Last week it was learned that former Tennessee running back Arian Foster had told a documentary crew that he had made money “on the side” during his senior season at Tennessee. In the interview he claimed that he didn’t have enough money for food. He said an unnamed Vol coach “brought like 50 tacos for four or five of us.” That would technically be an NCAA violation.
Duke head coach David Cutcliffe — who served as UT’s offensive coordinator during Foster’s sophomore and junior seasons — isn’t buying Foster’s comments (or the new APU movement, for that matter):
“That may have been as weak of interview as I’ve heard. Arian never looked hungry…
Yes, (his scholarship) pays for food and rent. On gameday, when you go back to your dorm, you usually $15 in meal money and you could buy, I don’t know, 10 tacos maybe.
As long as there’s the amount of media we have and the opportunity, you’re going to I guess see protests or whatever. As long as I’ve been around it, and it’s a long time, longer than sometimes I even think, athletes have been treated pretty well. I don’t see anybody getting abused. I don’t drive a brand new Lexus, I drive a nice car because I choose to. I heard that, I don’t know what that had to do with the price of tea anywhere…
(Full-cost-of-tuition scholarships would) make it so expensive to come to a college athletics event that nobody is going to want to come. Again, we’re not abusing kids. There’s a lot of uninformed people that haven’t seen the day-to-day.
I’m pretty qualified to be informed. We’re not going to let a youngster starve. Before they starve, I’m going to break and NCAA rule to make sure they eat. I’m going to take them home if they can’t pay their rent. If we get to that point, I’m going to house them. It’s not the case. It’s not the case.”
Cutcliffe — who also served as Ole Miss’ head coach at the turn of the century — was asked if he’s ever come across “a destitute kid” at the college level:
“Really never because at the level I’ve been, you understand that if they are need-based — Pell Grant. Every big of that money goes to them, OK? You’re looking at one that was need-based. I thought I had it pretty darn good. You understand what I’m saying? There’s already stuff in place that we can spend money-wise. We have a needy student assistance fund. We’ve been able to clothe them. You can fly their parents in if they get hurt. We can fly them home if there’s a tragic death in their family. There’s a lot of education that needs to be done by somebody if none of you have any idea what we can do. That’s all in place, we have a lot of people there, whether it’s compliance. You’ve got to understand, compliance is not put there to say what you can’t do, compliance is there for what you can do to make a better environment for a student-athlete and a safer environment for a student-athlete.”
Cutcliffe will no doubt come across as cold-hearted to those calling for players to be paid. But cold or not, he made one point — in a slightly different manner — that we’ve made here a million times. “I love democracy and am a big believer in it,” the coach said. “It’s never going to be perfect. As long as we’re alive, it’s never going to be perfect. I just think it’s kind of an overreaction.”
Cutcliffe’s analogy is correct. The governance of college sports — like democracy — is never going to be perfect. That doesn’t mean attempts shouldn’t be made to improve it, but whatever system is put in place… it won’t take long for the masses to poke holes in it and complain about it.