Zahlmann: Without a wage, NCAA athletes are free to live how they see fit

Luke Zahlmann

Controversy struck Colorado State football as quarterback Collin Hill once again tore his ACL, this time while playing basketball outside of program actives. The rub lies in the fact that Hill suffered the injury outside of football, while not under the watchful eye of team trainers who led his rehabilitation from his original injury. Without a salary, his activities off the field, if legal, should be of his own decisions.

A scholarship is not a salary for an athlete, any more than it is for an engineering student that excels in their field. A scholarship is merely a reward for excellence, and a recruiting tool for allowing student-athletes a lessened financial burden for their efforts at the university.

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Hill throws football
Colorado State quarterback Collin Hill takes part in drills during spring practice on March 30, 2017. Hill retore his ACL playing intramural basketball on March 8, 2018. (Elliott Jerge | Collegian)

As an athlete, Hill, or any other athlete that has sustained an injury outside of their chosen sport, should avoid criticism for the injury, as they are not property of the university.

On the other end of the spectrum, the university, its athletic department and the trainers within each program are not to blame either. Coach Mike Bobo will now deal with the adversity that has been dealt with the injury while coaching the team, but outside of that adversity, he deserves to be free from outside noise. The injury had nothing to do with Bobo and criticism towards him is patently ignoring the facts.

The facts are that Hill sustaining the injury on the basketball court is no different than him slipping walking to class and sustaining it. The idea that him playing basketball in his free time deserves regulation is utterly asinine. Aside from being a student-athlete, he is a human being enjoying college with others in a completely lawful venue.

The amount of revenue brought in by athletes like Hill, along with the other athletes of the university, without fair compensation is another reason to avoid the hysteria.

In a meeting with the school’s Board of Governors, Joe Parker said that athletics at CSU had a self-generated revenue of $15.7 million in 2016-17, none of which was given to the athletes in the form of additional funds due to NCAA regulations. That lack of funding outside of a scholarship serves as an excusal for any given athlete when a situation like the one Hill is going through occurs.

Expecting trainers to follow Hill around and monitor his every activity is ludicrous and places an unfair burden on not only him, but the trainers as well. His life outside of the hours he puts into improving the program with his presence is his own business, within the constraints of the law.

Personnel of the team are well within their rights to regulate activities involved with the sport in order to properly rehabilitate a given player from an injury, regardless of severity.

When the player leaves the facility, though, their diet, activity and personal life is just that. The consequences of their decisions will impact their careers and what they are able to gain from their given path.

The coach of the team is paid to coach the athletes that are on the field and make the product indicative of a successful work ethic under their watch. And when the athletes are being paid a salary at the next level, they are held under a contract that is the binding agreement of the stipulations amongst its verbiage.

Without that contract, and the resulting paycheck to go with it, the player is not under the control of those stipulations. In turn, they are in no way obligated to fall under the watch of a training staff professional outside of the athletic facilities, excusing the results that may come from their decisions such as the accident that befell Hill.

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Collegian sports reporter Luke Zahlmann can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @lukezahlmann.