College Athletes Should be Paid. Two Questions We Should Ask Instead

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 *In my first blog post, I said I wouldn’t write about Sports on this site because I have a separate blog for that, Splain. In the time since that post, however, Splain has been placed on the back burner until I figure out which direction I want to take. Until that time, I’ll use this blog for my Sports pieces*

So, anyone keep up with College Basketball this season? Admittedly, I haven’t been as attentive to the hardwood as previous seasons. Maybe it’s just me, but the season was largely uninspiring, despite its parity. At least the best team won the title. Always nice to see that, unless the best team is Duke or UNC.

One story that has held my attention throughout the season though is NCAA Scandal, mainly because it started with the rival program of my Kentucky Wildcats, the Louisville Cardinals. The past couple of seasons, Louisville has faced damning and hilarious accusations involving soliciting prostitutes for recruits. The program had several seasons stripped away, including its 2012-13 Championship campaign.

As damaging as that is, it may not be as consequential as the Corruption Scandal involving Adidas and Nike, and definitely not as far reaching. The gist of it: shoe companies and sports agencies were allegedly funneling money to top recruits, often with the knowledge and consent of the college program. Louisville was the first major school accused, with Adidas allegedly giving money to then-prospect Brian Bowen with the knowledge of the coaching staff. At least Louisville isn’t alone here, with North Carolina, Arizona, Kentucky (*gulps*), Duke and Kansas among others being named.

Is it me or does this seem, well, stupid? I’m not just saying this because Kentucky was mentioned, although maybe it’s the reason I’m saying it louder. It is firmly a Hell of the NCAA’s own making, with their adversarial position on athlete compensation under the guise of amateurism. With it, they created the conditions for a shadow market, paying players under the table when there is nothing wrong with paying them on the damn table. Even with Louisville’s prostitution scandal. It was a bit much, but does anyone buy it was about maintaining any sense of morality when the Penn State Football program is still allowed to exist?

Look, College Athletes should be paid. Receiving fair compensation for one’s labor is, in theory at least, one of the cornerstones of our society. Debating such a black and white issue at this length is unproductive. With it we’re validating faulty, often selfish ideas that enable the exploitation of others. It’s a discussion we should’ve waded through by now.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t a few questions we should be asking. These questions are not only more productive, some are even kinda fun to consider. So, with that in mind, here are two of the questions to consider once we’ve collectively accepted the obvious.

Why are People Opposed to College Players Being Paid?

Introspection is always beneficial, so here’s an anecdote.  I wasn’t always a staunch supporter of paying College Athletes. in fact, I was pretty opposed to it. This opposition was no match for objective thinking. As a college student that did not go to school free of costs, it was easy to make it about me. In reality, it had nothing to do with me. Once I realized that, my view changed.  Fun anecdote, right?

Still, it’s sometimes hard to accept that some things have nothing to do with you as an individual. I mean, what do we hear from athlete pay adversaries? Things like…

  • Why pay them for something millions do for free?
  • They’re just playing a game
  • They’re going to school for free. That’s their pay (idiots like me in 2011)

All flawed arguments rooted in selfish perspective. Millions do it for free, but an incredibly small fraction do it as well as they do. They’re playing a game, yes, but it is a game that is making people who are not playing millions of dollars within a billion dollar industry. Yes paid tuition is compensation, but isn’t an equal reflection of the income they produce.

Also, there’s an elephant in the room. I would be remiss not to mention the most prominent and visible collegiate sports, Men’s Basketball and Football, are predominantly Black.  I wouldn’t say it, but there’s some evidence to that being exactly the case.

Again, some introspection would help.

What would Collegiate Pay Look Like?

Here is the fun question. What exactly would paying collegiate athletes look like? Truth is, the answer is imperfect. Sorry, but there are too many questions within this question:

  • Who pays: The schools, NCAA or both?
  • Would there be a minimum wage?
  • Would there be a salary cap?
  • Would players be eligible for bonuses?
  • Would there still be full scholarships?
  • Could athletes take other positions outside of their sport?
  • What kind of negotiating power would players have? Could they hire agents?
  • Would players have freedom to seek other ventures like endorsements, Merchandise or YouTube Channels?
  • Would there be any restrictions on endorsements? Could an athlete sign a deal with a shoe brand outside of their schools?

See, more entertaining topics than “Should College Athletes be paid?”.

My opinion, I think there should be a minimum wage. I have no idea what that salary would be, but a member of the Rifle Team deserves to be paid, even if its not nearly as much as the Starting Quarterback. I was never an athlete, so I have no idea how much of their schedules their given sport commands. Assuming it’s part-time, the salary should mirror that of other students on campus. On my campus, that was usually $10-$12 an hour. Maybe. I can definitely be convinced of something different.

Other than just the base salary, it should be whatever the player can negotiate. If a school is willing to pay a guy $100K to stay with the program for two seasons, why not? If a player wants to retain rights to his name and sell merchandise, what’s the harm? If a coach agrees to give $1K bonuses for players winning Conference Player of the Week, they should be allowed to do exactly that. With this, it would be best for players to be allowed some representation, like an agent.

C’mon, hearing about some of these deals would be the best thing ever. Also, as a consumer, how different would it be? Better programs would invest more in retaining their stature, so I’m pretty sure your favorite team wouldn’t suffer as a result.

So, what do you think? What is the root cause for opposing college athlete pay? What other questions are there in this discussion? How should college players be paid? I’m interested in all opinions…other than they shouldn’t be paid. You can probably guess I’m over that.


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