from this Devin Pugh case: something has to change. Devin Pugh did everything right by all accounts. He took care of his responsibilities in the classroom and was a disciplined player on the field. Stripping something from somebody for no particular reason then giving them no appropriate alternative is not just unfair, it’s borderline criminal.
This case will take years to reach a conclusion. I can only guess that it will be settled out of court, Pugh will offered a stipend and that will be that. But it won't erase years of trying times and it should sit a president for the same not to occur again.
I do not know the exact change that needs to be implemented. If I did, I’d be in a different job field and tax bracket. I do know this: We cannot continue to promote a system that hurts its own supposed focal point more and more each day.