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Don't Hate the Player: Are College Athletes Working for a Degree or Working for a Cartel? 

Wednesday, Jul 16 2014
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Ortega found the donor, and then asked his colleagues in the athletics program for permission to make the arrangement. They refused, citing a rule in the NCAA constitution that prohibits university faculty and staff from bestowing gifts on student-athletes after their eligibility is exhausted.

Igber was incensed.

"Here's my argument," he says, his voice still quavering, nine years later. "You have a student athlete who's completed five years of undergraduate in engineering, played four years as a starter on the football team, has never said anything against the football team and all the horrible, gross injustices we had to go through. And he gets accepted to one of the most prominent colleges in the country for a master's program. And they figure out a way to say no."

Igber ultimately did attend graduate school, funding his first year with money saved from his $900 monthly football stipends (he'd split rooms in tiny apartments for $200 a month and pocketed the rest.)

White also finished his degree in social welfare, even though it cost him his first shot at the NFL draft — and a potential $15 million contract. He remembers that everyone, from local fans to celebrity sports agents, balked at the decision.

"I had the great [agent] Leigh Steinberg calling me on the phone, saying, 'You know, Russell, you're a first-round pick. You sure you want to finish school?'"

"I had one year to really enjoy what learning was about," White says. "My prize was to get the degree."

White went on to play for the Los Angeles Rams for two years, then played on the Green Bay Packers' practice squad, then left to coach a high school team in Palm Springs. He's now the commissioner of the Oakland Athletic League.

Igber went on to launch a structural engineering firm. He never played professional football.

On the day of his last Big Game in 2002, Igber took two shots of novocaine to quell a dislocated rib, and ran a record 226 yards. He crawled up into the bleachers to watch the last four minutes, dodging fans who swarmed the field to celebrate the Bears' 30-7 win.

Later, he'd tell reporters that it was his moment to "slide off into obscurity." Cal had its axe; the team was jubilant; the novocaine was wearing off. "I just thought I wanted to disappear," Igber says, remembering the moment, years later.

And that's exactly what he did.

About The Author

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan

Bio:
Rachel Swan was a staff writer at SF Weekly from 2013 to 2015. In previous lives she was a music editor, IP hack, and tutor of Cal athletes.

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