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Florida vs. Georgia: Todd Gurley, and the shame of sham amateurism

The only good reason Todd Gurley shouldn't be playing this Saturday is premised on a lie.

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Mike Zarrilli

Todd Gurley is healthy. He's been healthy all year, a surprise for an upright running back who shoulders most of the load for Georgia when available.

Todd Gurley is in his coaches' good graces. This is no surprise, given how hard he seems to work for them, and his utility to them.

Todd Gurley is in no trouble with the law. And so he is free to pursue his happiness.

Todd Gurley is in no trouble on the field. He's thrown a couple punches at opponents, sure, but those punches weren't even penalized at the time — and no rational punishment for them would have lasted until this game.

Todd Gurley, though, is in trouble with the NCAA, shameless sentinel for its sham "amateurism," and so it appears possible, maybe likely, that he's going to miss this Saturday's game against Florida.

Gurley's accused of being paid to sign autographs, or for getting a piece of the immense sums — thousands, millions, billions — that his team and his school and his industry will make due to his work. This is against NCAA rules because college athletes, compensated for their labor with room and board and tuition that function as inferior substitutes for money, can't profit off their own likenesses — that's for his team and his school and his industry to do.

That this is illicit is, to be plain and honest, insane and unjust.

The NCAA is a cartel to its bone, controlling the supply of "amateur" sports and the availability of "amateur" labor and using its control of this valuable product to get away with all sorts of chicanery. It is a kangaroo court when it needs to be, a scolding headmaster with dismaying frequency, and the sort of garden-variety evil an organization comprised primarily of Bill Lumbergh clones would be on a daily basis.

The rational response to "Why shouldn't college athletes get paid?" has always been and will always be "They should." And it is true that, in a sense, they are paid. But that compensation has never been fair, and the NCAA's entire structure is set up to prevent that fairness, because the unfairness is what keeps the NCAA standing, year after year.

Gurley might yet get cleared of his infraction, or reinstated; Georgia filed for his reinstatement last week. By the time he does, if he does, whether that is tomorrow or Thursday or next week or in November, Gurley will likely have been represented by an expert in defending against NCAA claims that has cost his university more in legal fees than he earned for his signature, and possibly more than Gurley's scholarship for a semester is worth.

That, of course, is a benefit the NCAA allows: University-funded legal counsel to defend players against unwarranted prosecution ... like the kind that comes from the NCAA.

Don't get me wrong: If Florida beats Georgia without Todd Gurley, I'll be happy.

But if Florida beats Georgia with Todd Gurley, I'll be happier.

I'd rather win despite justice adjudicated for a team than because of iniquity inflicted on it.

Even if that team is Georgia.