Kenny Tate's experience raises questions about college athlete rules, pay

Former Terp and NFL prospect battled knee injuries

  • Scouts watch as Kenny Tate does the bench press in Maryland's weight room at pro day.
Scouts watch as Kenny Tate does the bench press in Maryland's… (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun )
November 04, 2013|By Jeff Barker | The Baltimore Sun

Kenny Tate's college football career enabled him to fulfill a dream, while all but ending another dream -- that of an NFL career.

It doesn't seem like a favorable tradeoff.  Tate and countless other  top pro prospects  played college football for free, became injured and -- in their diminished states -- missed out on opportunities  to cash in on their talents  in the NFL.

Make no mistake. Tate got what he wanted from the University of Maryland. The former All-ACC safety got to play on a big stage in which he could showcase his ample talents. He got a scholarship and was savvy enough  to turn it into a diploma, which he received last summer. 

Certainly, knee injuries are part of the game. It could be argued that Tate, who required a cartilage transplant, was merely unlucky. He knew the risks before signing up to play.

But I think Tate's experience -- which I chronicled in a story for Sunday's paper -- raises some big-picture questions about college sports:

** Should college athletes be considered, in effect, work-study students and be compensated   for the many hours dedicated to a sport earning  millions of dollars for their schools?

** Should college football players be permitted to enter the NFL before they are three years removed from high school so there is less of a window for the occurrence of serious injuries threatening potentially lucrative  pro careers?

** Are elite  players  receiving valuable college educations -- on par with those of other students -- after  they arrive with below-average academic credentials, intent on football careers above all else? Here is a link to an earlier story I wrote on this topic.

To his credit, Tate seemed to sense that he needed to prepare himself for life after football. It's just that he has long believed his post-football life is years away -- not right now

"We’ve watched countless documentaries and seen statistics on what happens after college," he said. "It’s rare you see a player after 30 playing. That’s old. I’ve still got a whole lot of life to live."

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