By In Stuff

Value to the labor

There was an utterly fascinating quote in Dan Wetzel’s column Monday from Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby. The quote revolves around the question of paying college athletes. It seems that Bowlsby was a college wrestler and so — and I respect this generally — he finds some of his strongest sympathies are with student-athletes of what we like to call minor-sports. His starts by saying that as a wrestler he worked as hard as any football player. In fact, he probably worked HARDER than any football player. I’m sure he did. Wrestlers do work very hard.

And then he said this:

“The fact is we have student-athletes in all sorts of sports that, if you apply any form of value to their labor, you cannot pay football players and not pay gymnasts just because the football player has the blessing of an adoring public.”

This really is an astonishing quote … and probably not for the reason Bowlsby intended. The challenges facing college sports in 2014 are extraordinarily complicated and very few people seem willing to look at those challenges with a clear eye and without some oversimplified solution or platitude. That said, this quote — and the bizarre naiveté behind it — show what might be the toughest problem of all: There are people who think the way college sports are run today is “fair.”

First thing to do is take the Bowlsby quote and insert real life examples.

“The fact is we have people in life, if you apply any form of value to their labor, you cannot pay ADAM SANDLER and not pay INNER CITY TEACHERS just because the ACTOR has the blessing of an adoring public.”

Or this:

“The fact is we have people in life, if you apply any form of value to their labor, you cannot pay CLAYTON KERSHAW and not pay EMERGENCY ROOM DOCTORS just because the PITCHER has the blessing of an adoring public.”

Or this:

“The fact is we have people in life, if you apply any form of value to their labor, you cannot pay THOSE KIDS FROM ONE DIRECTION and not pay FIREFIGHTERS just because the BAND has the blessing of an adoring public.”

My father worked in a factory and he worked a billion times harder than I do. I make more money than he did writing silly little stories about sports. Is that fair? No. It’s the opposite of fair, it’s an absurdity, but this is the way of the world. Nobody who has spent any real time in the world can possibly believe that people get paid based on how hard they work. I know someone who has dedicated his life to helping children in the Middle East learn about their so-called enemies so that one day they will stop being enemies. He doesn’t make nearly as much money as Bob Bowlsby.

Bowlsby knows this. And that’s why the quote is so astonishing. He KNOWS exactly what’s happening. In a business (like any big business) of cold calculations, deceitful manipulations, insane money grabbing and NCAA president Mark Emmert talking inanities, he’s talking about how hard college wrestlers work and how they deserve as much as football players.

See, behind it all there are people who really believe that the college system of today is “fair” in a way that life could never be fair. They are the dreamers. They really manage to believe in this college sports nirvana where all athletes are the same, where revenue sports joyfully support non-revenue sports, where the “adoring public” is merely jubilant spectators of the greater cause of college athletics.

And, in a way, these dreamers are even more threatening than the cutthroats. Hey, you can see the cutthroat fingerprints everywhere. The NCAA is stuffing 80,000 people into a Dallas Dome to “watch” college basketball. The NCAA throughout this tournament repeatedly refers to the the players as “student athletes” — in one press conference I counted that awkward phrase 11 times. The NCAA is powerless to stop schools from jumping conference to conference, smashing any sense of geography or history or continuity in a naked money-rush. They are powerless to stop conferences and schools from starting their own television networks as if they are academic Oprahs. They are powerless to stop football and basketball coaches from becoming (by far) the highest paid figures in public institutions. They are powerless to stop these things even if they wanted to stop them … which they pretty clearly don’t. And they sign a larger television deal and demand more power to control things.

Then, the dreamers have the gall to talk about what would be fair for the gymnasts and wrestlers as if this system is man’s noble effort to right society’s economic wrongs and be fair to all.

College sports are a big, broad, sweeping thing — no one statement or one plan can possibly cover everyone. What happens at Kentucky basketball has nothing to do with what’s happening with Central Missouri basketball and even less with what’s happening at Gardner Webb women’s lacrosse.

There’s a huge mission going on here and it’s way too easy and way too convenient to look only at what’s happening with the Top 60 college football and basketball schools. I want to believe in the overall mission of college sports too. I believe colleges should do its best to fund those sports that don’t make money, just like they should fund programs in the arts. There are countless stories about how much college sports at every level can impact the lives of people and teach them lessons that last for the rest of their lives. It really would be a shame if, with all the money flowing around academics, schools could not find ways to keep giving opportunities and hope to talented young athletes in every sport, whether it’s football or wrestling, basketball or swimming or softball.

But it’s heartbreaking to hear the commissioner of one of America’s biggest conferences offer such a fairy tale reason why you can’t pay football players and not pay wrestlers. Look, college sports as we know them will get blown up and put back together in the next few years because there’s a fundamental unfairness. With players talking about unionizing, with viable lawsuits threatening the NCAA’s hold, with increasing public outrage over athletes (or student athletes) getting hammered for trying to make a buck or two on their own talents — it’s going to change. That’s a certainty. The only question is how and the answers you mostly hear on both sides are way to pat, way too simple, they come with as many problems as solutions.

No, creating a college sports structure for our time will take a lot of grown-up thinking. And if the people in power now want to have some say, they need to start looking at things in a grown-up way.

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89 Responses to Value to the labor

  1. oldtowncardinal says:

    “The fact is we have people in life, if you apply any form of value to their labor, you cannot pay THE BIG 12 COMMISSIONER and not pay A HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETIC DIRECTOR just because the COMMISSIONER’S BASKETBALL AND FOOTBALL PLAYERS have the blessing of an adoring public.”

    I’d prefer to give guys like this the benefit of the doubt and assume they’re just misguided, or blinded by their love of the myth of college athletics. But it’s becoming more difficult by the day. College sports today are a mass delusion we somehow all agreed to, and Joe’s right: it won’t last much longer. The colleges have to get out of the business of running professional sports teams, as much as I enjoy the product.

  2. I couldn’t care less whether colleges pay their athletes or not, as long as the college sports programs pay for themselves. I know they already don’t do that, and that is the problem that needs to be fixed, IMO.

    • oldtowncardinal says:

      I’m with you here – this is a problem. There’s minimal financial transparency and way more programs than you’d expect don’t pay for themselves. Unfortunately, I think this and other systemic issues stem from the original sin: pretending that football and basketball as run now are not professional sports teams.

    • I’m not sure what you mean. Just like any other dept, the athletic dept and all of its sports get a budget. The income comes from various sources, but ultimately, everyone gets money to fund sports. So it is self funded. Granted, football and basketball pays the bills most places, but it’s not like there is no funding. Each University deals with the funding issue in their own way. That’s the way any company operates. Cash cow products fund overhead, emerging products and research for newer products. College athletics operates like any other business.

    • Donald A. Coffin says:

      “College sports programs” will never pay for themselves. And why should they? Almost no extracurricular activity “pays” for itself. College speech & debate teams don’t. College theater programs don’t. College bands/orchestras/choirs don’t. College *intra-mural* athletic programs don’t. College newspaper & yearbook programs rarely do. College literary magazines don’t. College radio and TV stations probably never do (if they did, WFIU–Indiana University’s broadcasting efforts–wouldn’t do annual pledge drives, now, would they?). (I did speech & debate and IM athletics and student newspaper and student yearbook and student radio. It all cost me no money, but put it all together I probably spent 35-40 hours a week on them, combined, for 4 years.)

      The issue isn’t what “pays” for itself and what doesn’t. The issue is what becomes so large and important that it warps other institutional goals. That’s the issue, in my mind. And I believe that one way to end that warping is, in fact, to do one of two things: Explicitly commit to reducing the importance of college athletics–by ending broadcasting and reducing ticket prices and slashing coaches’ salaries. Or take the wealth away from the universities by paying the people who generate that wealth–the athletes. (Or both.) By taking the wealth away from non-contributors and paying the contributors, the institutions will be forced to determine how important athletics *ought to be.* If it takes paying football players (at Alabama and similar schools) and basketball players (at–well, you know where) to make that happen, I’m in favor of it. And having an institutional mechanism for protecting the athletes’ interests–and that’s what a union is (or at least ought to be)–not relying on the coaches or the ADs or the presidents to “do the right thing” (as one Big 10 football coach was quoted in today’s Indianapolis star as saying they did, and would do) is maybe a way of making it happen.

      The unionization issue is tricky, which is (of course) why this is starting at a private institution, which is covered by federal labor laws, rather than at state institutions, which are not.

      I will now stop ranting.

      • You may not be aware of this, but many colleges tack on a fee to the total tuition bill to help pay for athletics. For my son, it’s $100 per semester. This, plus ticket revenue, plus any TV, plus any money games they play, plus booster donations pay for sports programs.

      • I disagree. I DO think it is important for college athletics to pay for themselves, but maybe that is because they have become so ridiculously outsized. I can’t find the link now, but I read an article that the taxpayers are footing millions of dollars to subsidize ASU (and UA) athletics. At the same time, college tuition to those schools is going through the roof, even though the mission of those schools to provide education at minimal cost is written into the Arizona constitution.

        IMO, we need to get athletics off the public dole, whether it is public financed stadiums or public university football coaches.

    • Which hunt? says:

      Good players are kept out of the NFL and driven into a system where they do not get paid, but their careers have a very real possibility of being over on any given play. That is definitively unfair. I don’t have the answer, but NCAA football, especially, needs to be blown up and built into something a little less exploitative.

  3. Scott P. says:

    You are absolutely right, Joe. But you can’t then turn around and say you want the NCAA reformed in order to benefit the athletes. As you point out, the way the world works, the average wrestler or whomever will get shafted just as much, if not more, if college athletes are paid. The people it benefits is the very top tier football and basketball players. Which is fine, except that those pushing for reform don’t want to admit they’re doing it for maybe 200-300 kids nationwide, they want the mantle of virtue that comes with the claim to be doing it for tens of thousands of student-athletes.

    On the one side, the NCAA gets rich, the students get shafted. On the other side, the NCAA gets slightly less rich, 300 top athletes get rich, the students still get shafted. Pardon me if I don’t see much difference between them.

    • jposnanski says:

      I don’t disagree with this at all but my point is not that I want the NCAA reformed to benefit athletes. I’m saying the NCAA WILL BE reformed, that’s an absolute inevitability now, the only question is how. And what needs to be happening is for people to start looking at this in a real life way and not fall back on fairy tale arguments about how hard wrestlers work.

      If paying those top college athletes leads to wrestling programs and gymnastics programs and swimming programs getting cut, then the people running the colleges and the NCAA will have dramatically failed in my opinion and college sports will be poorer for it. But the prevent that from happening, I think the NCAA has to deal with hard realities.

      • oldtowncardinal says:

        The dichotomy of interests between the revenue and non-revenue sports and between the top football and basketball players and all other athletes is a critical one, as you both point out. It will blow up athletic departments. It also is why unions won’t work in this context: Miguel Cabrera has much more in common with a fringe major leaguer than a two year NBA-bound hoops player does with a scholarship gymnast.

        • There are dozens of industries where different types of workers with different interests form different unions. No one would say that we can’t have unions in MLB because players have different interests than groundskeepers or beer vendors. People should have the right to pursue and protect their own interests — we don’t take that right away from one group of people just because there is another group of people whose interests diverge.

          Just because a situation is complicated doesn’t mean that there isn’t a solution.

      • I agree with that sentiment completely.

        I also fail to understand why a certain subset of people — college football and basketball players — need to work hundreds and hundreds of hours, for free, in very risky endeavors, so that some other people — college wrestlers and volleyball players — can pursue their own individual athletic endeavors. If we as a country (or private colleges as institutions) think that non-revenue college sports are valuable and that our young people should be able to participate in those pursuits, then we as a country need to pay to provide them with that opportunity.

        But it’s horrifically unfair to say that football and basketball players, who have very valuable and marketable skills for which they would otherwise be paid thousands if not millions of dollars, cannot make money on those skills because we are worried about athletes in non-revenue sports. College football and basketball players should not be responsible for creating opportunities for athletes in other sports.

        • The “unfair” rant rings hollow. As stated, isn’t it unfair that sports stars are paid more than teachers or policeman? Many “valuable” basketball and football players will eventually make “unfair” salaries. If they don’t eventually cash in, how valuable are they really? The colleges choose how to fund their programs today, and only for the larger programs does football fund anything. Most smaller colleges either dump football because of the high cost, or play D3 ball where there are no scholarships. Fairness is never part of the equation in business. Demand drives business decisions. Those programs that have 70,000 fans willing to pay $50-100, or more, every Saturday will have one strategy. Those drawing a couple of thousand fans paying $5-10 will approach it another way.

          • tomemos says:

            “The “unfair” rant rings hollow. As stated, isn’t it unfair that sports stars are paid more than teachers or policeman? ”

            But the point is that college sports stars are creating financial value (not just social value like teachers and policemen) with their labor right now, yet don’t get to see any of it.

            “Many “valuable” basketball and football players will eventually make “unfair” salaries. If they don’t eventually cash in, how valuable are they really?”

            Well, they’re extremely valuable to the billion-dollar business that is college sports. What kind of point is this? Should Macaulay Culkin not have been paid for Home Alone, since after all he never went on to have a lucrative acting career as an adult?

  4. Larry Rosenthal says:

    I dearly hope you’re right, that they will get blown apart and put back together. In the putting together, I fervently hope they are remade in a sane way. In many ways, college sports are our society in, well, not exactly microcosm. The money grubbing, ingenuous and deceitful mantras, the stars and the masses of also rans. I’m not at all clear it’ll get fixed. There’s too much cynicism at the top.

  5. David says:

    I would prefer colleges not to pay any student-athletes. But I come to that point as a taxpayer. I would rather have those football and basketball revenues funneled back into the “minor” sports and into the general fund of the institutions. What I DO wish would happen, though, is that the NCAA would not care what private citizens do with their private money. If some booster wants to pay some college athlete $5 mil a year to dunk a ball, I say go for it. Let the boosters give as much as they want. But I’d prefer it not come out of my paycheck. That’s as far as my concern goes, I guess.

    • Andrew W. says:

      I’d agree with this, and it may be the most operational solution. The colleges don’t pay any of their athletes, allowing them to continue supporting non-revenue sports and arts departments and other parts of college life that, while they don’t bring in any revenue for the universities and colleges are important. Then, if Johnny Manziel or Jabari Parker or heck, a top wrestler or swimmer, can make money through a sponsorship deal or a booster or selling autographs, let them. The stars generating the revenue get paid, and the entire system doesn’t topple.

      • brokenyogi says:

        I’d agree with this if college coaching staffs also agreed to work for room and board and maybe a per diem. And the same goes for the NCAA staff. But when head coaches get paif $5-6 million a year, and the players nothing but room, board, and tuition, how exactly is that fair to those wrestlers out there? All those millions going to coaching staffs and admin could pay for a whole lot of minor college sports. And maybe, just maybe, something for the academics that college is actually supposed to be about.

  6. Tom says:

    A ticket to a Kentucky basketball game costs $50. The average ticket price for 19 of the 30 NBA teams is LESS than $50.

    As Casey Stengal liked to say, you can look it up. I did.

    Yet the NBA teams pay their players multi-million dollar salaries.

    Meanwhile, a college scholarship allows a player to have a seat in five classes (some of which might have even gone empty otherwise), some books, a dorm room, and food at the training table.

    NBA teams have an average payroll of $68 million and charge me less than $50. So why can’t the universities let a player eat all he can handle and still charge me only about five bucks a ticket? Or maybe ten?

    In college, who is getting that money that goes to players in the NBA?

    Something is wrong here. Something is very wrong.

    • Ticket prices are driven by demand, not by what a team has to charge to meet expenses. They can only charge what people will pay. Kentucky has a loyal fan base that creates sell outs, so demand exceeds supply. Therefore Kentucky can charge premium prices. Not all NBA teams have the demand to charge premium prices. Economic laws at work.

    • Patrick Bohn says:

      “NBA teams have an average payroll of $68 million and charge me less than $50. So why can’t the universities let a player eat all he can handle and still charge me only about five bucks a ticket? Or maybe ten?”

      Because professional sports teams have enough money coming in through other revenue streams to subsidize their ticket prices. You don’t honestly think gate receipts cover a payroll, let alone operating costs, for most professional teams, do you?

      • Paul says:

        Nor does the gate represent the college team take for that matter.

      • Geoff says:

        Ticket prices are in no way “subsidized” by other revenue streams. They are set to maximize revenue, regardless of what teams make from other revenue sources. UK basketball has plenty of other revenue sources, as well, but aside from giving up a bit of revenue in the form of cheap (or free) student tickets, they’re still charging as much as they can for tickets to the games.

        • Patrick Bohn says:

          Subsidize was a poor word choice.

          The point, however, is that NBA player salaries and ticket prices can not be tied together the way Tom mentions because the tickets are not priced to ensure that the resulting revenue from them will cover the costs of player salaries.

  7. Rich says:

    What if you put it like this? “The fact is we have student-athletes in all sorts of sports that, if you apply any form of value to their labor, you cannot pay MEN and not pay WOMEN just because the MAN’S SPORT has the blessing of an adoring public.”

  8. Buster says:

    Joe, agree it is a fairy tale, and one that is almost as fake as the bromance fable you wrote on Saint Calipari the other day.

  9. tarhoosier says:

    Why must athletes in NCAA revenue sports be students? Tell Kentucky they can recruit the best basketball players they can afford. UNC same thing. Alabama, buy the best young football talent available. Let the revenue decide. Retract the “student” part. If an amazing young person is talented and intelligent he/she can attend class at no charge. But break the phony bond of student and athlete.

  10. glotzerg says:

    You aren’t being fair to the quote. Adam Sandler and Inner City School teachers aren’t doing the same job, or even similar jobs. He’s saying that paying college athletes based on what they are “worth” would be like paying the factory workers who assemble the Corvette three times as much as the workers who assemble the Cruze just because the Corvette is considered by most people to be a nicer car.

  11. Brent says:

    And the fact that the kids aren’t paid isn’t even the worst part, the worst part is that a multimillion dollar organization (the NBA) and a multibillion dollar organization (the NFL) get to use the NCAA as a (very willing, probably colluding) free minor league where all the risk of injury is squarely on the shoulders of 18 and 19 year olds and none on those organizations. (see, for instance, Manziel, Johnny and Clowney,Jadaveon, who actually are the lucky ones b/c they managed to make it through an unnecessary unpaid minor league season without having a major injury that ruined their draft stock)

    • Geoff says:

      Completely agree. This is why I sincerely hope that some enterprising agent will eventually find a way to destroy the drafts in professional sports for good. This is the only industry in which corporations are allowed to collude against future employees in an effort to ensure they receive less money than they would on the open market. The notion that drafts have anything to do with competitive balance is laughable.

      • This arrangement is setup by the NFL collective bargaining agreement. It’s the players that gain the most under this arrangement. Existing players get a bigger piece of the pie if rookie salaries are kept down, and revenues are maximized by the draft when there is some competitive balance. This benefits both the players and owners. If the players didn’t benefit and agree to this policy through collective bargaining it would be illegal.

  12. DjangoZ says:

    One thing to remember: for many large universities, the donations from alumni are directly and significantly tied to the performance of the football and basketball teams.

    Alumni give, not so much out of fondness for their classroom and learning experiences, as for memories of sporting events or current performance of those sports teams.

    So the real financial effect of college sports is not just calculated in ticket sales and TV contracts, it’s in the huge endowments and donations.

    As government subsidies for universities have been cut and tuition has gone up and up to the breaking point and people now have to question whether a college degree is actually worth it financially, the extra revenue and donations that come from college sports are being used to pay for things like facilities maintenance and professor’s salaries.

    So if the college sports system is changed, and I believe it will too, the big casualty isn’t going to be to wrestling or field hockey programs, which are fairly cheap. The big effect will be on the physical infrastructure and teaching efforts of the university.

    I realize this is a little out there…but what if changing college revenue sports changes colleges as whole? What if those revenues and donations have been propping up many universities and if they are taken away the whole system implodes and dramatically changes?

    • Stephen says:

      This depends on whose numbers you believe. There are very good reasons to believe that no more than a handful of top BB and FB programs actually pay for themselves, let alone make any money for the school. The NCAA says 22 schools make money on sports, the rest do not.

      Most really big gifts to the college have nothing to do with sports, and even the big gifts to the athletic programs aren’t usually enough to make the program self-supporting.

      • DjangoZ says:

        Do you really think the University of Michigan would consistently lead public universities in annual donations if their football and basketball teams played in the Missouri Valley Conference and rarely won?

        By the way, they just launched a $4 Billion fundraising campaign titled “Victors for Michigan”.

        Texas A&M took in $740 million dollars this last year in donations and their two largest years for donations just happen to coincide with the years Johnny Football played QB.

        College sports are very big business, but most of the revenue is never reported as sports revenue.

        • Stephen says:

          Sure do! U of Michigan is one of the nation’s top public schools, with a very strong academic reputation to uphold and a lot of very well-off alumni eager to give back to the school.

          By this argument, schools without strong athletic teams would scarcely see a cent in donations, but there are many small liberal arts colleges that do extremely well donationwise despite having sports teams that are literally never in the headlines.

        • invitro says:

          “Do you really think the University of Michigan would consistently lead public universities in annual donations if their football and basketball teams played in the Missouri Valley Conference and rarely won?”

          Of course. How many public universities have a larger number of alumni than Michigan? Do any?

    • Geoff says:

      Perhaps this would change things at certain schools, but so what? I went to college and grad school at places with relatively weak athletic programs, but they each had big endowments and plenty of alumni support. Great football/basketball programs certainly aren’t a prerequisite for academic excellence. Besides, the alumni that are donating big money out of allegiance to their school’s athletic programs are generally paying for things like stadium expansions and new training facilities, not scholarships for non-athletes and professor’s salaries.

    • invitro says:

      “One thing to remember: for many large universities, the donations from alumni are directly and significantly tied to the performance of the football and basketball teams.”

      What is your source for this? It sounds like you’re making up something to bolster the argument you’re trying to make.

      “Alumni give, not so much out of fondness for their classroom and learning experiences, as for memories of sporting events or current performance of those sports teams.”

      Same thing. I’ll believe you if you can present some proof.

  13. nscadu9 says:

    Take college out of the equation. The reason football and basketball programs are so rich is because those who receive scholarships hope to go pro and cash in after school is finished. And of course, the revenues off March Madness and Bowl opportunities. Wrestlers, volleyball players, shot putters and other minor sports don’t have the same financial opportunity afterward and are more likely to be attending college for the education. Like MLB and NHL, there needs to be developmental and minor leagues. Draft kids out of high school, pay them livable wages and develop talent. If they chose to go to college so be it, but I think the top dogs will want to be professionals and devote themselves to sport rather than have to bother with studies as well. No one worries about kids that skip college to enter the workforce, yet for some reason new rules get made up when guys like Kobe and Kevin Garnett skip college to earn millions. Can’t help but think that the NCAA pushes that idea as they are losing out on elite labour. A 20 year old in major junior hockey that realizes he isn’t going to make the NHL still has the option to go to college. Canadian kids do that often, but the opportunity isn’t as great in the US because of NCAA rules prohibiting it.

    • Stephen says:

      Columnist Mike Royko had a great column about this back when Garnett (or somebody) was trying to jump directly to the pros: Why is it that we worry so much about this guy missing college, when we have no problem at all with a kid finishing high school and going off to become a pipefitter, a salesman, or a store clerk without stopping for higher education?

      Hard to justify.

  14. Tom says:

    If differential pay is not permitted for college athletics, then how come Nick Saban is paid $7 million per year, but Alabama’s gymnastics coach is paid “only” $300,000 per year?

  15. Andy says:

    I think there’s a vitally important point that many people are forgetting. Which is that the idea of a high-REVENUE sport is completely useless. What matters if you’re thinking of paying people more is whether it is a high-PROFIT sport.

    The large majority of these high-revenue sports LOSE money. Which is fine — there are part of an academic institution — but all this big revenue doesn’t exactly make it back to the rest of the university. The wrestling team loses money too, but that money comes from the university, just like the football team’s does.

    No, what the star quarterback is really paying for is HIS TEAMMATES. The 89th guy on the football team is not worth his scholarship, his facilities, and his extras. If he were, the team would make money. Schools are using all of their revenue on those sports, just not by handing it to their stars.

    Whether you want to add earmarked alumni donations, whether you want to consider student attendance at games, that is all fine. But having high revenue is not enough to justify a loss for the program. The same rules do not have to apply for budget, but the same rules SHOULD apply for the amount of loss the university is willing to take on the program.

    I strongly support paying players, and I commend Joe for bring up this topic. We must pay the players the money they bring to the university, but not ignore the money they take from it. I would propose that any sport that has scholarships, or certainly that pays their players must be nearly self-sufficient. How the sport wants to spend their profits on their players is up to them, but this change only makes sense if the sports are indeed spending their own money.

    • KHAZAD says:

      Under your system, there would still be Men’s Football and Basketball teams- but nothing else.

    • Herb Smith says:

      Andy, am I reading this wrong? Are you insinuating that Alabama football is a money-losing kinda thing? That Duke or Kentucky or countless other schools that sell out every basketball game they play are taking a bath financially?

      Surely, you can’t be serious.

    • Geoff says:

      Um, when you have (nearly) free labor, any high-revenue sport is very profitable.

    • Karyn says:

      I ain’t buying it. I think that, just like pro sports teams and leagues, these guys are cooking the books and not telling about all the money they receive. For example, they’ll tell about the ticket revenues, but do they include parking and concessions? They might mention their TV deal, but do they include their regional network, or their merchandise sales? That last one is big, because why shouldn’t Clowney make some money off sales of a jersey with his name on it?

    • Ian R. says:

      Big-time college athletic programs lose money because they’re non-profit organizations. They are literally not allowed to make money. Everything they make has to be funneled back into the program.

      The star quarterback isn’t paying for his teammates. He’s paying the athletic director’s inflated salary. He’s paying for unnecessary training and coaching staff. He’s paying for brand-new weight training equipment and scoreboards and stadium renovations and other unnecessary expenses every year. He’s paying for all of these things because the program, despite huge revenues, isn’t allowed to turn a profit, and so the school has to come up with a way to spend all that money somehow – and spending it on the players isn’t an option.

      Also, what Karyn said. Just because the programs claim to be losing money doesn’t make it so. It means they have clever accountants.

  16. KHAZAD says:

    I think there are two different issues here. The first is whether we should “pay” college athletes, as scholarship athletes from poorer families have no money for basics. People with scholarships in other fields are able to make money on the side, even, in many cases by using the same skills that got them a scholarship. This would have to be a small amount, something to used as spending money, for clothes and other things, and would have to be across the board in all sports.

    The second issue is the money that a university (and the NCAA as a whole) makes on it’s stars in the bigger sports by trading off their name and images. This is more star based, but sometimes team based as well. It is highway robbery of the athlete and their families, legalized theft. The university trades on the athlete’s fame, and doesn’t allow the athlete to do the same, or to get a percentage of the money that they are making.

  17. Chris H says:

    Among the many implicit lies promoted by the defenders of the status quo is that if we didn’t have big time college football, somehow there wouldn’t be little sports like tiddly-winks or whatever it is they choose to use as the hostage to whose head they are holding a gun.

    I went to a tiny little Division III college in Ohio. We had about 20 sports teams, men’s and women’s, including football and basketball and others like swimming and volleyball and indoor track. At any given football game there might be 400 people in attendance. We were really good at swimming, national champions every year, and so you might get 100 people or so at a swim meet. I think everything was free to attend. In any case, I can assure you, the football team was not subsidizing the “minor” sports. In reality, about a dozen students’ full tuition was subsidizing the football team. That may or may not be unconscionable, I don’t know, but the institution seems to be thriving, so who am I to judge. The point is that the college found a value in supporting those teams that had nothing to do with the revenue of the football team. Beyond that, there were a bunch of club sports that maybe got a few hundred bucks from the student fees the way that the poetry club and the debate society got a few hundred bucks. Mostly they paid for stuff out of their pockets.

    I somehow think that if Ohio State started paying football players and stopped subsidizing gymnastics (maybe other than providing a room for them to work out in), there would be students who liked gymnastics who would get together and form a team, and practice, and find other teams at other universities to compete against, and everything would be just fine, with or without fancy uniforms and nonstop flights and scholarships. The coaching might not be as good. The USA might not be as successful in gymnastics at the Olympics, I suppose. But in the end just as many kids would learn just as many lessons about competition and winning and losing and trying hard, and they might even learn the skill of organizing things instead of having them handed on a silver platter. That might not be the worst outcome imaginable.

  18. Herb Smith says:

    Hell yeah, Joe Poz!

  19. Phaedrus says:

    Using a bit of logic, people that claim college athletes aren’t paid are also claiming that a college education is worthless.

    Compare the cost of a year at UCLA to the amount of money made by the average D-league hoopster or a minor league baseball player. Now tell me who is underpaid.

    College sports are so big because of people’s connection to the schools. Take the school aspect out of it, and you’ve got minor league sports that nobody will watch.

    If I’m a computer science major, I’d gladly work as an unpaid intern at Google while I’m in school so I can get a job there when I graduate. How’s that different than an athlete working as an “unpaid” player for the football team so he can get a job with the NFL when he graduates?

    • adam says:

      It’s different because the athlete can make a crapton of money for the school from his performance on the field.

      It’s different because the athlete is far more likely than the computer science major to have a career ending injury (while making a crapton of money for the school).

      It’s different because the school can make a crapton of money selling the athlete’s likeness.

      It’s different because the “student athletes” are forbidden from working paying jobs, while an unpaid intern is usually free to pursue other opportunities in their spare time.

      btw, computer science interns are paid fairly well. At my workplace we pay them almost as much as entry-level graduates, though without the benefits. Would you work for free at Google if the company down the street was paying you well? Would you work for free at Google if it meant you couldn’t afford your rent for the summer?

      The point isn’t that a college education is worthless. The point is that some of the players earn the school far more money than the value of a college education.

      • Phaedrus says:

        You totally missed my point. The athletes are replaceable (in fact, they are completely replaced every 4 years), so they are paid what they’re worth. The schools would make a “crapton” of money no matter who is wearing the uniform. Say one of the Harrison twins went to the D league, rather than Kentucky. Would he be making a “crapton” of money for his D league team? I doubt it.

        If the athlete would value the education, then a knee injury wouldn’t be career ending. How many athletes go on to professional sports anyways?

        I’m not a college sports fan and I dont care whether the athletes are paid or not. My only point is that everyone is only focused on dollar bills. Instead of convincing these kids that they’re being taken advantage of, why don’t we tell them to take advantage of their opportunities? Seems to me that an athlete gets an awful lot of free exposure (quick, name me 10 players in the D league) and that exposure can open an awful lot of doors down the road…IF the athlete chooses to take advantage of it. It also seems to me that 95% of the population would kill for a free education.

        And yes, if I was a computer science major, I absolutely would intern at Google for free, even if I had no money. I’m smart enough to realize that I’d be earning all kinds of benefits (knowledge, connections, etc), even if they’re not paid in dollars.

        • Geoff says:

          If the Harrison twins had been allowed to sign with any NBA team for the highest offer they could get, or even if they’d been allowed to enter the NBA draft, then yes, they’d be making a crapton of money right now.

          You’re also missing the larger point. If someone doesn’t care about a college education, either because it may not affect their future earnings or because they simply don’t care, why should they be forced into a system that requires them to pretend they’re receiving an education when they’d rather be focused exclusively on their athletic career?

          • invitro says:

            “You’re also missing the larger point. If someone doesn’t care about a college education, either because it may not affect their future earnings or because they simply don’t care, why should they be forced into a system that requires them to pretend they’re receiving an education when they’d rather be focused exclusively on their athletic career?”

            You are lying: the players are NOT forced into this system. They can play in Europe for a year, like Brandon Jennings did. (I say “lying” because I know that you know this; you intentionally misled.)

            Also, what they are receiving is the OPPORTUNITY for a great education. If they piss that away, that’s either their fault, or if they’re too dumb to take advantage, it’s university administrators’ fault for admitting them.

        • adam says:

          You would intern for free while the intern in the next cube over was being paid? I doubt it.

    • Geoff says:

      1) The cost of tuition is completely irrelevant if the athlete isn’t actually getting an education. A one-and-done basketball player literally has to make it though midterms in his first semester of college before he can stop worrying about school altogether. Why does he care what tuition is?

      2) If you’re able to convince google that you’re skilled enough to be an asset to them at 17, nothing stops you from doing so. They can pay you whatever they think you’re worth.

      3) You’re extremely unlikely to suffer a debilitating injury that prevents you from earning a living as a result of your google internship.

      • Phaedrus says:

        With regards to #1, if the athlete isnt getting an education, he should be playing in the minor leagues or in foreign leagues. The schools offer tuition as a form of payment. If I want to be paid in bitcoins rather than dollars, is it up to my employer to pay me in bitcoins or is it up to me to find a new job?

        #2, The NFL and NBA don’t require the kids to go to college, they just require them to be a certain age. I don’t see why that means the colleges should be forced to pay the players.

        #3, depending on how you define “extremely unlikely”, I’d argue that it’s also extremely unlikely that an athlete will suffer a debilitating injury.

        After typing these, I realized that you’re making arguments for why players shouldn’t have to go to college. That’s a completely different issue than whether colleges should pay players.

        • adam says:

          It’s been theorized that high school basketball graduates might go play in Europe for a year, then go to the NBA. I think someone actually did this – Brandon Jennings if I’m not mistaken. We could see that more…although they do get more exposure here. So that makes the case for the “work at google for free” plan.

          The football players don’t have an alternative.

          • invitro says:

            wikipedia says: “On July 16, 2008, Jennings signed with Lottomatica Roma of the Italian Serie A. The contract he signed with Roma was for $1.65 million net income guaranteed and after earning the contract with Lottomatica, Under Armour gave Jennings a $2 million contract to showcase their products in the Euroleague. Jennings was the first player to play for a European team rather than play for a college basketball team since the NBA’s age restriction rule was implemented.”

            I believe that the value of that year in college is massive, and on the order of a million dollars. This tidbit is evidence for that belief.

  20. Donald A. Coffin says:

    I attended a small, private liberal arts university. I just looked at the institution’s web page. The school has 20 intercollegiate athletic teams (10 each for men and women):

    Men:
    Baseball
    Basketball
    Cross-country
    Football
    Golf
    Lacrosse
    Soccer
    Swimming & diving
    Tennis
    Track & field

    Women:
    Basketball
    Cross-country
    Field hockey
    Golf
    Lacrosse
    Soccer
    Softball
    Swimming & diving
    Tennis
    Track & field
    Volleyball

    I doubt if the total revenue received rom tickets, concessions, and broadcast rights for all 20 of these sports combined is less than the men’s basketball coach’s salary (googling around for a half hour, I find nothing, but I’d guess in the neighborhood of $100,000 a year). But the school can afford to do this, because it regards athletics–and inter-collegiate athletics–as an option of value to its students. The school provides financial assistance based on need, and (as a D3 school) does not explicitly provide athletic scholarships. Yet they have competitive (occasionally D3 championship caliber) teams and individual athletes.

    D1 schools have sports that generate revenue and schools that don’t. Indiana University (I live in Indiana) has 10 men’s intercollegiate sports (basically the same as my SLAC, but substitute wrestling for lacrosse) and 12 for women (add rowing and water polo to my SLAC list). For men, probably only basketball and football generate much revenue; for women, probably only basketball. And those programs combined probably don’t contribute all that much (net of their own expenses) to the athletic department budget.

    My point is that having athletic programs is possible, and desirable, if they advance *institutional* goals, regardless of the revenue they generate. It’s when the (revenue) tail begins to wag the (institutional) dog that the problems arise.

    • Donald A. Coffin says:

      Second paragraph, first sentence, should read:

      “I doubt if the total revenue received rom tickets, concessions, and broadcast rights for all 20 of these sports combined is AS MUCH AS the men’s basketball coach’s salary…”

  21. chlsmith says:

    I see the total system as a way for the NBA and NFL to get out of spending money on their own player development. MLB’s farm system is a great example of what could be done for the NBA and NFL. The arbitrary age limits for basketball and football are there specifically to 1) Save NCAA basketball and football and 2) keep the NBA and NFL from spending money themselves.

    I read the other day that some of the minor leaguers in the Reds organization, some of whom will never see a day in the big league, were paid 7 figure signing bonuses. One guy was signed at 16 to play for the organization. These sound like crazy soccer things, but they exist right here in baseball. No one at the MLB level thinks those kids are ready to play in the majors….virtually every player takes his lumps and goes through the rookie levels, the different A’s levels, and then to the bigs. This is the way it SHOULD BE. No one is getting the shaft in this system. That kid could get hurt tomorrow and still have a good sum of money to fall onto.

    Keeping a kid in high school from a 7-figure check just because he has to have a year of college before signing with the NBA is an injustice only to the kid.

    • likedoohan says:

      I’m totally with you. The reason the NCAA performs this service for the pro leagues is that they make money. This likely will change as college athletes demand medical care and compensation. Most football programs are already in the red, and if they start facing lawsuits for head injuries and other lifelong medical expenses, the number of programs will drop and the few remaining big time programs could be more easily financially tied to pro leagues.

  22. The issue here is that, in order to “preserve” amateurism, the NCAA has put together an ever growing “book” of rules. These rules are so complicated, that it is impossible for even the most fervent rule follower to never break one. To me, the answer is not whether to pay or not pay players, it’s coming up with a simple, easy to follow set of rules. Those rules wouldn’t ban silly things like buying a sandwich for a recruit, or giving an allowance to players, who btw, spend 30 or more hours a week on their sports. That doesn’t amount to paying players, but it does recognize the commitment that they make to sports and studying that makes it pretty much impossible to have a job. The kids don’t need to be paid, they just need some common sense loosening of the rules. Throw the book of rules away, and write them again on no more than two pages. Then everyone will be fine.

  23. likedoohan says:

    The basic premise of schools supporting athletics, and giving athletic kids preferential treatment over non-athletic kids, is the fundamental problem. The vast majority of college athletes are participating because they WANT to. They are being funded to engage in a non-academic activity. This really makes no sense. Maybe people benefit and learn from sports, but do we really need to finance them to do something for fun? The whole equation gets messier when billions of dollars come into play.

    • Donald A. Coffin says:

      Well, I do think people can learn things from participating in athletics. And I think a lot of people participate in other extracurricular activities because they want to and the activities are fun–and the university wholly or partly funds them. (Most students playing in college orchestras and bands surely don’t intend to make that their career.) So I think you’re raising a red flag where it’s not needed.

      • invitro says:

        People can learn things from participating in prostitution, or taking LSD, or running a Ponzi scheme. That doesn’t mean colleges should support those activities.

        I’m against colleges funding bands even more than them funding athletics. The school band should be a thing for middle school and high school kids.

  24. Karyn says:

    Now, let’s add into all this the story out of UNC (which certainly not unique to them). A certain percentage of ‘student’ athletes are not capable of college level academic work. The school knowingly admits them, props them up with tutors, grade changes, ‘paper classes’, then profits off them for 1-4 years, then dumps them out.

    For these kids, the ‘they’re getting a free university education!” argument doesn’t hold water.

    • invitro says:

      Here is the thing: academics and college administrators do not believe that *anyone* is incapable of college level work. Seriously. They think that these students have just been in a bad environment until now.

      I do not blame the academic people involved in the NC stories. The work that has been shown that they do is likely the most these kids can do. The instructors and tutors were most likely just trying to get the kids to learn *something*.

  25. invitro says:

    “Look, college sports as we know them will get blown up and put back together in the next few years”

    This has been said for at least 30 years, since I was aware of college sports. It was probably said in the 1950s point-shaving scandals. Or the 1900s with Teddy Roosevelt’s threatening to outlaw college football.

    “because there’s a fundamental unfairness.”

    I’m not even sure what you think this great unfairness is. The commenters above have listed like ten different things.

    I will assume your claim is that a few football programs bring in big bucks, and that the players aren’t getting paid. Here’s what’s wrong with that.

    – As many people have said, they ARE getting paid. Lots. College tuition is a huge chunk of change. But that’s not the most valuable thing the players are getting. Many players simply would not be in a major university if it weren’t for their football scholarship. They are being paid the chance to attend MI, or FL, or TX. This is an enormous value, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars (I’m guessing) in expected career earnings.

    – The players who have a chance to go pro are getting paid even more: they are learning their sports from the best teachers in the world, and playing against the best competitors of their age, before enormous audiences who bolster their eventual endorsement value, and in the best playing conditions short of the NBA or NFL. There is the example of Brandon Jennings above; I believe it is evidence that a year in a top college, to a top player, is worth over a million dollars. It *has* to be; if it weren’t, at least half of the players who are choosing to attend college would instead play in Europe.

    – The players are not the only people generating the sports revenue. I don’t think they’re even a large factor. College fans are not paying to see any particular player on Kentucky; they’re paying to see KENTUCKY. I think Joe even used this point a few times in the past! And they’re paying to see high-quality team basketball that the coach has taught, and the festivities that the athletic director and dozens of other non-athlete sports professionals have built. The players are almost entirely replaceable. (“Almost” because I think there are a handful of college players a generation that might increase revenue: Bo Jackson, maybe Shaquille O’Neal, to mention two players I saw when they were in college.)

    – This is not a communist society. If you think you know the “right” salary that a football coach, or a professor, or *anyone* must get, you are wrong… unless you happen to agree with the salary that the free market has offered them. We do not believe that people should be paid according to how they work. You cannot say that a football player or wrestler or gymnast SHOULD be paid a certain amount of money, unless you think that all professions have a certain amount of income they should pay, and if you think that, the former Soviet Union has a place for you.

    – Unless you can show that a free market does not exist in college athletics. Probably some of you do. I do not think you are correct. The only ways to break the free market are by (a) government intrusion, and (b) monopolies or collusions or related. The rule that people must be 19 to play in the NBA is an NBA rule, not a law, and is thus not an injustice. Now you might be able to argue that the NBA is a monopoly and should be subject to antitrust laws. If the NBA is blocking competition, and it probably is, well that’s what you should be going after, not the NCAA.

    – There is an injustice here, but it’s not that college athletes aren’t paid cash. It’s that college athletes are given athletic scholarships at all. Why should athletic ability mean that a dumb kid gets a scholarship instead of a smart kid? I really wish the teens that miss the opportunity for a scholarship because a dumb jock gets it instead would do something about it. Or that someone else did.

    Eventually, it will be illegal for universities that receive gov’t funding to provide athletic scholarships. This is a long, long way away, though. Universities have really gotten away from their mission of providing the best academic training in the world and of all time. (Check out how much administrative costs have increased in the last 20 years. I think I read that it was by a factor of like 40, which seems absurd. I don’t know why current students don’t protest. I protested, albeit ineffectually, when I was an undergrad, which was more than 20 years ago.)

    • tomemos says:

      Wow, where to start. The beginning, I guess.

      “This has been said for at least 30 years, since I was aware of college sports. It was probably said in the 1950s point-shaving scandals. Or the 1900s with Teddy Roosevelt’s threatening to outlaw college football.”

      If football players today are using the forward pass, it’s because of Roosevelt’s threat.

      “I will assume your claim is that a few football programs bring in big bucks, and that the players aren’t getting paid.”

      There’s a lucrative NCAA sport you’re forgetting. It got a lot of headlines last month, some tournament or other.

      “As many people have said, they ARE getting paid. Lots. College tuition is a huge chunk of change. But that’s not the most valuable thing the players are getting. Many players simply would not be in a major university if it weren’t for their football scholarship. They are being paid the chance to attend MI, or FL, or TX. This is an enormous value, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars (I’m guessing) in expected career earnings.”

      The standard response to this argument is to say “look at the graduation rates before you talk about what a great education they’re getting,” and, I mean, you should. But I just want to point out that the way you’ve framed the argument is actually self-defeating: these are students who otherwise couldn’t get accepted into the University of Florida (not an especially selective school), and we’re supposed to believe that given that opportunity they can take full advantage of it…while giving 30-50 hours a week to their sports at the same time? It’s ludicrous.

      “The players are not the only people generating the sports revenue. I don’t think they’re even a large factor. College fans are not paying to see any particular player on Kentucky; they’re paying to see KENTUCKY.”

      And Yankees fans, by and large, are paying to see THE YANKEES. Maybe the Yankees could try fielding a team of replacement-level players since the fans will pay up to see the pinstripes no matter what. Or maybe if that happened the fans would disappear, just as if Kentucky fielded mediocre teams all that alumni money and (especially) TV money would dry up pretty quick. Ask Southern Methodist.

      “This is not a communist society. If you think you know the “right” salary that a football coach, or a professor, or *anyone* must get, you are wrong… unless you happen to agree with the salary that the free market has offered them. We do not believe that people should be paid according to how they work. You cannot say that a football player or wrestler or gymnast SHOULD be paid a certain amount of money, unless you think that all professions have a certain amount of income they should pay, and if you think that, the former Soviet Union has a place for you.”

      How can the former Soviet Union have a place for anyone? And what is McCarthyite invective even doing in this discussion? Especially employed by someone who doesn’t know what a free market is:

      “Unless you can show that a free market does not exist in college athletics. Probably some of you do. I do not think you are correct. The only ways to break the free market are by (a) government intrusion, and (b) monopolies or collusions or related.”

      How on earth is the NCAA not a cartel? If you’re so anti-communist, wrap your head around this: THERE ARE WEALTHY PEOPLE WHO WANT TO PAY PLAYERS TO PLAY FOR THEIR ALMA MATERS, AND THE NCAA FORBIDS THIS. Short of an actual indenture contract, how much less of a free market can you have?

      There is a market in the US for talented basketball talent, as shown by the money put into recruitment and training, and the black market in booster payments to players. But the NCAA and NBA together have locked the players—the actual commodities in that market!—from legitimately seeing a dime of that money unless they leave the country—for freer shores, you might say. The fact that anti-communist conservatives (I’m just guessing here) not only tolerate this system but vigorously defend it boggles the mind.

      • invitro says:

        “If football players today are using the forward pass, it’s because of Roosevelt’s threat.”

        What is your point?

        “There’s a lucrative NCAA sport you’re forgetting. It got a lot of headlines last month, some tournament or other.”

        Again, what is your point?

        “The standard response to this argument is to say “look at the graduation rates before you talk about what a great education they’re getting,” and, I mean, you should.”

        The players have a GREAT OPPORTUNITY at an education. If they are too dumb to take advantage, they shouldn’t have been given that opporunity. If they fritter it away, who cares? They still received something worth a “crapton” of money.

        “But I just want to point out that the way you’ve framed the argument is actually self-defeating: these are students who otherwise couldn’t get accepted into the University of Florida (not an especially selective school),”

        FL is a great school, whether it’s selective or not. It’s not MIT, but it’s worlds ahead of most Div. II colleges.

        “and we’re supposed to believe that given that opportunity they can take full advantage of it…while giving 30-50 hours a week to their sports at the same time? It’s ludicrous.”

        Again, the opportunity is there whether they take advantage or not.

        Do you think it’s ludicrous that thousands of students who barely got into schools less than FL are working 30-50 hrs/wk and still graduating?

        “And Yankees fans, by and large, are paying to see THE YANKEES. Maybe the Yankees could try fielding a team of replacement-level players since the fans will pay up to see the pinstripes no matter what. Or maybe if that happened the fans would disappear,”

        What do the Yankees have to do with college sports?

        “just as if Kentucky fielded mediocre teams all that alumni money and (especially) TV money would dry up pretty quick. Ask Southern Methodist.”

        You are being stupid here.

        1. Kentucky had very many years of mediocre teams. Their alumni money did not dry up, pretty quick or pretty slow. Their TV money did not, either.

        2. Southern Methodist has nothing in common with KY. SMU did not field any team at all for a year. They did not field a postseason-eligible team for a number of years. Are you not aware of this?

        “How can the former Soviet Union have a place for anyone? And what is McCarthyite invective even doing in this discussion?”

        Are you claiming that pointing out that we do not live in a communist society is McCarthyite? Wow.

        “How on earth is the NCAA not a cartel? If you’re so anti-communist, wrap your head around this: THERE ARE WEALTHY PEOPLE WHO WANT TO PAY PLAYERS TO PLAY FOR THEIR ALMA MATERS, AND THE NCAA FORBIDS THIS. Short of an actual indenture contract, how much less of a free market can you have?”

        You do not understand what free market means. The NCAA is NOT the government. Many industries prevent employees from accepting extra cash if it presents a conflict of interest. This is a free market feature. Not allowing industries to do this, now that would be non-free market.

        “There is a market in the US for talented basketball talent, as shown by the money put into recruitment and training, and the black market in booster payments to players. But the NCAA and NBA together have locked the players—the actual commodities in that market!”

        I have shown that the players are MINOR parts of the product, at most.

        “—from legitimately seeing a dime of that money unless they leave the country—for freer shores, you might say.”

        I have shown that what the players get has extremely high value. Players are free to play in Europe if they wish.

        If there were a real market for 18yo players, then an alternative pro sports league would be formed by somebody. I have said that I support antitrust efforts if you can prove that anti-free market forces are preventing such a league. More likely, the market does not exist, or potential funders know that they cannot pay 18yos remotely close to what they are getting from the major universities.

        Thank you for your comment.

        • tomemos says:

          “The players have a GREAT OPPORTUNITY at an education. If they are too dumb to take advantage, they shouldn’t have been given that opporunity. ”

          So students are being given an opportunity that they don’t have the capacity to take advantage of? In what sense is that an “opportunity”? This is why we tend to pay people with a universal medium of exchange like money, instead of in “opportunities” that are only valuable under certain conditions.

          “You do not understand what free market means. The NCAA is NOT the government.”

          I didn’t say it was, I said it was a cartel. You yourself admitted that a monopoly interferes with the free market.

          “Many industries prevent employees from accepting extra cash if it presents a conflict of interest.”

          I don’t see the conflict of interest in “let me pay you to come work for me,” but in any case: are you acknowledging that so-called “student-athletes” are in fact employees? That’s progress! And exactly why the NLRB ruled that, at least at private schools, they should be allowed to unionize.

          “If there were a real market for 18yo players, then an alternative pro sports league would be formed by somebody.”

          If there were a real market for 18-year-old players, people would be trying to pay them to play. Which is what’s happening, but is prevented by the anti-free-market actions of the NCAA cartel.

  26. Ty Sellers says:

    When looking at this issue concerning universities paying players I think there are some things we should consider.

    First, you have to separate out which schools we are really talking about. The NCAA is the governing body for thousands of athletic programs in the country. The absolute LARGE majority of these programs lose money every year and are funded by private donations and tuition, with a small amount coming from revenues. There are maybe 50-60 universities that would qualify as having a “high-revenue” sport (football and/or basketball). I played FCS (D1AA at the time) football for a year before suffering a career-ending injury; my scholarship was funded by an alumni from the program.

    Second, at these 50-60 schools, do the players actually earn the university money? As stated above, public universities are designated as not-for-profit. All the revenue coming in to these schools must be parsed out: coaches salaries, athletic department salaries, equipment, facilities, training rooms/tables, various staff, tutors, among other things. It can also be argued that donations increase to those schools with higher profile athletic departments and I won’t disagree with that. But the purpose of these universities isn’t to make money; it is to educate students, do research, etc. There are individuals making money from this but not the actual institution. Should the players get a piece of that pie?

    Third, if the players get a piece of the pie, how do you go about paying the players? Do you pay the star QB the same thing you pay a 3rd string kicker? How about walk-ons? How does Title IX figure in this discussion? I am sure someone a lot smarter than me can reach a resolution on this but for the life of me I can’t come up with a solution.

    Fourth, are the athletes employees? If so, they must be treated as such. There should be clear cut rules that would lead to the termination of said employee. My employer has a strict no drug policy, one strike and your out. This would eliminate TONS of college athletes, particularly football and basketball players. This should also entail increased medical benefits such as workers comp.

    Because of the above issues, among other questions that could be raised, I vehemently disagree universities should pay players. My solutions would be this:

    1. If a booster wants to pay a player then have it. The NCAA should have no ability to regulate the financial dispositions of a private citizen.
    2. To piggy-back off of my previous point, if Nike or Adidas or any other brand perceives value in having a player endorse their product then let them have at that as well. The NCAA should have no ability to regulate what SHOULD be a free market system.
    3. Universities should stop making exceptions to admit athletes. Athletes applications at all universities should undergo the same scrutiny that the application of a regular student would undergo.
    4. The waiting period to be drafted in the NFL/NBA needs to be taken away. The NFL and NBA should have minor league systems in place just like MLB. They should not be able to use NCAA football and basketball as their free minor league system. Athletes with hopes of making a professional sports league shouldn’t be forced to go to college, there needs to be other options.
    5. If the previous point doesn’t come to fruition, top football and basketball players should seriously consider whether they would benefit more from skipping college and using the 1 or 3 year waiting period to improve their abilities by hiring an agent who can put them to work with trainers, coaches, etc to help them prepare for the time they are eligible to enter the NFL/NBA. Basketball players also have the option to go overseas; maybe more should explore that option.

    There are many obstacles to overcome in the coming months and years for college sports. I for one hope the NCAA, as it is today, will be totally blown up and rebuilt in to a system that actually serves the best interests of its member institutions and the athletes involved. Unfortunately I am pessimistic about that coming to be. The money grab has got to stop, player health and safety has to be paramount, and finding a system that allows more choices for the athletes future would be a great place to start.

  27. Bob Lince says:

    >>First thing to do is take the Bowlsby quote and insert real life examples.

    “The fact is we have people in life, if you apply any form of value to their labor, you cannot pay ADAM SANDLER and not pay INNER CITY TEACHERS just because the ACTOR has the blessing of an adoring public.” <<

    Who in real life would be the personage that is the equal of Bowlsby (i.e., has in the singular department he/she heads an Adam Sandler qua actor and an inner city teacher qua teacher)?

  28. tomemos says:

    This thread may be dead, but if anyone doubts that there’s a market for college players, they should read this. http://www.sbnation.com/college-football/2014/4/10/5594348/college-football-bag-man-interview

  29. KB says:

    Joe, I totally get what you are saying and the real world doesn’t act on fairness. However, the Law of the Land (ie Title IX) disagrees. Title IX does believe players on the women’s lacrosse team are entitled to the same benefits and compensation as the quarterback at Alabama. Argue against it all you like, but the courts will have final say.

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