When the NCAA released a video Tuesday that purported to show prospective student-athletes what a “day in the life” looked like, it was widely mocked by numerous current and former student-athletes as omitting many of the more grueling aspects of their experiences.
On Wednesday, former Texas Longhorns linebacker Emmanuel Acho took the criticism to another level by posting a parody video of the NCAA’s effort. Describing it as “a REAL day in the life” of an “athlete and student,” Acho, who went on to play for the Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles, made sure to give viewers a taste of how stressful and exhausting those 17-plus hours actually are.
Describing the NCAA officials responsible for their video as “clueless,” Acho said to The Post via email, “It’s unfortunate and embarrassing because it showed. They don’t know what the life is REALLY like, they just know what the schedule says on paper, but paper is far from the day.
“However, when putting out a video to the masses, it must be accurate especially with a hot topic issue like collegiate athletes.”
Where the young man in the NCAA video is first seen in bed, wiping a bit of sleep from his eyes before popping up in a classroom eager to involve himself in the subject at hand, Acho shows himself groggily swiping at an alarm clock showing that it’s 5:25 a.m., then grabbing some gear and heading off to lift weights. Replacing the NCAA’s jaunty, up-tempo music is the Young Jeezy track, “Vacation,” with its lyrics, “Said I’m stressed out, so tired/My days, so long.”
The NCAA has its student-athlete panting a bit while jogging with others, then enjoying a carefree moment on campus before playing in a basketball game. Finally we see him briefly standing in a library with a pair of other students, then checking his phone and calling it a night, back in bed.
“If you have the talent and dedication to succeed in school and in sports,” a voice-over says at the end of the NCAA’s spot, “we’ll provide the opportunity.”
Meanwhile, after a strenuous gym session, Acho is shown rolling his eyes and grabbing a protein shake before rushing off to a classroom. We then see him running drills with teammates to the point of exhaustion, before a snippet is spliced in from a decade-old video showing former Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp banging angrily on a whiteboard and yelling at players, including Acho in his Longhorns uniform, “Everybody just do your job!”
Next we see Acho appear to wake up from a nap he took when he was supposed to be studying in the library, check his phone and head to bed, at which point one final unhappy moment is visited upon him. His phone shows a text from “Ashlee,” asking, “Wanna come over and watch a movie?”
With the phone showing that it’s 10:25 p.m., Acho replies, “Ughh I can’t,” noting that he has to be lifting weights at 6 a.m. The video ends with the NCAA’s logo and the mocking tagline, “Providing opportunities for athlete exploitation.”
After posting the video on social media, Acho received a torrent of approving replies from others who knew all too well what a “real” day in the life of a student-athlete was like. “How that [NCAA] commercial really should have went!” exclaimed former Tulane running back Orleans Darkwa, currently an NFL free agent.
Acho, who works as an ESPN college football analyst, said that as soon as he watched the NCAA’s video, he “knew this was false and someone had to do something,” but he didn’t necessarily think that someone would be him. However, after seeing former Eagles teammate say of the video on Twitter, “I can’t wait to see the parody videos of this,” Acho thought, “Why not me!”
The 28-year-old, clearly still in athletic form, said he filmed his video on the University of Texas campus, starting at 8 p.m. and taking an overnight break before finishing up at 8 a.m. His efforts were well worth it, to judge from the reaction of many of his peers.
Many of the quibbles Acho did receive centered on things he himself left out, such as “getting kicked out of class for being late [because] practice ended at 11:45 and class started at 12,” according to Atlanta Falcons running back and former Oregon Duck Kenjon Barner. Some others commented that the living quarters Acho showed appeared much nicer than what they had, while more than a few questioned whether he really would have turned down the invitation from “Ashlee.”
Standing in stark contrast to Acho’s replies was the reception for the NCAA’s video. Former college athletes came out en masse to criticize its Pollyanna-ish depiction of what an average day might look like, with Barner saying, “No wait I get it, I understand this is what it’s like for regular students who play in intramural league sports.”
“This is not how it goes,” tweeted UCLA wide receiver Theo Howard. “I wish I had a day like this,” said Steelers offensive lineman R.J. Prince, who played at North Carolina.
“All former and current student-athletes know that this is not an accurate representation,” said Dallas Morning News sports reporter and former UCLA track and field athlete Tyler Dragon.
Wondering where the “early morning workout” was for the athlete depicted by the NCAA, former NFL linebacker Chase Vaughn tweeted, “I don’t see any ice wrapped on that arm he’s raising. Did he not have any homework or studying to do before bed? What kind of major he got? Underwater basket weaving?”
“And this bum doesn’t watch film but got time to dance,” Vaughn continued. “NCAA is lying to these kids.”
“They left out the grueling aspects of practices, not once, but twice a day,” Acho said. “The aspect of study hall till the wee hours of the morning, and also the eating on the go. There’s rarely time for nice, relaxing sit-down meals.”
The NCAA was already set for more than its usual share of criticism this week, given the start of its biggest event, the men’s college basketball tournament, and the resulting spotlight on the lack of compensation to elite student-athletes commensurate with the value they provide to their schools and the organization overall. To many, the video fit into that criticism, by showing NCAA officials as either being clueless or intentionally deceptive about the many sacrifices and challenges athletes can be expected to face for the sake of playing college sports.
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