The Latest in the Amateur “Student-Athlete” Debate: Sammy Watkins

And With One Promotion Poster, Sammy Watkins is Now Surrounding By Controversy

Anyone who runs an ACC blog of any sort will likely only say great things about Sammy Watkins. The standout freshman wide receiver had a banner year at Clemson, catching 77 passes for 1,153 yards and 11 TDs (not to mention his team’s 10-3 record and conference title). Unfortunately, that could all end up in the rearview mirror, as the ad above (only partially displayed) could start to cause a bit of controversy with the NCAA.

As reported by SBNation and (the original source of the news), Watkins’ name appeared on a club promotion flier for the Firepit Grill, a Fort Myers, Fla. restaurant, alongside the names of three other FBS players. Watkins’ cohorts in this case, including his brother Jaylen (Florida), Brodrick Jenkins (West Virginia) and Spencer Boyd (USF) apparently gave the restaurant/club’s DJ, Marcus Price (DJ LowKey) permission before later asking for their names to be removed. Price, not wanting any negative repercussions for the players, removed the names immediately.

Given the swift removal of the offending poster, and the fact that it’s really not a big deal to anyone, this whole situation should just be over, right? Wrong, unfortunately. When you’re dealing with the NCAA, anyone who MAY even make a cent from playing football (which generates an incredible amount of money for others involved) will likely be taken down swiftly, regardless of stature. And while I’m not one to scream and yell for college athletes to be paid, this (especially in these very innocuous circumstances) just seems wrong. A round-up of some of the most recent NCAA issues involving nonsensical “violations”:

  • December 2011: Four players, including Clemson star Sammy Watkins currently under investigation for briefly appearing on a restaurant/club flier, before their names were swiftly removed.
  • December 2011: LSU issuing cease-and-desist orders to retailers selling “Honey Badger” shirts to avoid any trouble between NCAA, the university and the eligibility of Heisman finalist Tyrann Mathieu.
  • September 2011: Boise State loses scholarships and practices, goes on probation for letting recruits stay with current players while on campus visit.

… And that’s not even the tip of the iceberg.

The point is, yes there are plenty of violations that should certainly be punished. Cases of academic fraud turn the entire system into a joke, and some of the more outrageous recruiting issues have called into question what “amateur” status actually means for FBS athletes. Yet, considering those larger institutional issues, and the atrocities that current legal proceedings claim occurred at Penn State and my alma mater, Syracuse, is it going to destroy anyone’s life if a quarterback makes a few extra bucks selling gear and getting a free tattoo? Or should a team that some would consider among the best in a generation be stripped of a national championship, with its star running back stripped of his athletic accomplishments (which occurred independent of his making a few bucks)?

Realize what’s important, NCAA, and fix the rules. Otherwise, you may not be around long enough to implement the needed change — with the power institutions simply walking away and governing themselves.

ACC Heisman Watch (Week 15)

Baylor's Robert Griffin III Could Be the First Player In School History to Win the Heisman

Since Heisman finalists have been named for the 2011 season, we’ll skip right to the evaluation portion, looking at where we’d rank the five candidates.

1. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor (4,642 total yards/45 total TD/6 INT/72.4% completion): In thoroughly crushing rival Texas, Griffin managed another four touchdowns and over 350 total yards, adding to his growing legend status down in West Texas. Considered a darkhorse for all season, the way Baylor’s quarterback has performed these past few weeks might just deliver him the game’s biggest individual prize.

2. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford (3,170 passing yards/37 total TD/9 INT/70.0% completion): With a weak overall schedule, and watching other quarterbacks (Griffin, specifically) just plain putting up better numbers over the past month, Luck has finally lost his once-insurmountable lead in our rankings. Does it mean he’s played poorly of late? Of course not. And I doubt this award has any bearing on him going number-one overall in the NFL Draft either. He had his chance at a true “Heisman moment” (versus Oregon), but just couldn’t capitalize.

3. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin (2,014 total yards/38 total TD): Possessing a conference title, 15 more touchdowns and just one more loss than the “favored” running back below, Monte Ball would have won the Heisman in most seasons. Yet, since many only consider him the second-best RB in this group, he gets little consideration. Why? More yards-per-carry, more touchdowns, more yards, same amount of wins. It’s all because he doesn’t play in the SEC (a theme in college football of late).

4. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama (1,910 total yards/23 total TD): Richardson is a talented back, don’t get me wrong. But he’s never had any business being in the same conversation as the three players I list above him. Alabama’s defense has been the biggest key to their success, and their lopsided victories allow for more garbage-time carries. Just because your team’s playing for the national title (with debatable credentials) doesn’t mean you deserve a Heisman finalist, as you’ll see below.

5. Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU (475 total yards/4 total TD/2 INT): Yup, you read all of those stats right. While I don’t doubt the defensive prowess of the “Honey Badger,” I have to ask — what the hell is he doing on a Heisman ballot?! See above for my thoughts on this sham of a pick, but beyond my own opinions, can anyone say he put up one of the season’s five most impressive efforts? If Mathieu finishes any higher than fifth on ballots, I’d be floored.