Just Fix College Athletics Already

I watched the BCS Championship game tonight. I have no allegiances, truly, but I do root for the Big 10 (on occasion) and against the SEC (all the time). But, honestly, I do not support a non-profit higher educational institution that I have no ties to. I think it’s silly to do that too, just my opinion. Our taxes pay for them. They are for reading and writing. So, why should one have an allegiance to a SCHOOL in which everyone should be doing the same stuff…LEARNING.

While the historical perspective of athletics is awesome to read about…it’s evolved SO much more than what it was. So, why are we so behind the times in the evolution of the sport? Why must we continue to say “athletics and academics” have to be tied together? I am on Twitter and my interests get me following @NCAA, @NFHS, @NAIA, and the like (I linked their accounts, not necessarily what I labeled them as). Time and time again, I hear the same comments about interscholastic/intercollegiate athletics:

“Club sports lack an educational component,” Bob Gardner, executive director of the Indianapolis-based National Federation of State High School Associations, wrote in a column. “These programs exist solely for the purpose of improving one’s athletic skills.”

I truly hate this. There is so much untruth to this. I cannot believe the NFHS continues to build their organization on this statement. But…the NCAA is also in the same wrong.

Of course, the biggest talk now with college athletics is paying college athletes. I hate that talk, but I love talking about it.

So…following Twitter again, there were so many comments about paying athletes during the BCS Championship game. Naturally, I did not shy away from one. I also found a gem of an article on why athletes should be paid — linked here.

So, time to do a “point-by-point” analysis like the author.

Myth No. 1: Fans don’t care about the name on the back of the jersey.

I have never heard this argument once. Maybe I’m not in the right circles, but why would anyone argue this on why players shouldn’t get paid? This would be one of the last argument points I’d use IF I were arguing for paying athletes. I know college athletes are idolized. They have been idolized for years. They will always be idolized. It doesn’t matter what level of college either. Any college can be an athlete’s “Notre Dame” — i.e., dream school.

You know what, the same can be said for many high school athletes. I remember meeting my wife and learning about the future girls soccer players at her high school. My wife was one of the “worshiped” soccer players at her school by young girls because of her team’s successes. Does that mean high school athletes should get paid too?

While there are MANY popular individuals on college teams. The author claims that an individual player or two can bring the attraction (that argument is not going to be approached, yet)…fans want the teams to succeed moreso. Fans care about how good Florida State is more than they care about how good Famous Jameis is. Fans want a championship over Johnny Football’s antics. The author said that fans want wins, but you can’t get wins without the big name on the back of the jersey. Well…really? How many of the players can be named out of the 85 full-ride scholarships that FBS schools can give? Can any common fan name more than 10 players on Florida State’s national championship team?

Do they have one big name? Two? Three? Or do we just pay whoever is determined to be a “big name?”

Myth No. 2: Paying college athletes will destroy competition on the field.

I don’t get this “myth” either. But, one could actually say this is partially true. When Notre Dame (when NCAA was largely absent and had fewer rules) ran the show in college football, there wasn’t much competition. But, things started evening up when the money was evened up and the NCAA was there to make things “fair.” So, competition is there, just added more parity. Competition is there, but it just looks different.

Lifting the veil of “intercollegiate” athletics can help that competition. Just allow athletic departments to spend freely. Why not? Let them pay. But…remove all athletic programs from their educational counterparts. Or, why not continue allowing the educational setup, but alter it a little — “Aca-letic Academies.” Actually make the full-ride scholarship count for something as “payment.” Tax it or something…we are taxed for everything else in this country. That’s a $50,000 a year degree for some people ($200,000 over 4 years, room and board, and a per diem not included). Not a bad living.

Myth No. 3: Everyone will go bankrupt.

Maybe places won’t go bankrupt…but I can’t wait for my kids to go to school where tuition is never-ending. Once the payments start, it’ll continue to rise. Why not? Everyone will be continuing to beg for more money. And…why should the players be the only ones raking in the dough? Why not the admissions counselors who helped recruit students to fill the stadiums, to spend money on food at the stadium, to buy all the apparel, and to continue giving back to the school they went to for 4+ years. There are more general students than athletes, so why shouldn’t the admissions counselors be rewarded?

Frick, where would this paying start and/or stop? So what Texas A&M’s football success brought in $750 million in fundraising. Tuition is still going to rise there. Scholarships won’t improve. Students will still go in debt. And the general student body will continue paying $1500+ in student fees to fund athletics (it happens at big athletic schools, not saying students at Texas A&M pay that). That means, the general students should get paid too…or maybe refunded $10,000 for their help in funding Johnny Football.

Okay, okay, okay…might as well pay the Pop Warner football studs who get televised on ESPN. While we are at it, pay the Little League World Series stars too…I mean, it takes up the whole month of August on ESPN (and it never goes away!). I swear August seems to be the longest month of nothingness but little leaguers on that network that typically shows talking heads and lacks highlights. How many suits and ties are making money off of Pop Warner and Little Leaguers instead of the kids who deserve it? I know the Spelling Bee winners get some sort of scholarship…but it’s not enough.

Myth No. 4: This is all a pipe dream, because Title IX makes payments to male athletes illegal.

I do think it’s (paying college athletes) a pipe dream and a “slippery slope” as my Twitter debater used towards me. I don’t know all the ins and outs of Title IX, except it has wrecked many a good sports at colleges (ask Oregon wrestling, Northern Iowa baseball, Nebraska-Omaha wrestling, Western Kentucky men’s soccer, Towson men’s soccer, just to name a few randoms).

No doubt about it, Title IX has done some great things. I fault athletic departments for the failures of discontinued sports more than I fault Title IX.

I think this is yet another stupid argument. To me, all of these “myths” are some of the worst examples of why college athletes should get paid.

If you want to see my discussion on Twitter about it, go here.

Basically, my debater was saying that since these big-time, elite college athletes rake in millions of dollars for their institutions, ad revenue, etc. then they should be afforded some equal worth of what they do. I completely understand that, 100%. But, as I mentioned earlier, where do you draw that line? I have a large student loan debt that I think I’ll never repay. I was a college athlete. I would’ve loved to get paid. I also went to a private college and knew what I was getting myself into. I also realize that colleges CAN and SHOULD do things differently in how they fund athletics.

Colleges don’t need to spend the amount of money they do on athletics. You can find numerous articles on how much is spent PER PLAYER (here & here). The second link reported that the University of Minnesota spends $199,826 per player. That’s not necessary. But…if that’s it…who can say players get more?! Well they are out there (here & here). The first link says that Texas football players are worth $578,000 individually. So..pay up! Can you imagine college costs if that were true? Can you imagine where student fees would be to pay for those players?

My question behind all of this, do all employees who work in public (or private) sector(s) make money based on their organization’s income? I know there are some organizations who give bonuses, perks, commission, etc. But, who makes the money? The top dog. Every little cog in the machine of the organization is responsible for the revenue, so shouldn’t they be rewarded? Why not? The person who cleans the toilets is every bit as responsible as the person who secures a big sponsorship. Without him/her cleaning your toilet, you would be in an unpleasant work environment.

My solution is simple: either privatize athletics OR develop our current system into an academy. Athletics are removed from the educational institutions and then the academia are pleased AND those champions for “amateur” athletes in getting paid are pleased. Or, utilize what we have (the education and athletic format) and develop athletes AND academics to its fullest. That would require the NCAA loosening up its grip on “development.” That would require NFHS relaxing. And then we could fully ensure that all are satisfied — academics do their jobs, athletes can get paid (and get an education), and we are continuing to better our country through both.

As I linked a couple times in this post (here it is again), we can do exactly what traditional academies are doing…and we can do it better! An Estonian academy educates and trains 300 student-athletes with a budget of $154,000 ($513.33 per student-athlete). In America, primary schools spend $11,000+ per student to educate. BIG BIG BIG difference there. What about the academy to the University of Minnesota, $513.33 to $199,826 per student-athlete? Are we doing something wrong here?

The NCAA has a revenue of $850 million. Some studies show the NCAA has 420,000 student-athletes. If you said that $850 million went to 420,000 student-athletes, then each athlete gets $2,023.81 in compensation. That is on-top of what the school already spends. I couldn’t imagine if the schools actually utilized their million and billion dollar endowments to help students and student-athletes excel. But…do we really need to spend more? Couldn’t we just do better with what we have?

Things need fixed. Don’t hold your breath on it.


One comment

  1. Pingback: My Wish for NCAA Division III Soccer | ponchat

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