Keeping Score

Why Is Ohio State Football Monitoring Player Checking Accounts?

Sure, a college player can benefit from budgeting advice from coaches. But is snooping on spending going too far?

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If you’re convinced that the NCAA is a bureaucratic monster that forces schools to needlessly invest time, and money, making sure “student-athletes” follow rules that violate basic free market principles, you should probably read this piece. We’ll wait, while you pull your hair out.

The Chronicle of Higher Education details the steps that Ohio State University is taking to ensure NCAA compliance for it athletes. (Thanks, Big Lead, for pointing readers to this piece). Ohio State football, you may recall, finished this season undefeated under first-year coach Urban Meyer. But the current players won’t be competing for a national championship because past players traded Ohio State memorabilia for tattoos.

Writer Brad Wolverton notes that “Ohio State now spends $1.1 million a year just trying to stay out of the NCAA’s doghouse.” Among the tasks for Ohio State’s beefed-up compliance department: background checks on the 4,000 or so people who receive free game tickets from Ohio State football players. Because heaven forbid that an agent — whose goal is to make a college athlete, and by extension himself, as much money as possible — shows up on such a list. In college sports, cashing in on your talents is against the rules.

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The most troubling part, however, comes near the end of the story. The Chronicle writes:

The university, too, is expecting more of coaches. Starting this season, each assistant football coach is responsible for ensuring that every player has a checking account and a personal budget (players can’t suit up otherwise). The coaches are required to monitor players’ spending habits to make sure they don’t get in financial trouble.

In October, we wrote about how some college athletic departments monitor the social media activity of their athletes, and why this practice is raising privacy concerns (California, for example, recently passed a law that essentially banned colleges from doing this). Now, coaches are delving into checking accounts? Sure, athletes can benefit from such oversight — maybe they’ll be more cognizant of their choices, and how they budget. These lessons can serve them well down the road.

But Ohio State is also requiring checking accounts to protect Ohio State. To make sure athletes aren’t suddenly buying things, like shiny new cars, that boosters might be funding. Such a rules violation could bring down a program, and cost a school millions. Also, by monitoring spending, teams are monitoring personal, off-field behavior. Want to act like a college kid, and unwind at a local bar? Be careful about dropping too much cash. A coach might find out you stayed out late.

Because of the culture of compliance that the NCAA has created, schools are babysitting athletes. But isn’t learning how to live on your own at least part of the point of college?

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