Florida Gators, NCAA Basketball, SEC

The Long Leash of the Student Athlete

March Madness is almost over, and with that we’re down to the final stretch of games for the college basketball season. Of the four teams remaining in the NCAA tournament only Florida and Kentucky are from the SEC, although Florida is the prohibitive favorite to win the title. A big part of the reason that Florida is still remaining in the tournament has been the leadership and heroics of senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin. Wilbekin has been the driving force for the Gators throughout the tournament, delivering clutch shots when needed and rallying his team when they’re out of sorts. Florida is such an overwhelming favorite with Wilbekin at the helm that it’s astonishing to think about just how close he came to not even be on the team this year.

In July 2013 Wilbekin was suspended from the Gators for the second time in less than a year. The fact that head coach Billy Donovan refused to say what the suspension was for surrounded Wilbekin’s suspension in mystery, although it was clearly obvious he had done something that the Gators didn’t want to reveal. Forced to deal with the situation on his own and get his act together, Wilbekin eventually got under his head coach’s good graces once again and was reinstated to the team… for the second time in less than a year. While Wilbekin deserves credit for turning his career around and leading the Gators to the cusp of the national title one has to wonder how thing would’ve fared for him if he wasn’t a student athlete.

Scottie Wilbekin’s case isn’t a unique one. There are tons of student athletes that get suspended from their teams for doing something that usually isn’t revealed. This enables players to be taught a lesson while at the same time not adding a bad label to their name by being associated with something. A regular student would never get this luxury though, and the question can be raised as to if these suspensions are doing any good at all. Wilbekin had to be suspended and reinstated twice in one year before he got the message that he had to clean up his act, and that’s not even counting the amount of times he’d probably been involved in some other form of trouble. Fans don’t really care about these types of things anyways nowadays. Sure they might say “Oh he’s a bad person” but they will still cheer for these types of players as long as they provide wins for their team. And the schools will keep giving them chances as long as they can still make money for the school without severely damaging that schools reputation. The point is that these players know that they have some form of leverage since the school treats them as money makers and so their leash of doing things before they suffer severe consequences is a long one as a result.

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