Mike Lantry, 1972
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.
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?
Problem here is that, while it's not called a stipend for student athletes, for all intents and purposes they are getting a stipend. The scholarship can cover the full cost of tuition, books, room and board. Not every cent they receive is going directly to their student account. What is left over, they get to spend on food, books, etc.
Sure, just give them a small money stipend in addition to their current one. That's why I put a multiple of the PhD stipend, not the same as the PhD stipend.
that you have unlimited funds and are going to pay all student athletes in the country. Couldn't cost much more than a couple $B/yr.
completely ignores the Title IX issue. How do you get around it?
In the ideal world, all Division 1 athletes are paid small stipends. I don't see why not. Of course there are limitations in funding in the real world.
You do realize that they already get a stipend, right?
Along with free health care, free tutoring...
sports related injuries, and sometimes not even all of those costs. For a lot of schools, the insurance policies don't cover off-field stuff like dental, prescriptions, etc unless they're on the (usually crappy) student health plan.
I would also add that in both cases, their time at the university serves as a stage for their future prospects.
While at the University, both students strive to perform well so that they can be noticed by their prospective employers so the better the student performs in their time at the U, the better the job/contract he/she could land when they are done; though the student-athletes more often leave before getting some kind of degree.
One could make the argument that in most cases, the PhD students have two objectives, getting a good job and a degree, while most of the athletes in question just wants to make it to the next level as soon as possible, with or without a degree.
Very good point! I had originally thought of this but I forgot to mention it while writing the article.
The moeny that guys get is beyond just a stipend. It wouldn't stop the 80K to Cam Newton type recruiting, and since everyone would be giving the stipends, some people would offer more to entice recruits their way.
The issue will never go away, but it'll at least help.
If a basketball or football player feels like they are being used, they can go play CFL football. Or go to Europe for basketball. Or South America. Or train by themselves. What is the UFL's rule on age minimums?
They get treated like kings by everyone for 4 years. The players that aren't good enough to go pro still get to use their college playing days to their advantage in a variety of ways, be it the job market, politics or getting bought rounds of drinks at the bar. Hell, I see this even at the high school level.
The only thing that I believe should change should be the ruling on selling their own memorabilia and the ability to be sponsored. There is no reason a player should not be able to sell his property like any other student can on Ebay or to a pawn shop or to a fan or whatever. In the same breathe, as someone else mentioned, why Denard shouldn't be able to do a commercial and reap the benefits is beyond me.
I really thought we wouldn't agree when I read your first paragraph, but actually I'm in complete aggreement.
One thing you didn't add, and I think would be the case, is that for the really big recruits, the shady people would be priced out. Adidas has deeper pockets than Ed Martin did, and the Cam Newton types would have way less to gain from associating with rich boosters if they could already sign a six or seven figure deal with Nike/UA/Adidas.
This is true for PhD students as well though (except for the "treated like kings" part haha). The PhD students who don't make it and fail out with a Masters land on cushy 100K/year jobs. Are you saying that PhD students shouldn't get a stipend then?
Your PhD student analogy ignores a few very significant realities:
- PhDcandidates are not involved in a competitive sport governed by the NCAA - believe it or not many of these rules are designed to create competitive balance between schools with huge revenue producing programs and those without
- Title IX dictates men's and women's programs receive comparable resources - where will you get the money to pay everyone?
They really are not comparable situations
The premise is that the NCAA rules will be changed. I'm thinking of the situation in more of a philosophical approach (the morality of paying a PhD student vs paying a football student athlete) more than any artificial rules.
Title IX is federal law, not an NCAA rule.
As a Public Policy student, the odds of changing Title IX to allow paying of two groups of male athletes are practically nil. The second that got proposed, there would be activists running ads is whatever state the congressmen/senator was from, there would be huge lobbying efforts from interest groups, and there would immediately be huge campaign donations flowing into the opposite party's election fund for that district/state; politicians just don't want the headache.
Title IX is an issue no politician is going to touch right now; there's very little upside to them fighting to change it, and there is a huge downside. Not saying that's how things should be, but that's definitely the reality.
This is exactly the point I was going to make. The huge difference here that is ignored is that PhD students make the university money by what they do by themselves or with their peers at the same university. Football players make their money by competing with football players at other universities. The federal government or XYZ company doesn't really care if there is any competitive balance between PhD programs, and no one suggests there should be. However, competitive balance is necessary for the NCAA to be successful. If it is admitted that only the few, rich programs are in the running every year, college football gets much less fun for a lot of schools.
Sure, the NCAA claims to want a fair playing field, but is that really true? Don't we all know how dirty recruiting can be? The goal here is to try to limit (not completely remove) some of the temptation that causes a football player to go to Auburn because of cash payouts.
So are you suggesting that players at every school in FBS are paid the same? I assumed that in your PhD example, the big schools paid their players more than the smallers schools.
Do me a favor - do some research. Decide what kind of stipend you think would make sense, then figure out how many student athletes most programs have, and figure out how much this would cost each athletic department per year. Then, for the schools that can't afford that number (almost all of them) decide what you propose should be cut from each athletic department to pay for this. This reminds me of the voter who wants more money to schools and more money to public works and cleaner parks and better roads but doesn't want taxes to go up.
If you have 85 football players and 15 basketball players and you give them 10,000 per year, that's a cool million dollars. That doesn't count all the other sports that you said in an earlier thread should all get paid.
The same way schools afford to pay $5 million/year for their head football coach. Move $1million from the football coach to their players.
To build on this, my point was that a huge income/resource disparity already exists in college football. Look at the head football coach's salary at a small school (say Ball State) vs one of the major football powers. There is at least a 10x, if not 20x or 30x difference. Any disparity in the football player stipends will surely be less than 10-30x.
How would you propose creating the environment where a coach is paid one million less per year, to use your example. A coach's compensation is determined by market forces, not an NCAA rule or regulation. Alternatively, assuming the coach to be highly compensated, should he or she just donate one million to the athletic department?
Just to clarify, the failed PhD students landing 100K/yr jobs that I know about are all in Computer or Electrical Engineering. Sorry, Philosophy majors.
You're saying hot women aren't throwing their panties at you when they learn you're a PhD student?
How are you going to pay the 99% of male and female athletes not playing football or basketball at the few schools that have the necessary revenue? I saw the Frontline piece and get the whole argument, but they completely ignored this issue. Everyone knows the deal going in and the vast majority of athletes will never feel "exploited". If is a very small number at the top end of exposure.
If you work for a company that makes a lot of money off something you do are you suddenly entitled to be paid a lot more than what you agreed to when you were hired? Of course not. That's just the way it is - move on when you can and sell your services to a higher bidder.
Your example isn't true though. At most companies you would get a substantial bonus.
Really? I would like to see a statistical survey on that one. I have been in the business world for 25 years and I can assure you that is not the case at "most" companies, unless it was in a contract upfront.
You know what, you're probably right. In my field though (Computer Engineering), it seems to be true with companies like Google, Microsoft, Apple, Intel, etc.
Chances are that if you work for a company, the company was not allowed to make an agreement with its competitors to limit your pay drastically below where it would be without that agreement. That's an agreement in restraint of trade, and unless you're covered by a CBA, your employer can't do that.
As for Title IX, it doesn't require equal funding for men's and womens sports (think about the differences in salary between mens and womens CBB coaches). It requires equal opportunity, which is measured in a lot of different ways. However, I'd suggest that it would be better to allow the revenue athletes to gain the value from their labor and re-tool Title IX so it only applies to the subsidy-receiving sports, than it is to continually steal from the revenue athletes.
Your points are not relevant to my analogy. A company does not need an agreement with its competitors to limit your pay. It only needs to pay you what it agreed to pay you.
Yes, Title IX, and this discussion, have nothing to do with coaches' compensation. It has to do with benefits and resources provided to student athletes.
1) Other athletes would not be getting paid. What is the incentive for a two sport athlete to choose a sport that he may excel at instead of playing football or basketball? This even distribution allows all athletes to choose the sport that is best for them and to be equal on compensation to others.
2) If I am coming out of high school and Michigan has an higher average per football player pay than that of Boston College then I would probably attend Michigan. Maybe I would sit on the bench and rarely see the field at Michigan and maybe I would start my second year at Boston College. Not paying these athletes allows football and basketball to be competitive.
The compensation received by all Phd students and athletes is enough.
1) Isn't there already an incredibly strong incentive for a two sport athlete to choose football or basketball? Think about the amount of exposure difference between football and Men's Gymnastics.
2) Plenty of people will choose Michigan and sit on the bench vs starting at Boston College already. I don't see how this isn't already a problem. Plus, NCAA guidelines can set a min/max to the stipend. BC can just match it if the min/max is reasonable.
If there's already an incredibly strong incentive for athletes to choose football and basketball, then how are they not already being fairly compensated? Why do you need more of an incentive?
Are you saying that schools should be able to pay some players more than others?
Perhaps it's reasonable. Some players are worth more than others. There should of course be a minimum as well as a maximum set by the NCAA.
But don't tell them they can't take money from wherever they can get it, either. The NCAA should throw out most of the rulebook and let players take money from boosters. I'm tired of Michigan losing to schools whose boosters pay their players so much that they often take pay cuts to play professional ball.
Let everyone's boosters pay their players and let Michigan play on a level field.
Congrats Tater, you're the only one to propose a completely idiotic solution, rather than a "good but with problems" solutions that most others have presented.
No rules at all, huh? So players just go to whichever booster promises them the most money? What happens when they player comes and the booster changes his mind? What happens when the player is a bust and the booster who paid 100k for him to come is a little crazy (the kind of guy to pay 100k for a recruit) and starts sending him death threats? What happens when the starting QB tells the coach he isn't playing until his booster pays up? There are milloins of other scenarios that are just as crazy and just as likely. This is not what we want college football turning into.
betting on games and "asking" the player to either shave points or outright take a dive?
To the lowest common denominator, so they can win.
Sometimes I wonder if you know what it means to be a Michigan fan.
How about the NFL setting up their own minor league system? Let the guys, who want to get paid and resent the money schools make, go toil in relative obscurity like baseball players. How about they take up golf or tennis and hit the pro-tour as teenagers if they so resent the money that's being made at their expense?
My question is what kind of minor league contract would a kid get if he had a minor league pro-option? What would the average pay be? How many seats could they fill if they didn't have a ready made fan base of generations of graduates and followers? What kind of television exposure would this league have?
Do PHD students get free food, health care, clothing. Do they get a weeks vacation completley paid for that usually includes gift cards and free electronics?
Athletes get much more than theri scholarship money. The food expense for a football team is ridiculous.
PhD students do indeed get free health care (Blue Cross Blue Shield at state schools, incredibly good health care) and paid vacation (you're salaried so you just make up the work later). It's quite easy to find good (non-pizza) free food as well.
Technically not free, the cost of health care come out of my fellowship before I got paid. Also, I only got paid for 20 hrs per week of work but I worked closer to 80, so no I did not get vactions other than winter and spring break. Let me know where non-pizza free food is, because I cannot find it.
It really depends on the fellowship that you're getting. My original fellowship was sponsored by the state and it didn't come with health care, per state law. I'm currently working as an RA and getting free health care. I think most state schools give you free health care as a TA/RA.
If you're working at a real job, then you don't get winter and spring break off. So yes, those count as break (even though I worked on research throughout both)!
As for non-pizza free food, check out my blog, in which I keep track of all the free food that I've eaten: utfreefood.tumblr.com
They also can get pseudo free vacations when they go to a conference that the prof pays for.
This is why conferences in Europe, Asia, South America, etc. are very popular :)
You can pay football players like we pay PhD's for those players who graduate and comeback to help the team.
Oh, wait, we already do. They are called coaches.
PhD's and football players are not the same. PhD's work is directly transferrable to business world where they would get paid for the same work. It does not matter how obscure the work is, if they are getting stipend and grants, their work has been recognized to be valuable.
99% of the football players are not pro-worthy and will never get paid for playing football once they graduate. It is not deemed worth anything to anyone. So, why should colleges pay for that?
From my understanding, 99% of PhD students in non-technical fields are not professor-worthy and will never get paid for Ancient Greek Literature once they graduate. It's not deemed to be worth anything to anyone. So, why should colleges pay for that?