Stillwater News Press

OSU Sports

February 12, 2014

Orange Prattle: Time to make changes in college sports

STILLWATER, Okla. — Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines passion as “a strong feeling of enthusiasm and excitement for something or about doing something.” That’s the type of passion fans, coaches and athletes are talking about when describing passion.

But just like many things in life, there is a very fine line when it comes to passion. In fact, a second definition by Merriam-Webster describes passion as “a strong feeling (such as anger) that causes you to act in a dangerous way.”

Perhaps that’s a more accurate portrayal of “passion” when it comes to sports. That was made evident this past weekend by both Texas Tech “super fan” Jeff Orr and the reaction by Oklahoma State sophomore point guard Marcus Smart. A strong feeling that causes you to act in a dangerous way.

Both involved are passionate about their teams, both acted in dangerous ways — Orr verbally, which should not be downplayed in a society struggling with bullying, and Smart more physically.

The widespread response to Saturday’s incident was passionate — from fans (both OSU and Tech), out of market fans and national media. It’s ranged from Smart needing to be kicked off the team, to Orr needing to be banned from all Tech sporting events. A strong feeling of excitement for something.

The problem from the reaction by the universities and the Big 12 Conference, as well as the knee-jerk reaction from fans and national media, is that while there has been short-term resolution, there has been little discussion of the long-term.

Now that sentences have been issued for the culprits involved, it’s now time to look at the reason Smart and Orr were even put in this position to create a big black eye on college basketball.

One of the strongest arguments during this whole ordeal has been that Smart should have been more professional. Here’s he thing, he’s an amateur athlete. Just ask the NCAA. So if he’s an amateur athlete, there shouldn’t be a surprise if he — or other college student-athletes — act like amateurs, either on the court or off.

I think it’s safe to say that the universities and the NCAA are not going to make changes to the seating of fans in arenas — which creeps closer and closer to the field of play, to the point where places like Gallagher-Iba Arena itself has fans a foot away from the action.

There’s money being made by creating these seats close to the action. Just like there is money being made by not paying college athletes.

Countless people arguing that Smart should have been professional are also people that say student-athletes shouldn’t be paid because they are getting a free education.

A lot of those people don’t realize, not every scholarship athlete gets a full-ride. Or understands that paying for room and board, while preventing them to get side jobs, limits them from being the very first thing they are — college students.

You can’t have one or the other. If you want college athletes to act professional, pay them as such. Otherwise, it is up to the universities and NCAA to protect them as amateurs.

These institutions have been passionate about preventing student-athletes from getting paid — to make endless amounts of money. Perhaps it’s time they were passionate about protecting their student-athletes.

Jason Elmquist is sports editor of The Stillwater News Press. He can be contacted at jelmquist@stwnewspress.com.

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