Houston Texans running back and former University of Tennessee star Arian Foster grew up in poverty and his mother had to pawn her wedding ring to put food on the table.
In a new documentary, Foster, who played at Tennessee from 2005-08, admits to accepting money during his senior year from people associated with the University of Tennessee football program that makes millions of dollars off the “student-athletes.” He also rips the NCAA for being bullies that sanction athletes that line the NCAA’s pockets for accepting money to help make ends meet.
“Side people always offer you money all the time, just random people usually. ‘Can I take care of you?'” Foster said Friday after practice in response to a clip of his comments in a forthcoming documentary. “It happens all the time. When you’re at college and your family doesn’t make a lot of money, it’s hard to make ends meet. Toward the end of the month, you run out every month. It’s a problem all across America. It’s just when you play top-tier Division I football, there’s people that are willing to help you out. I got helped out.”
According to Sports Illustrated, Foster makes his comments in the documentary, “Schooled: The Price of College Sports.”
“Honestly, I don’t know if this will throw us into an NCAA investigation, but my senior year I was getting money on the side,” Foster reportedly says in the EPIX documentary. “I really didn’t have any money. I had to either pay the rent or buy some food. I remember the feeling, like, `Man, be careful,’ but there’s nothing wrong with it. You’re not going to convince me that there is something wrong with it.”
Foster said, “there were plenty of times where throughout the month I didn’t have enough for food,” and mentioned that, “Our stadium had like 107,000 seats; 107,000 people buying a ticket to come watch us play. It’s tough just like knowing that, being aware of that. We had just won and I had a good game, 100 yards or whatever You go outside and there’s hundreds of kids waiting for you. You’re signing autographs, taking pictures, whatever”:
“Then I walk back, and reality sets in. I go to my dorm room, open my fridge, and there’s nothing in my fridge. Hold up, man. What just happened? Why don’t I have anything to show for what I just did? There was a point where we had no food, no money, so I called my coach and I said, ‘Coach, we don’t have no food. We don’t have no money. We’re hungry. Either you give us some food, or I’m gonna go do something stupid.’ He came down and he brought like 50 tacos for like four or five of us. Which is an NCAA violation. [laughs] But then, the next day I walk up to the facility and I see my coach pull up in a brand new Lexus. Beautiful.”
“I’m a firm believer that an employee should get paid for his work,” Foster added. “And, 100 percent, I see student athletes as employees. Hiding from it is just cowardly.”
On Friday, Foster blasted the NCAA.
“I feel very strong about the injustice the NCAA has been doing for years,” Foster said. “That’s why I said what I said. I’m not trying to throw anyone under the bus or anything like that. … I feel like I shouldn’t have to run from the NCAA anymore. They’re like these big bullies. I’m not scared of them.”
He said the NCAA “have us feeling like that’s wrong (to get paid).’
“It’s not wrong. That’s how I keep my lights on now and there’s nothing wrong with it. But they have us feeling like it’s OK to sanction 18-year-old kids because they received money for playing a sport,” Foster said. “And they try to disguise it under the rule of amateurism. And if you watch the documentary, it’s just been a big charade for years. And it’s about time for it to come to an end.”
SEC Commissioner Mike Slive told the Associated Press that “the current NCAA rules and regulations are part of the problem, they’re not part of the solution.” Slive and other SEC coaches have insisted that they allowed to pay athletes stipends so they do not find themselves in the situation in which Foster found himself. SEC coaches even voted to pay players out of their own pockets if the NCAA would allow them to do so.