Jan. 3, 2007
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) -Ohio State wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez thinks college athletes are exploited. Florida cornerback Ryan Smith isn't so sure.
Gonzalez, an All-Big Ten selection, appreciates the lavish hospitality he and his teammates have received since arriving in Arizona for Monday night's Bowl Championship Series title game. But on Wednesday he sharply criticized a college sports industry that generates millions for participating conferences and coaches but doesn't pay athletes.
Asked if college athletes were exploited, Gonzalez replied, "I think, in all honesty, one of the most exploited groups of people in the country are college athletes. We basically have a job that generates millions and millions of dollars, but at the end of the day we don't see any of it."
Each of the teams in the national championship game will be paid between $14 million and $17 million.
Smith said he wasn't sure athletes were exploited. But he said an athletic scholarship is a form of payment.
"We do get an education from the deal and life experience that a lot of people don't," Smith said. "When you start talking about money, it kind of changes the game. That's the kind of things you're dealing with in the NFL. What makes college football so different and unique is the fact that everybody's kind of playing for each other. There's no money involved. It's just a family unit thing. We might be getting exploited. But I don't really see the point for players to be getting paid."
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith is against colleges paying players.
"When you get to a point where you're paying athletes, then you're getting into a true employer-employee relationship," he said outside Ohio State's practice field. "If we start paying our athletes, we all know what would happen. It just would change everything."
ALLIGATOR IN ARIZONA: The Gators had an out-of-place visitor at their hotel earlier this week.
Ryan Smith said a fan brought an alligator to the team hotel, displaying the reptile for players and coaches. Although the fan might have been trying to make the Gators feel at home - there are alligators in several lakes on Florida's campus - all Smith could think about was how it could survive in the desert.
"I thought he needs to be somewhere near water," Smith said. "I don't know how he can be in the desert like that. It was a random alligator on the cement. I was like, 'Get the guy some water or something."'
SMITH'S HEISMAN: Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith wants to keep the location of his Heisman Trophy secret. He swears it's safe.
"It's in a very safe place," Smith said. 'It's dear to me. It means a lot. I put it away. I want it to be my mother's trophy. She deserves it."
Smith won the Heisman in a landslide last month. He had the trophy shipped home, hoping to avoid the type of mishap that happened the last time an Ohio State player won the award. Eddie George, who won in 1995, had his trophy get stuck in an airport X-ray machine. The tip of the bronze statuette's right index finger was broken and the middle finger was bent.
Smith says his is in "perfect" condition.
CASEY BACK: Florida tight end Tate Casey was off crutches for the first time in nearly three weeks Wednesday and expects to play in the title game Monday night.
"Anything can happen with a tape job and a brace and all that and the adrenaline and the fact that it's the national championship game," Casey said. "Like I told coach (Urban) Meyer about two weeks ago: You'll have to kill me to keep me out of it."
Casey, who has six receptions for 58 yards and two touchdowns, sprained his ankle in early December and sustained ligament damage. He spent two weeks in a cast, then was in a protective boot and on crutches for a week.
"I don't want to kill him, so he's going to play," Meyer said. "In a limited role, we're hoping to have him back for that game."
ATKINS RETURNING? Former Florida cornerback Avery Atkins, kicked off the team last summer after he was accused of striking the mother of his 2-month-old child, could return to school and eventually might be allowed to rejoin the Gators.
"Avery Atkins is trying to get back to school," Meyer said. "He won't be part of the team. Are we trying to help Avery Atkins? Absolutely. He's been dismissed from the team. He will not be part of the football team. I won't say never. I don't know that. There's so much he's got to do and he's not on scholarship if he does come back. He's just going to try to get his life in order. We're going to help with that if we can."
QUICK-HITTERS: Jack Hanna, director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium - and frequent guest on "Late Show with David Letterman" - visited Ohio State's practice on Wednesday. ... Ohio State cornerback Antonio Smith, nursing a shoulder injury, is expected to play on Monday, coach Jim Tressel said.
AP Sports Writers Mark Long and Andrew Bagnato also contributed to this report.