Tuesday, July 27, 2010

It's time to end NCAA "Shamateurism"

I have been on record for years as wanting the NCAA to put an end to "shamateurism" and allow players to have a piece of the rather large pie their work creates. Arguments such as "the scholarship is enough" or "it will no longer be all about the students" are well-intended, but I don't agree with them.

First of all, while the opportunity to earn a degree at a major university is very good compensation for playing sports, the kids at least need to have a little bit of spending money. Enough to bring their parents in for a game or two would be nice, as would enough to go out once in awhile, or to even buy snacks for in between meals.

When compared to the millions of dollars that football and basketball bring in, the schollies aren't all that much. Remember that a kid spends 20 hours a week on his sport in season, plus studying and attending classes. And that kid's 20 hours a week is a lot more demanding than someone who is working 20 hours at Subway for a few extra bucks. Players deserve to be able to live a somewhat "normal" life when they aren't playing. They aren't allowed to hold a part-time job during the season, so they need to get money from somewhere.

The main drawback to paying players in revenue sports is Title IX. I'm not an expert on Title IX, but my understanding is that if they paid 85 male football players and 12 male basketball players, they would have to find a way to pay 97 female athletes who bring no revenue into the school to make things "equal" for the female, non-revenue producing athletes.

Also, paying players would turn the athletes into "employees" of their institutions, opening a Pandora's Box that nobody wants to open. So, players being paid by the schools would be too problematic, but the money doesn't have to come from the school. This brings me to my solution for giving players their "slice of the pie:"

Throw out 99 percent of the NCAA rulebook and let players take outside income from whoever they want.

This is so "full of win" for everyone involved that I can't believe it isn't being done already. The schools would win becuase they wouldn't have to worry about NCAA sanctions anymore, and because they would save money on not having an unwieldly compliance department. The players would win because they could finally have some of the money they deserve. The boosters would win because they could brag to their friends about how they pay the players. The NCAA office would win because a huge pain would suddenly disappear from their collective gluteal area.

Really, the only people who would lose here would be the myriad "compliance staffers" whose middle management jobs would no longer be neccessary. And most of them would be able to eventually find administrative jobs within athletic departments again if they really wanted to.

What would be great about this for all concerned is that the free market would determine who gets paid and how much. The schools wouldn't be responsible for paying the players, so there would be no employer/employee relationship, and no Title IX consequences.

There are those who would argue that teams would be able to "buy" players and that the rich would get richer. To them, I would only say one thing: open your eyes. The rich are already "richer" and the bigger programs already get the better players. If anything, this would allow smaller schools with rich alums, such as SMU, to become major players again without fear of NCAA penalties. For those who say it "wouldn't be about the students anymore," it really never has been "about the students," so the point would be moot.

As for the NCAA rulebook, it really only needs about one page. Wouldn't that be nice?

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