The Smartest, or Dumbest, (or maybe Smartest) Tweet an Athlete Ever Sent

Many allegedly great minds from professors to school presidents have devoted peals of pages to the multi-billion dollar industry otherwise known as NCAA athletics. Yet no one has quite put their finger on the contradictions, frustrations, and tragicomedy of being the labor in this industry - a so-called student-athlete - quite like Ohio State's third string freshman quarterback, Cardale Jones. On Friday Jones tweeted, “Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL, we ain’t come to play SCHOOL, classes are POINTLESS.”

Jones immediately deleted the tweet – as well as his entire twitter account - but as many have learned before him, deleting a tweet is like cleaning a grease stain with fruit punch. As soon as the 18 year sent his tweet out into the world, Cardale Jones was held up as yet another example of (altogether now) "everything that's wrong" with today's athlete. Even worse, Jones, who hasn't played one snap all season, was benched for Saturday's game. As the Toledo Blade put it, "Mark it down as DNP (tweet).

But Jones’s crime wasn’t authoring what the Daily News called a “lame-brained tweet.” It was committing, to paraphrase Michael Kinsley, the greatest sin in sports: he was caught telling the truth. "We ain't come to school to play classes" will most likely be a quote of mockery that rings through the ages. But Cardale Jones has also hit on something factual. Ohio State football, like a select sampling of the sport's aristocracy, has morphed over the last thirty years into a multi billion dollar business. Even in the shadow of sanction and scandal, according to Forbes Magazine, the Buckeyes program creates $63 million in revenue every year and accounts for 73% of all the athletic departments profits.

Columbus is where legendary coach Woody Hayes was pushed out after striking an opposing player in 1978. He was making $40,000 a year when removed. Their coach today, Urban Meyer, draws a base salary of $4 million and is the highest paid public employee in the state. Meyer also gets use of a private plane, a swanky golf club membership, and a fellowship in his name. He can also earn six figure bonuses as well as raises for staying on the job. The football coach earns three times Ohio State President Gordon Gee. As higher education lawyer Sheldon Steinbach said to USA Today. “The hell with gold. I want to buy futures in coaches' contracts."

The source of the contradictions and confusion that create this moral cesspool is not the riches earned by the Urban Meyers of this world. It's that the players are given nothing but the opportunity for an education they often have neither the time nor desire to pursue. These are 18-22 year olds treated like a hybrid of campus Gods and campus chattel. I once had a former All-American tell me a story of hitting the books until an assistant coach stopped by his dorm room and said, "You know you don't have to do that right?" This particular athlete persevered and graduated and good for him. I can only say that when I was 19, if an authority figure told me I didn't have to study, I would have held an impromptu book-burning in my dorm room. We are corrupting these young people by demanding that they become complicit in a sham. We are telling them to be grateful for the opportunity to be party to their own exploitation. We are telling them effectively to do exactly what Cardale Jones said, and “play school.” 

This mentality of “play school” and get a shot at the NFL or the NBA is profoundly effective. It acts as a form of discipline that keeps players in line. This discipline doesn’t only come from coaches, academic advisors, and family members, but other student-athletes as well. A culture is created through “amateur-athletics” that incentivizes keeping your head down. If you’re going to cheat, or take easy classes with compliant professors, you do it quietly and keep the trains running on time. One thing you don't do is point out that the Emperor is buck-naked. 

I have a friend who is a professor at Ohio State and he outlined this to me very clearly. He told me that in the wake of Cardale Jones’s tweet that "many student-athletes are enraged. They feel he makes them all look bad when all of them are busting their butts." Their anger is what allows this system to continue as sure as the NCAA. They are angry because Cardale Jones just pulled back the curtain on an NCAA moral terrain built on a 21st century bedrock of bewildering moral confusion. This only changes if Jones’s fellow football players stand with him and ask the question: “Are we all just ‘playing school’ so Urban Meyer can live like some sort of absurdist sports Sultan? Are my blood sweat and tears first and foremost a means to pay for the fuel for my coach's private plane?” We don't know if this will cost Cardale Jones his scholarship in the days to come. But one thing we can be sure about: whether or not he stays will have less to do with his effrontery than whether the freshman can effectively throw a football.

[Dave Zirin is the author of “The John Carlos Story” (Haymarket). Receive his column every week by emailing Contact him at]

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Why Zirin is wrong as usual

Zirin states in his article that his professor friend "told me that in the wake of Cardale Jones’s tweet that "many student-athletes are enraged. They feel he makes them all look bad when all of them are busting their butts." Their anger is what allows this system to continue as sure as the NCAA. They are angry because Cardale Jones just pulled back the curtain on an NCAA moral terrain built on a 21st century bedrock of bewildering moral confusion.

No Dave, maybe they are angry because they are committed student athletes who ARE busting their butts to do well in school and sports. For every sham student athlete out there in today's college sports world, there are ten others who are busting their butt and doing the right thing. (Look at the sports programs at every Division 1, 2 , 3, NAIA, and Christian School. There is certainly pollution in today's college sports, but there is far more good going on every day. Alas, this fact does not fit Zirin's progressive agenda, so he chooses to ignore this fact. Then again, Zirin constantly ignores or distorts facts in order to create his own narrative. Zirin is, and always will be a hack journalist.

odd paragraph

while I wouldn't call Dave a "hack", I also found his last paragraph bewildering, his friend seems to state the opposite of what Dave is trying to profess.



This is surely why I earmark contributions

to my alma mater for the libraries.
First, this way, I can assure myself that the athletic department will not get their hands on it; and
Second, those gladiators who don't really belong in college cannot abuse my generosity, because the library is one place you will not find them.

Hard to Believe

So let me get this straight: If OSU football players are paid that would eliminate this moral cesspool and Urban Meyer's salary would then be justified. DZ always likes to equate coaches' salaries to the lack thereof players' salaries. If college football players were paid I don't think OSU and their ilk would reduce their head coaches' salaries rather they would increase the ticket prices, try to get more TV money to accomodate the salaries. Sorry Dave.


You had to know the "College sports is a shame" article was going to come out soon. Then there is the obligatory "sports are slavery" comment. I mean really people can't we come up with something better. Dave some original thinking, you do this same article every year. If you're so against college athletics then write an article about how the kids can go to Europe or the CFL so they can get paid before they go to the NFL. Go out on a limb and tell then that getting an education is worthless and getting paid to play minor league sports is the smart career move. Be bold do something different, this piece is old and tired. And "sports slavery" comment guy, come on give us something different like telling us that sports are raping our youth. Urge athletes to throw off the shekels and demand that they are paid as much as the owners (cause that's how business works) or they are going to start there own league. Sure those leagues have all failed and gone into bankruptcy costing everyone involved millions but tell them that this time it'll be different because after the story of the NFL player and his $23,000 bed the public wants to make sure they are getting even more money in their pockets.

Jason Your Response is Typical

Of the typical ignorant person who refuses to see the truth or get the facts. First no one is able to enter the CFL draft out of high school, you need to have played at least four years of college ball. You are correct that there is the option of playing pro ball in Europe for some basketball players but there are few would have that level of talent of at that time.
You're probelm is you fail to see major college sports as the scam that they are and still actually believe that the those who play can actually seriously pursue an education, which is not why they are there anyway.
If you further need any more proof of that scam just try to find a serious player who has been dismissed due to poor school work.


Starting UCLA center Anthony Stover was dismissed in August due to academic reasons. A simple google search and you can find many. The reason you don't hear more about it is because most student athletes aren't the stereotypical dumb jocks just playing ball and never going to class. Many studies show that student-atheletes graduate at a higher percent then non atheletes. In fact most graduate and never go pro so I'm sure that college degree comes in handy. So would you end college athletics because some athletes can't study & go to classes?

You're right about the CFL but there are other options. JUCO until your 20, then Arena and then you can go to the NFL or CFL. Anything to get away from the plantation that is NCAA college sports & the idea that you might have to spend a few hours a week in classes.

College sports

IS modern day slavery. Only this time the slaves don't seem to know they're slaves. They don't want to (and aren't encouraged to) go to class. They lack the courage and foresight to organize and demand to be paid. They only want to play football. For free. Even after 4 years when MOST have no degree and no pro football career, they still don't realize they've been used. What a waste!

As for Dave repeating himself, "truth crushed to earth shall rise again". People are reluctant to accept truth that contradicts status quo. You have to say it and keep on saying it to make a difference. You go Dave!


The competition in JUCO is not sufficent enough to prepare anyone for a pro career. The NCAA is for the most part the only real minor league around for serious basketball and football players.
As for those studies of coarse overall the grad rate is high likely only because they factor in those in the none money making sports (real student athletes). The only problem with college sports are mens football and basketball where it is all about the money and not education. That is the problem it is a for profit business powered by unpaid labour, which is what makes it profitable for many schools. Meanwhile the AD's and HC's are rolling in cash.
As for Anthony Stover, all you need to explain that decision is a quick look at the stats he was putting up. Not very impressive to say the least.


Didnt realize slaves got to choose their master? If the want to stay a slave? Also with the possibility to make millions once their training was over. That they are given an education? Would have thought that was counterintuitive. I thought slavery slavery was this horrible institution that deprives individuals of their freedom but I guess it's really just given the opportunity to play a game while getting an education worth up to $30,000 a year.

Couple facts: most athletes DO graduate.
Check it out:

Most college programs DON'T make money. The money they DO make goes to pay for university costs.

I agree the NCAA & big time coaches make WAY TOO much money but let's not throw the baby out with the bath water. College athletics help a lot of kids go to college that otherwise wouldn't. It's up to them to decide to go to classes or not. What's the alternative? You're going to tell me paying these kids is going to help them graduate, help state or school budgets or reduce corruption? Getting a free education isn't enough? How much would you pay them? I'm fine with paying a stipid as long as nothing comes from the school or tax payers.

Newspeak rides again

The real problem with the college sports=slavery is that it distorts and belittles the real slavery in America"s past. People who were kidnapped,transported(many died in the middle passage),sold into bondage are supposed to be equated to Andrew Luck. To teach a slave to read was illegal and yet the college athletes if they so desire can read their text books if they want to. I don't see how Cam Newton=Nat Turner helps to make the argument that college athletes should be paid which they should be. Where is coach George Orwell, we need you buddy. What utter nonsense.

the sport of American football

Had a chance to see a TV sideline shot at a Div !!! college game and it helped make me think about coaching staffs. Thinking about the huge football budgets and the seemingly overkill of staffing you wonder how a $4m salary could be honest or ethical. As DZirin states the strange absurdity hurts all wherein issues of brutality to career-ending concussions are left unanswered. Now in Sweden, I have been seeing teeage young women learning the 3-pt stance and other football positions. As a shocked male oldtimer (59) I wonder how these young women will be helped in a future career. Even the boxing, mma brutality is being womanized. Luckily my own football years ended at 15 – both too short and some 130 lbs of fearful energy – where I found gymnastics, volleyball, tennis and other sports instead. Now as an oldster I can stilll do a handstand and participate in said sports as well as bicycling everywhere. So young women and men, be careful of American football and other sporting activities – ice hockey in particular & even baseball – that stay with you your entire life. Thanks Dave&panel for lively discussions that show how money with corporate conservative pushes is helping to both make and promote a slavelike situation today. Money, money excesses are bleeding the sportsworld blind. Go Dave go – sport should be good for all of us.

Simple answer

Follow the hockey example and create a junior league for both football and basketball. That way athletes that want to have good quality ball and get paid they can do so, while those that what good quality ball and get an education can do so. Look at hockey, most nhlers that have taken the college route stay through at least there third year, many graduate. Why? Because with the junior option the ones that are playing college hockey, are usually dedicated to getting an education. And the best part of it all? Yu stop getting these one and done deals in basketball where kentuckybhas to geta new starting five every year? How about recruit five guys that love Kentucky, and care about getting an education, more than a six figure payday? Of course any attempt to do so would be crushed by NCAA lawyers not wanting an upstart league to impede on their profits. And Dave I wouldn't call them slaves, they are getting a free education without actually having to go to classes, get free room andboard, and get to play the sport they love. Student athletes shouldn't get paid but then again to call many NCAA football players students is an insult to actual students, so yeah yur might maybe they should be paid,


Seems like many of you are missing the point. What Z is attacking is the hypocrisy, and yes, the free labor that is built into the system. Fans don't go to watch coaches or officials. They go to see the players work and entertain them. Sure, players should be paid.
But that would bust open the whole sham of the scholar athlete. Schools need the players to raise money for them and often don't care if the players study or not. Everyone has heard of scandals involving phantom courses and ghost-written papers. I think the solution is a minor league where young athletes could play and be paid without being students.

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Dave Zirin is the author of the book: "Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics and Promise of Sports" (Haymarket). You can receive his column Edge of Sports, every week by going to
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