Friday, March 28, 2014

Why College Athletes Should Not Get Paid

Recently we have heard about the ruling from the National Labor Relations Board allowing the Northwestern football players to unionize.  Many have argued that the players are "forced" to play for a school that is making millions from their effort and for a coach that is also making millions.  So why not give the players a cut of it?  While I'm not an expert on the matter I think I've got some pretty strong arguments why this shouldn't be allowed.

I'm sure that D-1 college athletes have expenses that are directly related to their sport.  Insurance comes to mind.  Travel expenses also.  I'm sure the school covers most of these and they should cover all of them.


College athletes are getting paid in several different ways.  First, let's consider the scholarship.  For many schools this amounts to a tremendous amount of money where an out of state student tuition with room and board might approach $50,000 annually.  When you factor in the future monetary benefit of having at least a partial degree then the compensatory amount goes up dramatically.


The next way a college athlete gets paid is in exposure.  This benefit will apply to some more than others -- Julius Randle receives more and benefits more from exposure than Jon Hood (both from the UK roster).  To understand this benefit let's look at the goals of these players.  Take Andrew Wiggins for example.  Coming out of high school he was not old enough to go directly to the pros. That leaves him with a few options such as play in college, play overseas, or don't play at all.  It's easy to see that the first option with all of it's national TV time and exposure to NBA recruiters greatly increases his value to the league.  Where would Wiggins be drafted if he flipped burgers for a year or played in Israel until he became old enough?  Would he still go #1?  The difference between pick #1 and pick #10 can be millions and at least part of that can be directly attributed to the Kansas Jayhawks and the exposure they provided to him.  Providing a stage for a star to dance on is valuable compensation.  What kind of payday did Doug McDermott earn with the stage that Creighton gave him?


Another method of compensation for these athletes is training.  Again, remember that the NBA has an age limit and rules that specify that US players must be at least 19 and one year removed from their high school class to be eligible.  So, again, let's look at the options a kid has during that 1 year they are spending after high school before they are eligible for the NBA.  They can play college ball, flip burgers, or play internationally.  Which one provides them the best training and coaching to prepare them for the NBA?  Let's say a kid decides to flip burgers for the year but hire Rick Pitino as a personal trainer and coach? Assuming he even could hire him what would it cost?  When basketball and football players get years of weight training, strength training, coaching, and psychological training (got to get their minds right!) all for free then that is a very valuable form of compensation.  Look at all the basketball and football pros that were relative unknowns in the college ranks but through the coaching and training provided they are now making millions in the professional ranks.  Still think they are not getting paid?

What About Other Sports

Now for a minute let's talk about other sports.  At most schools football and basketball pay all the bills.  I saw a stat recently that said something like 19 sports at the University of Kentucky are completely reliant on monies from basketball and football for their very existence.  So if you start paying (as in handing them a check) basketball and football players, these schools will have no choice but to either raise tuition on everyone or cut back on these other sports or scholarships for these other sports.  As a parent of a kid who got a partial softball scholarship I would be pissed to be told that my child couldn't get that scholarship or she had to pay a higher tuition because the school had to pay their football players a weekly wage and then watch some of those football players go pro and earn millions.