There is one basic truth when it comes to any team or league that has teams charging tuition to players. Every single player, no matter what the skill level, age, or any other defining trait, must be treated exactly the same as the other.
Teams and players have been cheating the pay to play system for ever. In 2013, the illegal scholarships of players has grown to a point where it has become an epidemic. Even in Canada, with the advent of the pay to play model in many leagues, players are receiving more illegal scholarships than ever before.
USA Hockey specifically states that any scholarship not based upon meaningful work is illegal. But hey, any third grader can find a way around that loosely phrased rule.
The real problem is when a player is seeking to play at the NCAA level one day. The NCAA absolutely forbids that any player receive a financial gain or scholarship to play junior hockey.
TJHN is now in possession of emails and evidence where teams, coaches, and general managers are offering illegal scholarships. These proofs have been obtained through players and parents who are tired of seeing other players receive this special treatment, and some players and parents who were offered these illegal benefits yet turned them down knowing they were illegal.
TJHN has been made aware of a few leagues already launching internal investigations into some of these teams and staff who are making these offerings. All we can say is it is long over due.
The most interesting thing is the level of creativity that some teams are using now. That creativity though in some states would be considered a financial fraud crime against other members of the teams in question who did not receive the same benefit.
When speaking to a Prosecuting Attorney in Michigan, TJHN was informed that in his opinion; “Charging one person one price, and another person another price for the exact same product, without making the person paying more for the product aware that they could purchase it for a lesser amount of money could easily be seen as fraud, and at the minimum could be seen as a violation of the consumer protection act.”
Want an example? Several teams are scholarshiping players through a creative corporate sponsorship scheme.
One version of the scheme has the team selling a corporate sponsorship and taking the money paid by the sponsor and directly applying it to the players tuition. The problem here is that the only reason the player is receiving the money is because the player is going to be a “stud” for the team. The other part of the problem is that other players on the team are not being given the same opportunity.
If the team collected corporate sponsorship money and used it to reduce every player on the teams tuition, then that would not be a problem.
The player who is receiving the sponsor money without the rest of the team receiving it, is in direct violation of the NCAA’s improper financial benefit rules, and USA Hockey rules.
Another example? Teams are taking cash tryout money and handing it to players so that they can use that money to pay down tuition. Nearly completely untraceable, the team circumvents the system and violates the rules in order to get the “stud” they want.
Another example? Teams are taking checks from parents and then having equal amounts sent back to the parents from accounts that are not directly traceable to the team.
In some cases, the illegal scholarships are going to a point where players are not having to pay for billet. One email contained information on a player having his flight paid for by the team.
The bottom line:
Illegal scholarships are not only against NCAA rules, but they are the clearest definition of cheating you can find at the pay to play level. Imagine how you would feel if you paid ten thousand dollars for something only to sind out that the person sitting next to you received the same thing and didn’t pay anything for it?
David Wagner – Staff Writer