By Mickey Furfari
For the Times West Virginian
The National Collegiate Athletic Association, otherwise known as simply the NCAA, has been under fire.
Lawsuits have been filed against that organization by former athletes alleging responsibility for injuries. It is facing numerous issues.
All of this is not surprising to widely known Morgantown lawyer James “Rocky” Gianola, himself a former West Virginia University football player in the 1970s. And the Morgantown High School graduate has kept close to athletes and their struggles over the years.
He had this to say when asked about the current clamor nationally that college athletes should be paid in addition to being on scholarship:
“I think paying players is a potential to opening Pandora’s Box, but I do think that the NCAA needs to do something to give the athletes additional benefits.
“Athletes collectively do make a lot of money for the colleges and the NCAA, and the players struggle (financially).
“They (NCAA and schools) certainly could provide a lot more benefits without it being in the form of a paycheck.
“But the NCAA doesn’t even allow that.”
After a brief pause, Gianola continued, “Something needs to be done because kids in athletics struggle just to make ends meet. And to get through college, the benefits don’t cover everything.
“I think the NCAA needs to be taken down a couple notches. They’re a little bit out of control. They’re running the organization as a dictatorship and getting into areas and making decisions affecting kids’ lives that they have no business making.”
As far as existing national litigation, Gianola said, “I think the NCAA needs to be sued for a lot of things. I’m not sure about head injuries, but it seems like those are the most detrimental to football players. And I think some of the rules they are making will help with that.
“But again, I think the NCAA needs to be sued on a bunch of stuff.”
Gianola, who is 56 years old, has had a highly successful law practice in Morgantown for more than 25 years.