Michigan players aren’t ready to give up their one shining moment.
In the growing controversy surrounding the debate over whether collegiate athletes should be paid, several Wolverines vehemently rejected the notion they should boycott the NCAA Tournament in an act of protest.
“No. I’m definitely not going to boycott the NCAA Tournament,” said senior guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, laughing, following Michigan’s 77-71 overtime win over Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament Thursday. “I’m not going to even express my opinion on that. I mean there’s stuff going on – you see it, you hear about it, but it is what it is. You still have to go out there and play the game.”
Earlier this week, former Michigan star and Fab Five member Jalen Rose publicly campaigned for players to boycott the NCAA Tournament in an attempt to leverage the NCAA, which generates nearly $1 billion in revenue on a yearly basis, to reconsider their position on compensating players beyond four-year scholarships.
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“I wish NCAA players understood the power that they now have,” Rose said on ESPN’s “Jalen and Jacoby” on Tuesday. “In a climate of so many things that are changing, so many discussions that have now come to the forefront that have been closeted for so very long – for a multitude of reasons. I wish NCAA players would exercise that power by boycotting the NCAA Tournament.”
Star big man Moe Wagner, who is considered a potential first-round pick in the upcoming NBA draft, called Rose’s suggestion “interesting” but said he decided to simply focus on basketball after talking with teammates regarding the FBI’s investigation and the growing debate over paying collegiate athletes.
“It’s interesting and we talked about it,” Wagner said. “It’s a very interesting view. But I’ve got to be honest, I’m not trying to comment on that, and just play basketball – that’s all I’m focusing on.”
While Charles Matthews, Michigan’s second-leading scorer, laughed off Rose’s suggestion of boycotting the tournament, the fact that the NCAA is a billion dollar industry isn’t lost on him.
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“The NCAA is a big money-making business. I think that’s really obvious,” Matthews said. “We just come out here and we do our job and try to compete and win as many games as we can.”
Sophomore guard Zavier Simpson said he’s happy with his scholarship and opted not to comment any further.
“I’m happy. I have a scholarship. I’m playing for Michigan. That’s it. I’m neutral, I don’t want to be on this side, that side,” Simpson said. “That stuff is serious and I don’t want to get involved with the FBI or any of that. I’m happy with my scholarship.”
The debate over paying athletes was recently brought back into the spotlight due to Yahoo Sports’ report claiming the FBI discovered during its investigation of the NCAA that several high-profile current and former players- including Dennis Smith, Markelle Fultz and Miles Bridges, among others – received payments from former agent Andy Miller to convince them to sign with his agency, ASM Sports. ESPN also reported Arizona coach Sean Miller was caught on tape talking about offering $100,000 to convince DeAndre Ayton to sign with the Wildcats – a report Miller publicly denied Thursday.
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Matthews, who was a four-star prospect coming out of high school, said he “never” received any money during his recruiting process, but smiled when asked if he knew of any players who did.
“I don’t know anything about that stuff. Nothing at all,” Matthews said.