Shabazz Napier: 'There's hungry nights where I'm not able to eat'

Ronald Martinez

Before he played for an NCAA title at UConn, Shabazz Napier talked about how he doesn't always have money for food.

SB Nation 2014 NCAA March Madness Coverage

With the Northwestern football union in the news simultaneously with the NCAA Tournament, many of the college athletes and various people who make money working with college athletes have been asked their thoughts on the NCAA's current arrangement. (This ignores the fact that the Northwestern football union is not, in fact, about pay-for-play.)

One of these people was Shabazz Napier, and his response was troubling:

We do have hungry nights that we don't have enough money to get food in. Sometimes money is needed. I don't think you should stretch it out to hundreds of thousands of dollars for playing, because a lot of times guys don't know how to handle themselves with money. I feel like a student athlete. Sometimes, there's hungry nights where I'm not able to eat, but I still gotta play up to my capabilities.

Tonight's championship game will be played in AT&T Stadium, where 79,000 people paid an average of about $500 to watch the Final Four games from seats where they needed binoculars to see the action. It will be broadcast on CBS, which pays about $800 million a year for the right to show the NCAA Tournament. In full, the tournament is among the most profitable things in sports. And here's one of the star players on one of the teams in its most important game saying he can't eat sometimes.

Some will point out that Napier is getting free access to a degree. He's not getting paid, but he's getting an education while other students are saddled with debt -- how could he ask for more?

Oh, wait:

But UConn's graduation rate for male basketball players is still the worst of any team in the 2014 tournament.

UConn graduates 8 percent of its players, according to the most recent NCAA statistics. To put it another way: of the 12 players who started as freshmen eight years ago, exactly one managed to finish a college degree or leave UConn in good academic standing.

I suppose in a hypothetical world where every college athlete got a meaningful education, I would understand a system where athletes didn't receive any monetary compensation.

Instead, we have hungry players at schools that sometimes fail to even put in enough effort to cook up diplomas, and NCAA leadership that accuses players of greed while raking in billions.

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