Mike Lantry, 1972
pay for play
I have what I think is a super-awesome-ncaa-fixing idea which I have mentioned to a few friends in conversation and most seem to think it is a pretty good one. I'd be curious if y'all have any thoughts on it:
The obvious problem is that many NCAA athletes contribute way more to a school than they are compensated by way of an athletic scholarship. Of course, any NCAA commercial will tell you that the value of the student athlete's education is beyond measure. Meanwhile, for every Denard Robinson that seems to squeeze every ounce of value out of his college experience, there are 12 [insert one and done from Kentucky here]'s who have no interest in what a college education has to offer.
A degree from USC, or even a year of free education from USC, had no value at all to OJ Mayo, I'm sure. At Michigan, I remember knowing of several classes which were specifically known to be 'football classes,' (at risk of pissing someone off from the Ojibwe department, I won't mention that Ojibwa was definitely one such class). So here's the thing: let's not force athletes to rack up 120 credits in Ojibwe to complete their degree. It's a joke, and it does no one any good. Another issue with the degree is some kids come from such worthless high school backgrounds, that they are completely unprepared for college level courses, so they don't get as much out of the free education as they should.
Let's make the Michigan football experience what it actually is: a serious education in multi-million dollar industry which has just as many career opportunities as linguistics, history, medicine, or engineering (ok, maybe not engineering/medicine). Make athletics a major. Film study and off-season workouts? Make them classes. Are they not learning how to be players or coaches or fitness experts or nutritionists? Is there any less opportunity in these fields than there are in traditional college majors? Also, it's a cool way for coaches to enforce attendance rules on what used to be 'optional' workouts. If the kid doesn't do summer workouts, they fail the class, and then their grades are not good enough to participate in the sport.
All sorts of majors have to satisfy basic requirements, so I am not suggesting they take no English or history or math. I am only asking that they be given course credit for the 40 hours a week they put into mastering their craft, just like a music performance major might. And for those kids I mentioned previously who come to college unprepared, let's allow the 'school of football/baseball/whatever' to offer some *truly* remedial courses. I am *not* suggesting watering down the degree. I am suggesting that we make players receive fantastic, personalized education that meets their needs. Some athletes are crazy smart and have a strong high school background. I am not suggesting that they have to get 120 credits of remedial reading, I can think of all sorts of cool/advanced courses. How sweet would it be to get to teach a game theory course, coaching 423-Expected Value and the Punt?
Also, since this 'school of athletics' (or whatever better name someone comes up with), is a bit of a special case, I would say that athletes should be allowed to dual enroll in another school if they choose. So, speaking of the crazy smart athletes above, (like Jordan Morgan and Devin Gardner) let's still let them enroll in social work, or engineering if they choose. Honestly, Jordan Morgan has been working his ass off for 4.5 years at basketball and school, he totally deserves to have 2 degrees. Or a volleyball player or a swimmer might wisely choose to dual enroll in athletics and education, for example, since she knows her field has a few less opportunities than football or basketball. But still, she is learning a lot of the same fitness/nutrition/competition/management skills the football players are, and she should receive a degree that reflects that.
I think it would be really cool if a few schools pioneered an idea like this. "Come to Michigan, the first University to ever have a school of football. Lloyd Carr teaches handling the media, and Mike Barwis teaches how to get paralyzed people to walk again."
Obviously, this does not address every issue with the amount of money that there is in NCAA sports. But at the same time, I feel most pay-for-play options being considered have a lot more drawbacks than my idea. Instead of rehash them all, I will simply say that to me the most compelling anti pay for play argument is in a quick comparison of attendance at college football games vs. attendance at arena football league games (or whatever your minor league system of choice is). People love cheering for these kids that lived in the same dorms, went to the same classes, dealt with the same ridiculous weather and long walks, etc. I love Michigan football because I had the best time of my life there. As soon as athletes are legit superstar millionaires walking around campus, those kids have *nothing* in common with me, and my love/association with Michigan football will definitely be diminished. There is a reason college sports are the only ones who approach the professional leagues in terms of popularity, let's try not to mess with that.
Sorry, this got really long, but I would love some feedback on why this idea won't work, as I feel it's pretty unique and the best way to deal with the problem that I have heard.
So, while I was stiting here earlier, a thought occured, and I wanted to get everyone's take on it. The problem with the current model, as I understand it, is as follows:
1 - Athletes in revenue sports, such as Football, would like to recieve a cut of the revenue, but that would violate amatureism.
2- Athletes in revenue sports would like to pursue licencing, but that would violate amatureism.
3 - Many schools claim they cannot really afford to pay athletes beyond their scholarships,
4 - Paying some athleties will almost certianly raise Title IX issues.
So, here's a new thought. Why not STOP offering scholarships for revenue sports. Instead, make them INTERNSHIPS. Anyone enrolled at teh school, especially recruited athleties (headhunting is common in business, therefore not shady), can apply for one of a limited number of internship opportunities with the sport of their choosing.
Should they recieve the internship, they will recieve top quality training and support in an attempt to prepare them for a career in that sport. Note that NO internshiip guarntees you'll be hired into that business, so this is no different than a journalism major interning with a newspaper only to be hired as a tech writer at an auto manufacturer instead.
Because they're hiring intern employees, and not amatures, schools can set whatever compensation level they think fair. Enough to cover part or all of a scholarship? Maybe some extra.
Instead of having a number of ridiculous rules about practice time, etc, the intern/athletes will instead be bounded by worksplace rules on hours, compensation, etc, which are legally enforcable.
Now players with the skill and potential to get paid can get paid. Those a little lower can still get their college paid for. Nobody is an amature (recieving a scholarship to join a team), so licencing is fine. Nobody is violating Title IX, and the students are STILL Student-Athletes. I mean, who DIDN'T have an internship in college?
The Slate "Hang Up and Listen" podcast interviewed Ramogi Huma, the President of the National College Players Association yesterday.
He discussed briefly the Association's goals, the "APU" slogan, and how they generally wanted to attain those goals. Notably, he said they weren't advocating for a full free market, but weren't against it either. It's probably 15 minutes in and worth a listen.
- Stipend for scholarship athletes to cost of attendance
- Lifetime health insurance coverage for sports-related injuries
- Commitment to allocate funds for concussion research, tracking, and treatment
Ivan Maisel writes an interesting article on a potential problem with paying players more than their room and board: http://espn.go.com/college-sports/story/_/id/6768571/legal-issues-arise-paying-student-athletes
"If they are paid more than the cost of attendance," Matt Mitten, the director of the National Sports Law Institute at Marquette Law School, said of student-athletes, "they would likely be characterized as employees. And that has a number of implications."
The article then goes on to say that the players could unionize, the universities may be liable for their off-field conduct, and all benefits received could be viewed as taxable income.
I'd never considered any of this before. Any MGoLawyers out there who could comment on this?
As we all know, there have recently been many scandals involving paying football players (Cam Newton, recruiting, OSU players selling gold pants, Tattoo-gate, etc). It's not just football players involved, either: we all know what happened with the Fab 5. Is paying sports players so bad though? We all know that universities make millions of dollars based on their football - and to a lesser extent basketball - programs. In addition, many players come from extremely poor backgrounds and must support their families and/or kids. Obviously, if we were to pay them, it would need to be legalized by the NCAA.
First, I know that many of you do not believe in paying sports players. Why pay them when they're already receiving a free education worth 200K? I would like to present an unusual but strangely compelling analogy between football players and PhD students. As an engineering PhD student, I've noticed many similarities between the two. Obviously the analogy isn't perfect but I consider it to be an interesting one.
- Both PhD students and football players provide more value to the University than they receive in direct compensation. PhD students draw grants worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to millions of dollars from companies (if you're an engineering or science PhD student) and the federal government. A good PhD student provides a lot of exposure for the University in the research community and in the news: when you read about some professor's science breakthrough in the Science section of the NY Times, keep in mind that the PhD students working for the professor are the ones who did 99% of the work. In compensation, the PhD student receives free tuition (sounds familiar?), and a minor stipend for living expenses. Obviously, we all know that football players generate way more money in athletic revenue and generate tons of exposure for the university: see the Doug Flutie effect. Also, would anyone not in Idaho have heard of Boise State University if it weren't for football?
- Both PhD students and football players get a free education. All PhD students do not pay for their tuition, either receiving funding through teaching (TA), research (RA), or an internal or external fellowship.
- The #1 job of PhD students and football players is not to do well in class. The #1 job of the PhD student is to do lots of research. Taking classes is mostly to learn some background information, although one or two classes will suffice for their research area. Of course, they need to take more classes to graduate. After the first few classes, all other classes are just for the sake of your own interest, to "make you a better person." Your advisor will also pressure you to spend more time on research and less time on classwork (assuming that you're not in danger of failing out). Obviously most coaches would rather their star football players focus on football rather than studying (assuming that they're not in danger of failing out).
As we can see, from a high level perspective, there are many similarities. The difference is that PhD students get a stipend, which varies based on the school and the location. Also schools may offer PhD students different amounts of money for their services based on how good they are. For example, an OSU PhD student choosing between OSU, MIT and Stanford will probably get a larger offer from OSU than one who just got into OSU. Stipends range between 15K to 30K a year, based on the department, school, and your attractiveness as a candidate.
Aside from these points, PhD students and football recruits share another similarity: recruiting visits. Obviously they aren't as lavish as the football recruiting visits, but schools still make an effort to wine and dine you, paying for your airplane tickets, hotel rooms, and gourmet food.
So if we wish to pay football students, how much money should they be offered? It shouldn't be too crazy: they're still basically amateurs, and frankly many smaller schools can't afford it. However, they should be paid enough to support themselves and possibly a family. Guess what? That sounds exactly like a PhD stipend! PhD stipends are already designed to support a student's living expenses and be able to just barely cover them if they already have a family. They are designed to be affordable for the school, competitive with other schools, and support the student based on the cost of living in the area.
Based on these facts, I propose that football and basketball student athletes be paid as much as the minimum PhD student stipend at the university (maybe multiplied by some value between 0 and 1 since athletes already have many aspects covered such as food). The stipend is enough to support them and encourages universities to pay their PhD students more money if they would like to raise the stipend for their sports players, thus fostering better research. The NCAA has said many times that student-athletes are students first, so now it's time for them to prove it or shut up. Making the football stipend based on some academic stipend is a good way to do it since it will improve the quality of graduate education as well as giving student athletes enough money to support themselves and their families back at home.
What if the school does not have a PhD program? An alternative strategy is to make the student athlete stipend based on the minimum professor salary. Here are some examples for what the student athlete salary can be:
Athlete Salary = A * (Teaching Assistant stipend)
Athlete Salary = B * (PhD stipend)
Athlete Salary = C * (Assistant Professor salary)
Where A and B are maybe between 0.5 and 1, and C is around 0.1 or so.
TLDR: Here's the main question that I'm posing: how do we distinguish between Div 1 basketball and football players from PhD students, in light of the fact that they both produce more value than what they receive?