Saturday, April 6, 2013

NCAA Paying College Athletes...

With the Final Four starting today, it seems like a good time to spew my thoughts on paying college athletes.  Notice: this is not the hashed-out version of my rant, just a glimpse.

In short, I'm against it. The big money maker is football.  Programs such as Nebraska, Alabama, Florida and USC can bring in millions of dollars.  On top of that, television contracts with such schools adds more dough to that pile.  The common argument in favor of paying athletes is that they are part of the product that sells, so they should get a cut. Otherwise, they are just free labor. Well, for one, no they aren't (free education and room/board).  Also, free labor (when not forced) is called "volunteering".  They don't have to do it.

Let's look a bit closer.

  • No one is forcing athletes to compete in college.  They are free to pursue other scholarships, grants, etc if they so choose
  • Other scholarship students (let's say in engineering) do not enjoy free marketing and promotion. Athletes, especially in football and basketball, have their skills displayed on TV
  • College athletes are on scholarship*, they get a free education as their payment.  IF they leave school early, that's their loss
  • Athletes are in no position to demand anything. A university offers an opportunity for compete athletically.  Just because some organizations pay people to play a sport, doesn't mean colleges are suppose to do the same
Now, if the proponent argument contains a notion that since a lot of money is being made, then it should be shared, I would agree.  But why does it have to go to the athletes?  Why not stipulate that a large % of revenue goes back to the school--for scholarships, buildings, overall improvement--or to the community, which no doubt shares the burden of student life?  Maybe allocate a good portion to education and research?  How immoral would that be....?

It's a ridiculous argument to say that football (for example) makes so much money and the athletes get none of it is wrong. If they don't like it, they can leave. A retort might state, "well, how else will they get an education?"  Please, how many leave early anyway?  And, is money THAT important?  Athletics, especially team sports, teaches a whole lot more than just how to make money. 

Bottom line for me:  athletes do get paid.  They get free education, learn lessons while competing, and receive free marketing.  And they can always refuse to do so.

* It should be noted that most student-athletes probably receive partial or no scholarship, but they make it work.  Perhaps a bigger slice of the revenue should go to them?


  1. What about the fact that the NFL has set up College football as it's farm league? A football player hoping to make it to the NFL has no option but to play 3 years in college whether they want to or not. Whereas in baseball, the athlete has a choice to play college or sign a contract with a MLB team and get paid while they try to make that leap.

    Not necessarily disagreeing with you. Just throwing that aspect out there for consideration.

    1. I know what you mean, but college sports are farm leagues anyway--athletes showcase their talents while earning a degree (well, supposedly). Many jobs require BA degrees anyway, why should the NFL be different? :)

      My feeling is that no one HAS to play sports, it's just an option. Get a degree, get a job like everybody else. Mechanical engineers, for example, must complete a degree with little to no publicity of their work.