When I was 10, Kansas beat Oklahoma in the final of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. To celebrate, my brothers and I marched into the streets of Kansas City to whoop it up with my aunt, who was babysitting the three of us while my parents took in the game at nearby Kemper Arena.

I hadn’t yet played much basketball, but during the next few years – years spent dedicated to the game that would one day turn into my job – I began cultivating a dream:  Someday, I would play college basketball.  And if I was lucky, I would play in the NCAA Tournament.

A few inches, a few good breaks, and tens of thousands of jumpshots later, that first dream came true.  I left high school to play basketball at Iowa State University. Everything was going exactly as I had planned.

Then practice started and I realized something.  A few things, really.

This was going to be really, really hard.

This was serious.

This was like … business.

By the time my four years of eligibility were up at Iowa State, I had achieved the second dream – I had played in the NCAA Tournament.  And I had learned just how true the last of those somethings was.  College basketball is a business – a very big business.

In 1999, the governing body for college athletics, the NCAA, signed a contract with CBS.  In return for allowing that network to televise games featuring amateur basketball, the NCAA would receive $6,000,000,000 over the course of eleven years.  In other words, each year, CBS would pay the NCAA $545,000,000 for the rights to 63 games of basketball that take up three weeks in the spring.

That’s 6 BILLION dollars over 11 years.

Or 545 MILLION dollars per year.

Or almost a million dollars per game.

In every ledger except the one run by the United States government, that’s a lot of money.

Meanwhile, back in the Physical Education Building in Ames, Iowa, thirteen players worked off their scholarships by running, jumping, sweating and absorbing “instruction” in a way that would blanch Andrew Dice Clay.  On Wednesdays and Saturdays, fans clad in licensed Iowa State apparel poured into Hilton Coliseum  – some of them having paid hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars for their season tickets – to watch the players run frantically up and down the floor.  Many of those fans probably thought the same thing.  Something like, I’d give anything to be in their shoes.

It’s possible that a few of those fans might have been astute enough to look at the arena full of people, at the state-of-the-art scoreboard, at the coach who was making $1.1 million per year, and ask, “What are those kids getting out of this?”  If they asked that question aloud, their seatmates would surely have replied, “A scholarship, dummy.”

When athletic scholarships were created, the idea was to give student-athletes the freedom to practice without the stress of working a job to pay tuition.  In return for those scholarships, the school would be able to fill a football or basketball team to trot out in front of alumni who, conceivably, might donate to their alma mater.

But along came the confluence of television and an increasingly sports-mad American audience.  Soon, the demand for college athletics was driven skyward.  Fans became willing to pay more to watch games.  Massive arenas and stadiums, once confined to a few big schools, became the norm.  Shoe deals were signed, images were licensed, and television agreements were made.

By that time, saying that players should be thankful for their scholarships was akin to saying that slaves should have been thankful they had room and board.

To any rational outside observer, a scholarship would look like rather paltry compensation, especially if that observer was let in on the fact that most of the athletes receiving those scholarships were becoming increasingly disinterested in having them.  It turns out that a college degree is worthless if the holder of it either doesn’t want it or doesn’t ever receive it.

Most of my collegiate teammates cared significantly more about their Playstation prowess than they did about walking across a stage in a cap and gown. There were a few who were interested in academia, and a few more who even, gasp, graduated.  But a more likely scenario involved, “C’mon, man.  I didn’t come here to be some scientist.”

Whether a degree is worthless to its holder isn’t really the point.  The point is that the players on the court are capable of making a lot of money but don’t see a dime.  That they don’t make any money playing their sport isn’t the case because they aren’t worth very much or because they wouldn’t like to make money.  It’s the case because they are not allowed to.

This is the objectionable aspect of the setup.  It is one thing to regulate competition.  It is another thing entirely to bar an adult from making money in an activity afloat in it.

There are those who would argue that the only players worth much will get their due, eventually. For those players (author included), college basketball serves as a showcase for profitable years spent playing the game for money. Theirs would be a fine point, if the coaches were volunteering, if it were free to attend games, and if televised events contained no commercials.

Those criteria cannot be satisfied.  Money pours into the coffers of the universities and the body governing athletic contests between those universities.  But none of it makes its way to the players.

Those players are powerless to affect their fates.  They can’t negotiate their own terms.  They don’t own the rights to their likenesses.  They can’t even play in not-for-profit summer leagues, if those leagues aren’t sanctioned by the governing body.

Unfortunately, possible solutions are as complex as they are numerous.  Much of the money the NCAA receives from CBS goes toward the support of non-revenue sports.  If that money were divvied up among the revenue generators that are (usually) football and men’s basketball, difficult choices would have to be made regarding the future of, say, men’s swimming.  In the current environment, it is difficult to imagine the men’s swimming program operating without funding from the NCAA.  But is that so outlandish?  In the “real” world, do we ask NBA players to subsidize the careers of Olympic swimmers?

The answer is that, no, we do not.  But what we do is believe in the sanctity of college athletics, of the purity of sport, of amateurism, of student-athletes performing on their court or field of …

I’m sorry, I couldn’t continue on that tack without starting to laugh.

See, I used to think that very thing.  I thought college athletics would be a pure expression of my abilities.  I thought we would all show up, practice hard, and celebrate our wins together.

I didn’t think about the fact that the television commercials I watched during that championship game between Oklahoma and Kansas were subsidizing a coach who wanted to keep his job, causing him to whip his players into a frenzy by whatever means necessary so they would keep winning and he could get keep getting the good players – the ones who didn’t care about class and who might assault someone but were so talented that people would overlook it. That way, he could win even more and continue to impress his bosses, men who were reaping the benefits themselves and who would be responsible for signing his future contracts.

I didn’t think about that because I was a child and because I was merely watching on television.  I hadn’t yet participated in the events.  When I did get to play in college, I was happy to have people watching my games.  I was happy I was improving.  I was happy the girls on campus recognized me.

I can’t muster much anger about theoretical lost wages.  I was one of the lucky ones.  I finished college with a degree AND I got to play afterward.  But not everyone was like me.  Most of my teammates were exploited – brought from places where they were comfortable to places they weren’t, and reassured, “Sure, kid, you’ll play in the NBA some day,” by coaches who were making enough to finance the state lottery.  Those players assumed it would all work out in the end.  They’d make it, somehow.

Meanwhile, coaches, referees, announcers, athletic trainers, vendors, merchandisers and – most important – athletic departments reaped the benefits.  Millions came in, and most of it stayed there.  In 2007, North Carolina led college basketball programs with a $17 million profit.  That’s in one year.

That same year, securing a courtside season ticket at Arizona’s McKale Center required a $40,000 donation to the athletic department, helping give Arizona its fourth-place finish on the list.

In 2009, the University of Texas topped all football programs with a profit – a profit, mind you – of $59 million.

Again, I hate to overstate the obvious.  But that’s a lot of money.

Even if one maintains that it is reasonable for the NCAA to divvy up the profits from its gargantuan television deal for the sake of nonrevenue sports, it is impossible to justify the profiteering that goes on at the university level.  There must be a way to make it fair for the athletes.

How about this, for example?

North Carolina plays basketball in the Atlantic Coast Conference.  For the sake of argument, let’s assume that it was the only team in the conference to make money in 2007.  This is decidedly untrue, with Duke coming in at No. 5 on the list with an $11 million profit and North Carolina State making $8 million, but I feel we should work in worst-case scenario.

There are twelve teams in the ACC. Each team is allowed 13 scholarships. Twelve times thirteen = 156 players.  Take that $17 million and divide it up among those players.  The result:

$108,974 per player, for 2007 alone.

You don’t want to pay the players directly, you say?  And you want to cultivate the proverbial student-athlete?  Put that money in a trust, payable to each player upon his graduation.

It’s simple, it’s clear; it even encourages athletes to be scholarly – the very goal when universities embarked on an experiment in college athletics.

One could make the case that paying by conference would set up a brutal system of haves and have-nots.  Even though that system already exists (I haven’t seen many McDonald’s All-Americans at Lehigh), I’ll address that argument with a modified solution.

In 2007, the top 20 Men’s Basketball Teams (in terms of profitability) made around $200 million.  There are 347 Division I basketball programs.  Again, assuming that each program has 13 players on scholarship, that’s 4,511 players.

Using only the dollars made by the twenty most-profitable college basketball teams, each player could then be paid a little more than $44,000.  Each year.  Even at Lehigh.

Keep in mind, my proposals leave alone the $545 million paid to the NCAA by CBS each year.  I’ll save the debate of whether it’s worth diving into that very large treasure chest for another day.

Whether he agrees with my brainstorms are not, even the most numerophobic soul can see that a few entities are making a bunch of money by way of the near-volunteer labor of some very skilled athletes.  College basketball players are exploited, and fans of those players have turned a blind eye to that exploitation for too long.

Unfortunately, change is not on the horizon.   There is too much money involved, and the people making that money aren’t likely to re-work the system so they can give it away.  In fact, rumors of an expansion to a 96-team tournament format are afoot. Many contend that such an expansion is only a matter of time.

Additionally, most fans are unlikely to feel much sympathy for athletes.  Athletes those fans would be quick to call spoiled, greedy, and ungrateful, even as those same players march dutifully into locker rooms to endure cortisone shots that will probably result in a knee replacement at the age of 40.

So the only hope is with the players themselves.  Maybe with ex-players, like Ed O’Bannon, who is suing the NCAA over the use of college players’ likenesses in video games.  But probably not.

I fear that change won’t come until something drastic happens.  If, for example, the participants walked off the court just before tip-off of the NCAA’s championship game.  (Hint.)

But that seems far-fetched.  The players are too young.  They’re not far enough removed from being the 10-year-old boy I once was.

And so the cycle will continue. Players will play, others will profit, and little kids –literal and figurative – will watch on TV, dreaming they could be there, not knowing how much differently they’d see things if they were.

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Comments

comments

  1. Holden
    “Capping the money to players is an act of reform; free flow of added revenues to everyone else is dynamic capitalism at work.”~Walter Byers (former president of ncaa)
  2. TPus17 (Bitter FSU Alumnus)
    NCAA = the big bully on the block (play by my rules or you don't get to play) NCAA = hypocrital assholes NCAA = everything that is wrong with sports
  3. TPus17 (Bitter FSU Alumnus)
    *hypocritical (damn, I just fueled the stereotype about my school)
  4. Chris
    Comparing yourself to a slave? Christ, Paul didn't you learn from the Haiti article (not that I care). Anyway, I like the 'trust upon graduation' idea. At the very least, I've always thought athletes should be paid hourly (practice, games, travel) similar to work study students, such as those who work in the cafeterias and libraries to make extra money. It's not much, but it's a start.
  5. Casey
    well said paul. what bothers me the most is the dishonesty. the ncaa holds itself out as an institution of integrity that awards teams and individuals based on merit, while making decisions with the interests of "students" at heart. yet when they close the doors and make up their crazy rules it all comes down to $$$. the clearinghouse process = $ (justified by ncaa's stated intent of assuring academic honesty and qualification in each of the student athletes), archaic bowl system = $ (justified by the ridiculous argument that football players would have to miss exams and therefore would suffer acadmeically if there was a playoff system), maximizing big name schools that get high seeds and therefore advance in the ncaa tournament = $ the whole system is screwed up. you make a great point that the athletes themselves should protest, but what about the universities? what if the 30 biggest "earners", your UNC, Texas, Kentucky, Duke, UCLA, etc just decided, "screw it, we're not in the NCAA or the ACC or the PAC 10 or the Big XII, we're starting our own league, with our own rules, where we pay our kids, etc..." those schools could make just as much money and wouldn't have to deal with the absurdity of the ncaa. there are countless flaws in this proposal i'm sure, but i've heard it floated by various coaches/administrators/fans, and i'm not sure that kind of discussion is a bad thing.
  6. Rob
    Does this explain the loss to Hampton? Sorry my wounds are still fresh from that loss. Maybe we could spin that into your "protest" of the NCAA's.
  7. Jay
    Paul, Not sure if you're familiar with the case of James Paxton, the baseball player from Kentucky U., but it's another great case of the NCAA screwing its student-athletes. The NCAA believes all student-athletes should live by the highest moral standards, while simultaneously acting like an organized-crime racket. Bullying, intimidation, control.
  8. M Shaffer
    Funny you mentioned UNC, whose basketball revenue is enormous, yes, but whose athletic program is struggling to stay in the black. In fact, UNC made a surplus of 200K last year. That's it. But that's good considering only seven athletic departments out of 120 FBS schools turned a profit last year. It's like that every year. After travel, supporting other programs, donations to the school, etc. almost every athletic department loses money. Where would the money come from? There are anywhere from 400-900 athletes at D-I schools. Even 10K/year per athlete could turn into 9Mil/year. Of course, you're proposing to isolate basketball and pretend other sports or the college doesn't exist. But, how can you pull rank in the hierarchy of an athletic department but not within a program? How can you say the best men's swimmer isn't worth a dime, but the 12th man on the basketball bench worth 44K? The fans aren't showing up to see Johnny Walk-on from Caldwell, KS, either. When you boil it down for people outraged that athletes "don't get paid" in college, it amounts to about three guys on the basketball team and about seven on the football team. Ten in a sea of 500 that bring the fans out. Two-percent of your athletes that are the difference between two of sports being respectable or being cellar dwellers. And guess what? Ten athletes that...wait for it...will soon be paid anyway for their athletic prowess. The money, television, politics is absurd in major college athletics. But it's not like the athletes don't benefit from it. For as much as Bill Self benefits from Sherron Collins you could say Collins gets as much from Self/KU. After all, where would Collins be without the out-of-this-world training facility in Lawrence, the expertise of the coaching staff, the tutors provided at no expense, 90% of his games being nationally televised, the media coverage, the contacts made, the transition college provides between adolescence and adulthood, the structure involved, the nutritional plan he's on, the exposure to NBA scouts, and on and on and on. I've never understood why the "college education, dummy" response gets glossed over or is followed by a "yeah, but..." It's an education. Your key to a lifetime of earning. At the very least, it's not having to pay a 100 thousand dollars of student loans off for a decade. It's a helluva lot more than 44K over four years. Are these athletes grown-up or are they kids? On one hand you say they should be paid like adults, but on the other they're wide-eyed kids being misled by the mean ole college coaches. They signed up for this. They can tap out at any time if it's so bad. If the college education is meaningless, if the work is so hard, if they're not getting a big enough piece of the pie then they can quit, pay for college, take sports management classes, work their up for 20 years, and someday become a greedy athletic department head. So, in truth, they're not slaves.
  9. Tyler
    Great article. I agree with most of your points as I am a college basketball player myself. I did a persuasive speech on this for one of my classes eariler in the semester and brought up the "upom graduation" idea as well. Again, great article and I'm a big fan of yours, keep it up.
  10. Casey Jacobsen
    Great article on one of the most difficult subjects to talk about in sports. It's the double edged sword: If a person is an athlete and they claim that scholarships aren't enough, than they sound ungrateful....however, if they don't say anything about the ridiculous exploitation of student athletes by the NCAA, then they're saying it's ok. It's not right. As a former college basketball player in Division I, I can't have this conversation with anyone who hasn't played at the level. They don't understand what it is like; the practices, the games, the pressure, the business, the profits. Non-athletes already believe that the scholarship athletes are too spoiled. It is an argument that you can't win.
  11. Daniel
    Great article!
  12. Paula
    Good article. A lot of people prefer to watch NCAA over NBA anyhow, so it only seems fair to compensate the players. Also, I always enjoy your over exaggerated analogies.
  13. Matt
    I love the idea of a starting a trust payable upon graduation. Players that are serious about balancing the roll of student-athlete, competing for four year and graduating, would get paid for their hard work. The "one and done"-type athletes can make their money in the pro game. It would never work though, Paul. How would coach take home $3.5 million per year? How would the NCAA fund all of their pointless "investigations"? I'd love to see it happen though...
  14. pshirley
    (I work backward so I don't have to do so much scrolling.) Paula - Thanks. Might as well throw them a bone, I say. Daniel, Tyler - I appreciate the kind words. Casey J - As always, you understand me well. (Everyone, this guy ^ can play the hoops. I'm sad we never really got to play together.) Jay, TPus - Good vitriol out of you two. I have to save a response to Mick for last. Keep in mind that we see each other once a week, in case I get worked up. Mick - It's like you didn't read the article above. I didn't propose to support every college athlete with basketball profits. The point is that, if there is going to be so much money involved, the FIRST people to get a share should be the players. They are the ones generating it. If there is money left, then start looking for other people to pay/support. Keep in mind, the money doled out by the NCAA (generated by bball) and the money made by basketball programs (also generated by bball) are two separate issues. (As would be the money generated by football - I don't claim to understand the BCS.) In addition, I think I made it pretty clear that players like me or players like Sherron Collins are the lucky ones. (Which isn't to say that he doesn't deserve a cut.) Yes, he will PROBABLY make money playing basketball. But he could also get hit by a car this summer. He's worth that money now. Ask Casey Jacobsen, who probably made Stanford's program an extra $2 million, if he wouldn't rather have that money than not. I'm not proposing that KU pay Sherron Collins $2 million. But they ought to pay him something. Now, to your point about the other players on the teams...Basketball is not an individual sport, regardless of how badly the NBA would like to make it that. There have to be other players on the team - they may not be AS valuable, but they certainly are not value-less, and they're probably worth more than we can measure. But if you want to propose a system that pays the best players more, feel free. I'm all for that too. I just think that might introduce an unnecessary variable to the equation. And the kid/adult thing...um...I think I made it pretty clear that the problem is that they're sold one thing (athletic glory, trip to the NBA, fun) when the reality is another. They're kids when they get there; adults when they leave. Because like all adults, they figure out that everything is about money.
  15. pshirley
    Jeez.. Two "I think I made it pretty clear"s in one response. This is why we edit.
  16. christopher
    So Paul, when do we start paying High School players? I mean they too are being exploited aren't they? I still go back to Mick's argument, if you don't like it, stop playing. Pay for school. It's that simple. And the funny thing is, there are lots of kids that go this route each year. Sure the exploitation thing makes for a great story but, and you should know this by now, that's life. Everyone is exploited by someone else. The sooner you realize it, the better off you'll be. Paying college players is ludicrous. They're already being paid, and the terms were explicitly communicated the day they signed on.
  17. Elliot
    Paul, "clearly" you were trying to get on Mick's banned list.
  18. Breeze
    I'm also an ex college basketball player, and to address it directly, no the scholarship is not enough. I played with a kid from Haiti in college (no relation to Paul's column), and he, like many of the kids I played with, had no financial support from home. The scholarship funds allow a student athlete to attend class and practice, eat, and go back to the dorm. This student barely had furniture in his dorm room, and I'm sure he got tired of wearing white t shirts every day (although I suppose that could have been by choice, what with the style and all). He was not able to buy new shoes, never accompanied those of us that could afford it to the movies or a bar, and I personally chauffered him around school, because he had no vehicle. Thankfully my parents were able to pay for my car and gas money or else we would have both been walking. Of course, the civilian student is not gauranteed those things either, but they are free to get a job and get paid for the hours they spend working. The student athlete is not allowed a job, couldn't work one anyways, and in most cases puts in more hours working (playing basketball) than that regular student does working. And if you don't think college basketball is work, then like Casey said you probably shouldn't be in the conversation at all.
  19. Claudia
    I am a female fan of college basketball. I am too old to have reaped the benefits that have resulted from title vii - I never played "sports" because, well, girls just didn't. But I am in total agreement with you Paul, and have believed this for quite some time - student-athletes, and especially those in the more "popular" (i.e., revenue-producing) sports, are treated unfairly. I've worked with students in a Div I school for a good part of my career. Myriad opportunities and benefits could be provided to non-athletes that were not available to student-athletes just because they were athletes - the NCAA rules! I think the "trust" is a great idea. But I fear too many people - those benefiting from all that revenue generated by the student-athletes and way too many fans - will never support such a concept, and the student-athletes are too scattered and diverse - and the turn-over is too rapid - to get organized. But great article, great idea - now get those student-athletes organized!
  20. Jaime
    Actually, the NBA does subsidize men's Olympic swimming. (Much in the same way small market teams are subsidized by the Yankees and Red Sox in MLB.) Indirectly and not without the return of an added advantage to the NBA for its "investment" but it is happening, believe me. And the $50MM securitization under the guise of helping "youth development and grassroots basketball" of the NCAA by the NBA does not help this situation that is college basketball as big-business. A drop in the bucket for the professional sports leaders when you consider the indentured servant system it helps the schools to sustain!
  21. Kate
    Interesting that you suggest taking the profit from the universities and pretty much leave the NCAA out of the discussion. The NCAA is the biggest part of the problem. They've increasingly distanced themselves from their alleged mission of supporting student-athletes (all the while trotting out a parade of expensive TV commercials that attempt to portray the organization as educationally-focused). And if you want a case study in collegiate athletics profit-sharing that pays off, look at the impact of the Big Ten Network on that league's institutions.
  22. adelsig
    i've never understood why sports as a revenue base for collegiate programs is still allowed. if atheletes aren't there for a college education, separate out club teams from education. it's how europe does it. no collegiate sports, they are all club teams. it's insulting that those of us that went to school to get an education have to foot a large part of our tuition to sponsor ad "support" the ongoing profitability of the college in question and the NCAA. it's sickening and repulsive and something that needs to stop. scholarships to exploit athletes who don't give a shit about college? it's insane and only drives up the cost of tuition for those of us that aren't physically gifted. sorry paul, but this is a larger problem than the athletes aren't getting paid. this is a systematic raping of the average college student who is trying to graduate without paying off loans indebted to atheletes who are just sufferring their way through four years to get some huge paycheck for tossing a ball into a net. for free.
  23. adelsig
    sorry about the typos above, but i just can't stand this whining and moaning that a free ride at a D-I school for a diploma is just too insufferable to bear for most athletes. give me a fucking break, breeze. some of us are sitting 90K in debt so you could shoot some baskets and suffer through the rigors of games, parties, and passing classes without attending them. i went to a D-I school so i've got a pretty fair idea as to how this goes. cry me a river.
  24. Todd Gallagher
    What would be the most logical and equitable approach is to run the entire athletic department as a business. If a swimmer generates no revenue for the school and provides no true secondary gain that the school finds meaningful then not only should they not pay the swimmer but they also shouldn't give him/her a scholarship. The same applies for lesser lights in football and basketball. I think what you'd find in those sports though, is that any rotation player on a decent team is "worth" more than the scholarship they're playing for. If Brady Morningstar helps KU become the number one team in the land as a strong reserve, I'm sure they would happily pay him 100k to keep him around. However, if the basketball team generates revenue then players should be compensated for that. The one part of this discussion I always take exception to is the idea that the players should be paid "something" but not anything in the millions -- not to bag on you Paul, but your Sherron Collins example is what I'm referring to. If Reggie Bush generates 50 million dollars for USC, why shouldn't he get something approaching his real value? For that matter, why shouldn't USC be able to say "Hey Reg, I know you want to go to the pros but we have a good things going here. Stick around another year and we'll cut you in on this brand you're building by giving you a portion of jersey sales and a bump in salary."
  25. Breeze
    Adelsig - You put yourself through a DI school, congrats. However, that has no correlation to you having any educated idea of what you're talking about. And actually you prove that point by arguing the ill-informed and silly...you'll get a huge paycheck later, you don't go to class, you party, and play games. Are you sure your not basing your opinion on the experiences of Neon Boudeaux? It's pretty difficult to party when you wake at 5 AM every day to run in the dark on a track, then go non-stop till class ends at 10 that night, then repeat. And yea in the Blue Chips universe, or wherever John Calipari happens to be coaching, you may be able to get away with not attending class, but I wish someone would have told that to the grad student assigned to check our attendance daily. I don't know how much your tuition earmarks for athletics, so I can't speak to that, but I do know that I made my school money, you paid them in cash, I paid them in time, vomit, and at the expense of a social life and spending money. I also seem to remember my high school guidance counselor Mabel saying there were a myriad of different types of scholarships for the non-athletically gifted(are you against those scholarships as well?). And I'm willing to bet that none of those academic or hardship scholarships come with a you can't work while your borrowing this money stipulation either. Sucks that you had to take out a loan to pay for something that costs money. Also sucks that a student athlete gives up 4 years of their life to make money for a school, but can't afford to take his girlfriend out on a date. Oh well, back to my desk job.... Great article Paul as usual.....thanks
  26. pbelmore
    Just to piggyback on Breeze's point, athletic scholarships come out of the athletic department's budget. Sorry, Adelsig, but your tuition increases have absolutely nothing to do with your sports teams. Don't believe me? Look up your school here: http://www2.indystar.com/NCAA_financial_reports/
  27. pshirley
    Quickly... Christopher - I think you missed the point. It's about barring the players from making money. High school players aren't generating (much) revenue, so it's a non-issue. College players are generating a lot. It's wrong to keep them from their share of that. Breeze - Glad to hear from a like-minded soul. Thanks for reading. Claudia - Plant the seed. (And thanks for reading.) Kate - Yeah, I don't like the NCAA either. I think their rules barring players from making money need to change but supporting nonrevenue sports, while flawed, is at least vaguely noble. adelsig - I can't speak to all situations but at Iowa State, the students were certainly NOT supporting the basketball program. There may have been small fees, but I'm guessing they were there to support the non-revenue sports. These bball and football programs are making huge amounts of money - they don't need any support. And you should understand that Breeze is mostly right - playing high level college athletics is like nothing you've been made to believe. It's way closer to being in the military than people realize. I know that comes off as an exaggeration, but it is not. Todd - Sure. Let's do it. My proposal was more middle-of-the-road than anything. I'm all for rewarding people if they can negotiate a deal.
  28. bisp
    Paying college players is not an option if people want NCAA basketball/football to remain relevant. I don't necessarily disagree that college players should be able to turn some sort of profit during their playing years but how do put this in place? Big schools with big dollars can afford to pay players more and more often so they will consistently bring in better talent and consistently be better than the majority of the field? Even professional sports can't work out a simple salary cap formula. It would completely eliminate the competitive edge of good coaching and quality recruiting. College atheletes are in many ways priviledged, even those riding the pine share in an experience your average fraternity brother can only dream of. Yes you sacrifice many pleasures of the 'college experience' but you also share in many that only a very select few are able to experience, aside from the scholarship which you're right very few care about...your specific situation is by far an outlier, i understand you are writing based on personal experience and belief but your typical college athelete is probably not a smart guy good enough to play or walk on. I just don't think it is possible to share profits with college atheletes without negatively impacting the quality of product produced by the NCAA. Interesting take none the less.
  29. Mark
    1) Paul, by your estimation as an insider, if you are bold enough to answer: how many college athletes are actually paid while they are in college and what kind of pay-out range do star basketball players likely receive under the table. Didn't Chris Weber jokingly state he took a pay cut when he joined the league? I'm not trying to cut any legs from your argument that student athletes should be paid, but I'm curious as to how many may already do. 2) Recently Todd Lickliter was fired at the University of Iowa. He had served 3 of 7 years on his contract (~$1.2 mil / year). I've read his pay-out will be $2.4 million. You are absolutely right that this is big business and Athletic Directors are throwing money around like Bear Stearns executives. Maybe we wouldn't have state employees with $5+ million contracts littered across the country if profits were distributed in a more equitable fashion.
  30. Rod Smith
    Well written. It makes me think of an even larger "injustice" -- the "college myth." I still survey students and parents at Jeff West (where Paul got educated !) about their reason(s) to go to college. Overwhelmingly they answer "to get a better job" which they in turn define as "one that pays more money." There is a growing bubble of college grads with huge student loans for degrees which provide an EDUCATION but not a job. Last summer I spoke with an economist at the KC Federal Reserve who spoke of a future bubble of student loans waiting to pop just like the housing bubble. A few years ago I taught a summer class for Duke and had an assistant -- he had a PhD in physics, another in mathematics and was working on one in engineering. "Why," I asked ? Because otherwise I have to start paying back my student loan. Good news, though -- when you die your loan dies with you ! There ARE many reasons to go to college. And a higher-paying job means you likely will take lots of science and math (good for those of us who are science and math teachers) but the AVERAGE college graduate earns LESS THAN the average. Doctors, engineers (well those who are working as engineers, Paul...smile !, nurses, pharmacists, accountants, etc., skew the data. Just as it seems to be in the interests of a RELATIVE few to raise the issues you have -- those playing college basketball and football -- it is not in the interest for any college professor to mention "the college myth." It is only in the interest of each individual. So the parabolic growth of people with Masters and Doctorates grows. Another challenge to solve! Nice article Paul.
  31. MG
    Think its interesting the college basketball players jump all over others for not knowing what they are speaking about, and then compare their situation to being a slave or a soldier. I would imagine the lack of frame of reference is similar. Wonder what a soldier would say about having their lives compared to someone fulfilling a basketball scholarship. Don't doubt that the NCAA is a mess, and maybe players should be better compensated, but to cast them as downtrodden victims seems a little much. You're complaining about a situation you knowingly put yourself into.
  32. adelsig
    college and higher education is for exactly that: education. to scorn the fact and complain how "hard" practicing can be is ludicrous. try keeping a 3.8 average in pre med to stay competitive. i'm not sitting here and saying no one parties or whatever in college. but to moan and complain about DI athletes not getting their due is absolutely asinine. you got a free ride...what the hell else do you want? i went to UVM for those that care. and the $5 million dollar proposed renovation for the patrick gymnasium, then the $10 million dollar renovation of athletic fields didn't just fall from the sky. it comes out of tuition. sorry, but whatever your bias may be from running up and down a field to nose in a book, higher eucation is exactly that. shall we ask how many rhodes scholars there are right now in D-I sports? to sit here and tell me athletes don't get special treatment from the schools is ludicrous. take the blinders off...those of us that weren't got to sit front and center while the basketball/hockey/soccer teams "missed" mandatory reports, finals, tests, etc because they had a game or tournament. color it any way you want breeze...you got a pretty sweet deal. i'm not saying playing at that level is easy...and your and paul's interpretation of that is missing the mark entirely. my point being: college is there for one reasson: higher education. not playing sports, not making money (at the time), not lamenting early morning practices and long travelling times. you're basically complaining about not getting paid during college. gentlemen, welcome to the other 98% of the collegiate experience. i go to school for pre-med and ultimately physical therapy. i worked clinic after clinic, summer classes, intensive lab and practical situations without getting paid...join the club!! again...the separation of academics and sports should be made. and for the rest of us, it's long overdue. even to the local level, when school taxes go up, what are they frequently for? athletic field renovations, equipment, etc. you rarely see tax hikes for improved textbooks, critical thinking extracurricular activities, or music programs, which by the way suffer the most and are demonstrated time and time again to be an excellent indicator of academic performance. again....cry me a river.
  33. Rickety Cricket
    adelsig-I am also a former Division 1 athlete. I have been through the rigors that are trying to perform at one of the highest levels of physicality day in and out in addition to getting a degree, not just parties and skipping class. Most athletes are physically exhausted a good percentage of the time during classes and any worth wile degree program at an institute of higher learning is mentally exhausting as well. I understand there are exceptions of the upper echelon players that go for one year then make millions in the NBA, but on the other end there are those who either don't play or are from the "mid-majors" that don't have that goal within reach. Even with full-rides, college athletes do not get any extra income (except for those with Pell grants) and work twice as hard. They are not able to hold down any jobs because of the schedule they are forced to keep. This is where some form of payment would be applicable. Especially after how much money athletics generates for the school. To imply all that money goes strictly back to the athletic department is ludicrous. It is also used to fund projects not directly correlated with sports (maybe even supplies for the pre-med department). You're trying to lump all athletes together in comparison to some bad apples that attend college just strictly for the competition. That is profiling and profiling is just plain wrong. Yes we had to miss some "mandatory reports, finals, tests, etc" for games and tournaments, but we are out bringing in revenue and representing for the school. Rarely have I ever heard of any student being shot down by a teacher because they cannot attend something. Professors let them make it up just like student-athletes. You're entitled to your opinion but making statements like you are just from what you've heard and/or seen without actually having been in the shoes of a student-athlete is like me using Patch Adams as my reference on commenting on med-school practices.
  34. Jon H.
    Adelsig: There is actually one Rhodes scholar D1 athlete, Myron Rolle. He gave up his senior season at FSU to go to Oxford. Here's a very good OTL article on him (sorry Paul for the ESPN link): http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/eticket/story?page=100218/myronrolle Furthermore Rolle has an outside chance of being a first round draft pick and will probably be drafted by somebody in the NFL. While I think there is a good argument for why some DI athletes should be paid I think the bigger problem is the NCAA and their ridiculous requirements for what is/isn't allowed from the student-athletes themselves, such as not being able to have a job.
  35. adelsig
    "Even with full-rides, college athletes do not get any extra income (except for those with Pell grants) and work twice as hard. They are not able to hold down any jobs because of the schedule they are forced to keep" rickety....points taken, but how does this differ from the typical premed, health science, or engineering student? the complaint is about the ultimate profitability that atheltics brings into colleges and universities...what about the academic end of it>? the same argument could be made for the thousands of doctor, engineers, biochemists, and researchers from DI schools. college isn't a breeze for atheltes or solid scholars. but it's delusional to think athletes don't get their fair share in college. name one collegiate program or major that gets paid by the college to perform in their recreational activities or extracurricular activities. which is exactly my point: athletics are ANCILLARY to the true purpose and establishment of higher education. to expect reimbursement for this is ridiculous.
  36. Tim
    I really think the key to this is for the NBA to have a better minor league system. College should be about college. If athletes aren't there for the degree then they shouldn't be there. Why are they there? There should be another venue to develop or showcase your skills. We've never batted an eye when an 18 year old plays pro (minor league) baseball but we make a big deal when they leave school early for basketball. Sure, college basketball would become less relevant, just like college baseball. But I think that's the real problem- it's become a business that gets the advantage of a disguise and a monopoly. Want to take away that power? Take away those advantages.
  37. Curt
    Paul, Interesting article. The trust upon graduation is a new twist on an somewhat old and tiresome debate. Im curious about your thoughts on Brandon Jennings and Europe as an alternative to college hoops. If the NCAA doesn't budge (and I doubt they will) do you think that Europe will become a popular option for top recruits? I also feel like you are uniquely qualified to comment on the relative benefits of playing NCAA vs euroball for a kid coming out of highschool. Any thoughts?
  38. Jordy
    I'm glad you were able to work Ed O'Bannon into the article, well done.
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