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Potential decision to bar walk-ons absolute wrong decision

Posted on Tuesday, July 9, 2024 at 9:42 pm

Zach Conti, a life-long student of the game of football, nearly walked away from the sport in 2023. The rising costs of tuition, housing and time demanded by the sport for a walk-on, just didn’t fit his life plan—until he was awarded a scholarship.
Conti’s story, like so many others, was one of the underdog. There were no blue blood college scouts courting his every step. He had to make every step on his own volition.
Eventually, his coaching staff at Eastern Michigan noticed his work ethic and he earned a scholarship to play football for the Eagles.
But if one NCAA rule change that’s on the table comes to fruition, stories like Conti’s will never exist.
While changes inevitably come about, for better or worse, the NCAA is mulling over a change to roster limits, reducing the number of players from 120, to the 85-95 range.
Currently, the NCAA’s limit on scholarship players is set at 85, meaning players like Conti and so many others simply wouldn’t have a spot on a roster.
The simple fact is money has become the NCAA’s biggest issue.
Between the transfer portal and NIL ventures, money appears to have taken over the driver seat and sports themselves simply don’t matter as much as the idea of them.
Just last year, USC star quarterback and overall No. 1 NFL draft pick Caleb Williams had a NIL deal worth of approximately $10 million.
That’s a college kid with a multimillion dollar deal.
Now I was no Division I athlete…heck I was barely a non-revenue, Division II athlete, but I could barely scrounge up $20 for a case of beer for a party with my friends.
And here I sit, 14 years after graduation and currently owe more on my student loans than what I initially borrowed.
The only reason I mention my specific instance is because there are THOUSANDS of others just like me, who borrowed money, played a sport in college, and am riddled with debt for life.
Had it not been for the walk-on opportunity for Conti, he would have either had to walk away from the sport he dedicated his life to, or be riddled with more loans for life.
The issue with college sports in general is this notion that athletes are due a portion of the revenue schools receive from their performances on the field.
I was under the impression that full-ride scholarships at major institutions, which these days score in the range of $100k or more in terms of value, was adequate compensation.
While underdogs like Conti may slip through the cracks, if the NCAA’s proposal goes through, I’d bet my bottom dollar that top-dollar athletes like Williams will always make their millions.
Chris Siers is sports editor of the Marshall County Post. Email him at