Recent events such as the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit, and Johnny Manziel signing a gazillion autographs have raised questions about whether or not athletes should be paid. I feel that scholarship athletes definitely deserve more than just the scholarship. There are many arguments for paying athletes, but strangely enough I strongly disagree with a few of the main ones….
–THEY NEED IT. It’s true that many student-athletes, particularly those in football and men’s basketball, come from low income and low socioeconomic homes and areas, low resource high schools, and high crime neighborhoods. However, the notion that they don’t have enough money to order pizza is a little bit of a misnomer. The NCAA now allows what is called a Special Needs Fund. This basically allows a school to provide players with dental care, clothes, shoes, laptops, plane tickets home in emergency situations, and basically anything that can be construed as a “special need.” Plus, they have their housing and meal plans paid for. If they live off campus, then they get a monthly check that equates to the cost of living on and eating on campus, and anyone who’s been to college knows those rates are higher than the average. If they have roommates off campus, they almost assuredly will have money left over. So, that’s not why I’m for it. In fact, I think arguing that they need it actually makes it worse because it can be so easily disproven.
Another argument that I can’t stand….
–IF WE PAY THEM, THEN THEY WON’T TAKE MONEY FROM BOOSTERS. This argument is embarrassingly stupid, and people need to stop making it. Having more money does not make you smarter, nor does it make you less selfish, and it sure as hell doesn’t stop you from wanting more of it. Look at the people that cheat on their taxes or commit white collar crime. The vast majority of them are very well off financially, and some are freaking loaded. Paying players will not reduce the number of improper benefits cases by one-one-hundredth of a percent.
So, having said all that, why am I in favor of paying college athletes more than just their scholarships?? Simple. I think they are deserving of it. They don’t need it, but many people reading this are richly deserving of things that they don’t actually need. Many working professionals can get by on a smaller salary, but saying a person doesn’t need their current salary is a crappy justification for cutting their pay, or for that matter, not giving someone a raise when they take on more responsibilities.
Now, let’s flip the page over and look at some of the stupid arguments that are typically made for NOT paying student-athletes…..
–VERY FEW SCHOOLS ACTUALLY MAKE MONEY OFF OF ATHLETICS. This is true only in a technical sense. Universities, and the athletic departments within them, are non-profits, and they enjoy a tax exempt status because they do not operate with the same objectives as businesses that are part of the free market. So, while on paper athletics don’t appear to technically make money, in a practical world they actually do. You can’t have multi-millionaire head coaches and millionaire assistant coaches on the payroll if you’re truly not actually making any money. Cutting coaching salaries alone would free up enough money for the players. On top of that, the perks in just about every div1 athletic department, even the non-major programs in the one bid conferences who don’t have football, are extreme. It’s been my experience that new computers are purchased for all athletic department employees even when the old ones are working just fine. Cars are purchased for “department use.” New cars are purchased every few years because the ones that were purchased a few years ago are now a few years old. Planes are chartered when athletic department employees would rather not have to drive for three hours. There are new smart phones, and iPads, and flat screen TVs for offices with maxed out satellite accounts, and all kinds of toys. They’ll spend in the neighborhood of $500 per employee per year on gear, t-shirts, gym bags, shoes, hats, jackets, and all kinds of nonsense.
But….somehow they can’t afford to pay the players anything.
–THEY’RE ALREADY GETTING PAID WITH A FREE EDUCATION. This is true, to a point, but they’re not the only ones that get a “free” education. At most universities, the children of university employees get their tuition paid for. Not only that, they’re allowed to go out and get jobs and make money. I won’t venture to guess an exact percentage, but a large number of students are on financial aid of some form or another. Let’s look at this a little more deeply…..
Other university students in all other activities, many of whom are on some sort of scholarship or financial aid, are not only allowed to seek out opportunities to make money, they’re actually encouraged to do so. Art majors are encouraged to enter their pieces into galleries and exhibits, and if they’re sold, they get the money. Students who want to go into broadcasting will work at the campus TV and radio stations, and can make money doing it. At many schools, working for or writing for the school newspaper is a paid position, and journalism majors are allowed to pursue that. Theater majors are allowed to pursue rolls in plays and get paid for doing it. Students who are elected to student government positions are paid. RAs are paid. Students who study culinary arts can go out and get paid. Even business majors are encouraged to get internships, and many of those are paid. The examples are endless.
So, why does this romantic ideal of amateurism apply to football and basketball, and not to art, or theater, or TV, or radio, or business, or journalism, or countless other fields??
Not only that, but student-athletes are monitored very closely if they are pursuing one of the majors that I listed above. I know of an example where a softball player was an art major, and wanted to enter her pieces into an exhibit where people would have the option of buying them. The compliance office went ballistic and basically told her they didn’t want her to do it. The reason?? It would be hard to ensure that the buyer was not a booster, and that the price they paid for it was a fair price.
–THEY GET MAJOR PERKS, LIKE GETTING TO TRAVEL, AND THE SCHOOL PAYS FOR IT. I am not a violent person, but whenever I hear someone say this I want to punch them in the face. I get where they’re coming from. They associate “travel” with “vacation,” probably because it’s the only type of travel they’ve ever done. Traveling with a team is nothing like a vacation. It’s exhausting. It’s annoying. You don’t know one place from another because everywhere you go you’re either at the hotel, at practice, at a team meal, at the game, or leaving. You can be playing at Tulane, and you’d never know you were in New Orleans. Plus, it makes it harder to balance that “free” education that they’re getting when they’re out on the road.
The last, and definitely the least argument that I will touch on today…..
–WHEN I WAS AN INTERN, I DIDN’T GET PAID, SO I DON’T SEE WHY THEY SHOULD GET PAID BEFORE GOING PRO. This is perhaps the most moronic and nonsensical argument that I’ve ever heard against paying college players. Comparing internships to college athletics isn’t like comparing apples to oranges. Apples and oranges are both round pieces of fruit of similar size that grow on trees. It’s more like comparing apples to steering wheels. There is simply nothing that the two have in common. The whole idea that someone would say “I didn’t get a scholarship, and I had to work as an intern before getting my career started, so athletes shouldn’t make any money either” is so narcissistic and asinine that I don’t know there is an adjective in the English language that can adequately explain how narcissistic and asinine it really is.
Internships basically serve as apprenticeships and work experience for people that want to go into a certain field of employment, and have a likely chance of getting into that field. College athletics are not that at all. For entry level jobs that require X number of years of experience, college athletics would not suffice as counting toward that experience. It’s not an apprenticeship for a specific career, with the exception of the very small percentage of athletes who have a chance to go pro and earn a living that way.
Furthermore, many internships ARE paid!!! When I was in graduate school, I had an assistantship in student affairs that paid for my tuition, housing, food, and gave me $3200.00 a year on top of that. That’s way more than any college athlete has ever legally received, and it came from student affairs, which has way less to work with than the school’s athletic department. I generated absolutely no revenue for the university. If anything, I was an expense. So, why can’t players get something on top of their scholarship??
Now, how would I do it??
I’m not in favor of salaries or stipends. Paying athletes a salary would make them employees of the university, and therefore they’d be out from under the umbrella of Title IX, and I have no interest in jacking up women’s sports (which I strongly support). I would be in favor of a cost of living subsidy of roughly $2000 that would be part of the scholarship for all scholarship athletes regardless of the sport. For head count sports, every player would get the full subsidy. For equivalency sports, they would get some of it just like they currently get a partial scholarship. Personally, I think it could be and should be more, but $2000 was the amount that was recently proposed and voted down. Since it’s a subsidy, it would not be taxed, the non-profit status of the university would not be jeopardized, and women’s sports would not be threatened due to football and men’s basketball no longer being a part of Title IX.
Furthermore, I think players should be able to make money off of their likenesses and autographs. There is some concern with this. They do not like the idea of a big time booster paying someone tens of thousands of dollars for an autographed t-shirt. I understand that. I think that perhaps there should be a limit to how much an athlete can make off of their likeness. $10,000?? $15,000?? $20,000?? I don’t have an exact figure in mind, but I do see the desire to regulate it the same way impermissible benefits are regulated now. This should also be an option for all athletes regardless of their sport. It would mostly benefit men’s basketball and football playres, but if a school has a track star that transcends the sport, and they can make $10,000 off their likeness, then all power to them.
Furthermore, I actually think allowing players to make money off of their likenesses would help the non-major programs. Why?? Well, Stephen Curry would have been a star regardless of where he went to college, but at Davidson, he was an ultra-superstar among the students, alum and fanbase. So, if a player is being recruited by Ohio State, they could go there, they could play a lot, and they could even start. But, if they went to a school like Western Kentucky instead, they would be a star and could end up on a billboard in Bowling Green, KY, and have a better chance of making some money off of their image.
Anyway, that’s how I feel. Athletes don’t need money. They simply deserve it. That’s why I’m in favor of them getting something on top of their scholarships.