Two of the Seattle Seahawks' best defensive players took on the NCAA in a pre-Super Bowl press conference Thursday, as cornerback Richard Sherman and defensive tackle Michael Bennett each had strong words for the collegiate student-athlete governing body. Sherman played his college ball at Stanford, while Bennett was a star at Texas A&M.
"No, I don't think college athletes are given enough time to really take advantage of the free education that they're given, and it's frustrating because a lot of people get upset with student-athletes and say they're not focused on school and they're not taking advantage of the opportunity they're given. I would love for a regular student to have a student-athlete's schedule during the season for just one quarter or one semester and show me how you balance that. Show me how you would schedule your classes when you can't schedule classes from 2-to-6 o'clock on any given day. Show me how you're going to get all your work done when after you get out at 7:30 or so, you've got a test the next day, you're dead tired from practice and you still have to study just as hard as everybody else every day and get all the same work done. Most of these kids are done with school, done with class by 3 o'clock, you've got the rest of the day to do as you please. You may spend a few hours studying, then you may spend a few hours at the library checking out books and doing casual reading, and then you may go hang out with friends and have a coffee. When you're a student-athlete, you don't have that kind of time. You wake up in the morning, you have weights at this time. Then after weights you go to class and after class, you go maybe try to grab you a quick bite to eat. Then after you get your quick bite to eat, you go straight to meetings and after meetings, you've got practice and after practice, you've got to try to get all the work done you had throughout the day you've got from your lectures and from your focus groups.
And those aren't the things that people focus on when talking about student-athletes. They are upset when a student-athlete says they need a little cash. Well, I can tell you from experience, I had negative-40 bucks in my account. Usually my account was in the negative more time than it was in the positive. You've got to make decisions on whether you get gas for your car or whether you get a meal for the day. You've got one of the two choices.
People think, ‘Oh, you're on scholarship.' They pay for your room and board, they pay for your education, but to their knowledge, you're there to play football. You're not on scholarship for school and it sounds crazy when a student-athlete says that, but that's those are the things coaches tell them every day: ‘You're not on scholarship for school.'
Luckily, I was blessed to go to Stanford and a school that was primarily focused on academics, so it was a blessing. It was a little bit better. As Jim Harbaugh would attest, we were also there for football. But there were still guys like Andrew (Luck) who majored in engineering, an incredibly tough road to take when you're in football, because a lot of the classes conflict with your time as a football player. You have an engineering class from 2 to 3:30, there's no way you can do both. You can't go to meetings and take your engineering class from 2 to 3:30, so what do you do? What do you do? Do you switch your major or do you tell your coach, ‘Hey, I've got an engineering class from 2 to 3:30 and I have to go to that.' That's a conflict of interest. That's what people don't realize. But it's not something that hurts the bottom line in a lot of people's lives, so I don't think it'll be something that will be addressed.
Sherman Gets Candid
"I think the NCAA is one of the biggest scams in America, because these kids put so much on the line, and they study hard, they play football as hard as they can, but if they don't crack the NFL, then [the NCAA] says, 'We gave you a free degree.' That's like me owning a restaurant and saying, 'I'll give you a free burger.'... I'm just giving you something I already have. Athletes don't get enough credit, and a lot of the schools don't really do anything for the guys after they graduate. I think there are very few schools that actually care about the players.
"When I was in college, I'd be going to class, some student comes to me and says 'I pay your tuition.' I'm like, you don't pay my damn tuition. My mom paid my tuition when she worked two jobs, and I woke up every morning at 6 a.m. and I worked hard. To think about it, it makes me so mad and irate that people are so simple-minded when it comes to something like that."