“I don’t know if this will throw us into an NCAA investigation, but my senior year I was getting money on the side,” Foster said in an EPIX documentary (“Schooled: The Price of College Sports”) that was first reported by Sports Illustrated.
Foster, who now plays for the Houston Texans, said that when he was a senior at the University of Tennessee, in 2007, “I really didn’t have any money. I had to either pay the rent or buy some food. I had the feeling, ‘Be careful.’ But there’s nothing wrong with it.
“You don’t want to say anything, because if you say anything you’re stepping out of line and you’ll hurt your chances of getting to that next level.”
He implied that a player who publicly acknowledges accepting cash will be covertly punished for being a “snitch.” And indeed, some former players who are now TV analysts criticized him as if he had betrayed the Godfather.
But Foster feels the need to do what he can to expose the hypocrisy of college sports, the illusion that the athletes all have parents with enough money to cover their living expenses.
“I feel very strong about the injustices the NCAA has been doing for years.” Foster said. “I feel like I shouldn’t have to run from the NCAA any more. They’re like these big bullies, and I’m not scared of ‘em.”
Foster’s coach at Tennessee, Phil Fulmer, denied awareness of Foster receiving money. Foster affirmed that the money did not come from coaches. It’s probable Fulmer didn’t know. These “gifts” usually come from wealthy alumni who try to be as quiet about it as possible.
But this is an issue that is no longer being kept quiet. A movement is building to require schools to compensate their athletes for the many hours and the extreme health risks they incur in order to support a $10 billion industry.
When Earl Campbell, Hall of Fame running back and former Heisman Trophy winner, proposed two decades ago to pay the college players, his idea was largely ignored. But recently, Steve Spurrier, one of the sport’s most respected coaches, endorsed the notion of paying the players at least $4,000 a year to help with their college expenses.
College players are publicly joining the call for compensation. In Saturday’s games, players from Georgia Tech, Georgia and Northwestern wore wristbands containing the letters “APU” – for “All Players United.”
It’s too soon to say all the players are united. But clearly, the momentum is going in that direction.