Friday, October 15, 2010

Why We Shouldn't Pay College Athletes

One of the biggest stories in sports this week was a Sports Illustrated article in which former football agent Josh Luchs revealed in detail how he paid many College Football players while they were still in school.  After the Reggie Bush scandal, it was widely assumed that this practice was prevalent and Bush had simply gotten caught, the article, with its list of names and corroborated stories, validated that assumption.  As a fan I’m hoping the spotlight on this problem will lead to more vigilance and tighter enforcement of the rules from schools, conferences, and the NCAA.
One popular “solution” to this problem is that schools should pay College Football players, especially since they make money from them.  This doesn’t just undermine the spirit that college athletes are amateurs playing for the love of the game; it more importantly undervalues a college education.  The plight of the student athlete is one I’ll never have the fortune of knowing first hand, but it isn’t difficult to see that the needs of athletes on scholarship are met well beyond paying for tuition. 
Scholarship athletes are exactly that, on scholarship, the cost of a player’s education is in fact the payment that they receive in exchange for their efforts on the playing field.  It is difficult to measure the value of a college degree, but my starting salary out of college was higher than the sum cost of my four year education.  I was fortunate, of course, but the value of your education is what you make it to be, and paying players would simply confirm to them that they are at the school to play, not to learn.  Some athletes have what it takes to go pro and make millions, and you can see them treat academics lightly, but consider last year’s Heisman runner up Toby Gerhart, he earned a degree in management sciences and engineering, from STANFORD!  Toby was also drafted by the Minnesota Vikings and is just waiting for Adrian Peterson’s overdue injury to become a featured running back.
Nobody will argue that balancing academics with athletic obligations is easy, these are two draining commitments and players are not above being overwhelmed.  Those who argue for paying players point out that it is ridiculous to expect student athletes to add a job on top of their commitments, and it is, but the resources available to scholarship athletes are not limited to paying tuition.  Consider the importance of nutrition for athletes, their meals are obviously provided by their programs.  Housing is not an issue, books are covered, and athletes don’t exactly have trouble finding dates, the college essentials are provided.
Some athletes, and I don’t want to get into a socioeconomic discussion, do come from low income families and do bear a financial burden.  This important need is not covered by their scholarships, and it is the key argument for paying players.  There is no straightforward answer to money problems, but I believe there are ways to obtain short-term relief without breaking the rules and jeopardizing your school: student loans are an option, offseason part-time employment is another, or simply capitalizing on your athletic gifts as soon as professional leagues will allow.  The high profile cases, Reggie Bush and those mentioned in the SI article, don’t seem to be need based cases, but rather players looking to maintain a celebrity lifestyle.
I believe hard work in the classroom or on the field, but preferably both, will eventually pay itself off with a lucrative career on or off the field, but preferably both.
College Football Predictions – Week 7
  • Illinois +7.5 at #11 Michigan St – The Illini were very impressive last week, and I have a feeling Sparty is still hungover from last week’s big win.
  • Pittsburgh +1 at Syracuse – Pitt has some tough losses, but they still have the talent that had them ranked earlier in the season.
  • North Carolina State -7.5 at East Carolina – The Wolfpack looks pretty impressive, this is an opportunity to become bowl eligible.
  • #14 Iowa -3.5 at #24 Michigan – Iowa is back to form from their tough loss at Arizona, their defense is good enough to contain Robinson.
  • #13 Arkansas +3.5 at #7 Auburn – This will be a close game so I’m taking the points.
  • UTEP +2.5 at UAB – Oddsmakers don’t have a lot of faith in the Miners outside of the Sun Bowl, but I still think they’re on a mission to win Conference USA now that Houston is out of contention.
  • #12 South Carolina -5 at Kentucky – No hangover here, the Gamecocks already experienced a tough loss on the road, they’ll be ready.
  • #22 Florida -7.5 over Miss St – I just don’t think Urban Meyer will lose 3 in a row and back-to-back at home.
  • Baylor -1.5 at Colorado – The Bears lost a tough one last week, but Colorado doesn’t have the firepower that Texas Tech does.
  • #1 Ohio State -4 at #16 Wisconsin – I’m sure the Buckeyes won’t let themselves be ambushed like Alabama.
  • Notre Dame -24 over Western Michigan – The Irish are actually pretty darn good, their offense is looking forward to finally putting up some points.
  • USC -2 over Cal – I like the Trojans to win in a shootout.
  • Miami -19.5 at Duke – Perfect bounce-back game for the ‘Canes!
  • #17 Florida State -21.5 over Boston College – BC has had a rough season so far, and the Seminoles will be looking to win big.
  • #18 OK State +3 at Texas Tech – The home team has won the last 8 meetings between these two, time to break that streak.
Pro Football Predictions – Week 6
  • Texans -4.5 over Chiefs – Houston lost big last week and this is actually a must win for them.
  • Bears -7 over Seahawks – Jay Cutler will be back and the Seahawks are no good on the road.
  • Saints -4.5 at Bucs – Bounce back game for New Orleans.
  • Broncos +3 over Jets – Gut pick, Denver is very good at home.
  • Titans -3 at Jaguars – VY on MNF FTW!!!!

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