Jon Chait (UM alum) wrote in his NY Magazine Blog about paying college football players (posted here by yours truly). Brian commented thereon last week and now Chait responds to Brian:
Jon Chait Replies to Brian Re Player Payment
Did he just call Brian a marxist? I always suspected.
I think it comes from the fact that IMO Brian and others that express outrage over the athlete situation often do so as if they were Friedrich Engels stumbling into a sweatshop in 1840's England. And the quote that he puts forward from Brian is an example of that. It is rather silly--the vast majority of the money from football is not "getting people rich," it is going back into the colleges themselves. And going into facilities that benefit both the athletes in football and especially other sports, along with students in general.
In fact, Brian is actually advocating for a very small (elite if you will) percentage of players--those that are stars and have the ability to go to the NFL. Ironically, he is advocating for the players most likely to make lots of money in their futures--I suppose he just wants them to start making it earlier.
From this point forward I will now refer to Our Dear Leader as "The Estimable Brian Cook"
There. Fixed that for you.
nice of ya
Chait suggests that paying players will not stop schools from arranging (or turning a blind eye to) player payments in ordrer to gain a competitive advantage. Perhaps so. But a player with $20,000 from an agent may be less inclined to accept $500 from a booster (thus increasing his account from 20,000 to 20,500) than he would if his bank account were zero (in which case, the booster payment would increase his net worth from $0 to $500). So, while not stopping illegal payments, paying players through agents or other means should reduce the incentives to cheat.
The problem, however, is that incentives (like illegal payments) are less effective than disincentives or punishments. Currently, players like Pryor may forfeit their college eligibility if caught. Unfortunately, some of the worst offenders, like Pryor do not really care much about that. Also, others may judge that the risks of getting caught are small if a school, like OSU, has longstanding, "trustworthy" sources of booster money. So, in many cases, I think, the only way to significantly impact the problem is to create strong disincentives to cheating for the schools--ie to severely punish the the offending schools with losses of scholarhips and money. The NCAA needs to really make them hurt and think twice about cheating in the future.
Admittedly, this is only one of the many issues discussed by Brian and Jon. Other issues like equity and preservation of the educational experience also must be considered.
I completely disagree with the assumption that paying players through agents will stop illegal benefits. If anything, it would make it worse. You have to look at it both from the athletes perspective as well as the agents. If agent A is competing to get an athlete to sign with him over agent B, what is to stop from exceeding any "cap" imposed by the NCAA? If the cap is $20,000, all he has to do is say "I'll give you $40,000, $20,000 of which we'll make legit, the other $20,000 will be under the table". Then, you not only have an easier way for agents to get in unmonitored contact with athletes, but when the payments do go through, its harder to determine where they came from. How do you tell if an athlete is actually spending $40,000 when you know he just got $20,000. There's still every incentive to cheat.
If you pay them, can you fine them for making mistakes? Say a player accepts 500 dollars from a booster, that player as a result is suspended, forced to pay back the money, plus another 500-1000 fine is given that is pulled out of future payments. Sounds like an added layer of deterence...I like it
a la the NFL.
One twist I wanted to throw out for discussion on the payment options (wherever the money is to come from) would be to use it more like a post-graudate fund. That means that athletes could draw a certain portion of it during the year for expenses but that a majority of the money would go into a savings account.
They would get access to this account upon using up their eligibility. Then you can pro-rate the amount based on academic standing, years completed, graduating, off-field incidents, etc.
Giving the kids a little spending money should cut down on at least some amount of booster payments and then the incentive of keeping in line on and off the field to make sure they get a nice check upon leaving school should help too.
Obivously there's a lot of red tape to sift through, but what do you think?
To quote the great Homer Simpson "Professional athletes, always wanting more"
Still think the best solution is to let endorsers pay players if they want. No money from the school/NCAA, no Title IX issues, nothing like that. Make athletes sign some sort of "morals" pledge to be able to play (so probably no strip clubs, faces on vodka bottles, gun shows, whatever).
If Denard makes big bucks for Adidas, they can pay him to get up on a poster at Foot Locker; if having five random Michigan football players helps a restaurant in Ann Arbor on their opening night, go ahead and give them fifty bucks and a gourmet meal. Also, when Jack Kennedy goes to sing, the venue should be able to promote it as, "Michigan QB Jack Kennedy" (I'd bet if he keeps singing after he graduates they're going to promote him as a former QB anyway). I'd put money on the most common "endorsement" would probably be a free meal if an athlete wears their letterman jacket, or something just as simple.
Stop making sense dude.
The problem that I see with this is the inequality. If your like me, you view college sports as a team game. What would happen if denatd started getting endorsements? Would he get a big head? Would he alienate his teammates? Would accusations of him calling his own number morein order to make more endorsements arise? And as a fan, would you still consider them ammateurs and team players first?
I think that IF you pay them, there must be an equality to it. No player should be better off than any other player, no matter how good it is.
Here Denard I'll pay you 50,000 to hold a poster at my company for 5 minutes. Tell x recruit I'll pay them that too.
I see no problems with that.
Yeah but at that point if it's the system that allows athletes to endorse and get paid they can get an endorsement anywhere. I don't think it'll sway college decisions as much as you think it would. If a kid knows he'll have an opportunity and the money's more or less the same wherever he goes, then he'll go to the best school for him. If the businessman in your hypo is willing to pay recruit X 50K for this services then he can probably find that on the open market wherever he goes.
You might as well write down Oregon as NCAAF champions for next 20 years.
Do you think ANYONE can match Nike money? They can package it so that the deal runs through their pro career.
I don't think so...
Phil Knight could pay whatever Phil Knight wants. I doubt Nike shareholders will be too pleased about signing a fifteen million dollar recruiting class with a pretty low probability of ever being worth the entire payout, though. It's not like one sugar daddy makes all the difference in the NFL; I don't see much difference here.
Nike can pay pretty much exactly what they are paying right now. LeBron got his deal after high school. Why would that stop? Phil Knight can EASILY justify signing up every top high school players at each position to the Nike board. If NCAA didn't forbid it, they would do it now. You don't think Barkley would not have been worth $5 million Nike deal straight out of HS?
Phil Knight is not as much influence in NFL since NFL can pay more than what Phil Knight pays. Schools can't compete against Nike. If something like this was allowed, Nike will run the system. Hell it is bad enough in AAU right now! And that is with a ton of restrictions.
I have no idea what a college star is worth to an apparel company. However, I do know that in the pro leagues, endorsements are more or less equal. I don't see a reason why Nike would have a track record of higher payments than Adidas or UA. If somehow they do, then schools will switch to Nike (just like they would now if Nike was making a substantially better product or would put more cash in the AD's bank account).
Would LeBron would have been worth any less if he went to a college one year? Even two especially if he won championships?
I don't think so. He would still have been signed for $90 million. You can expect that what NFL rookies are signing for in endorsements would be available in college if that was allowed.
Nike would not necessarily have higher payments than Adidas (but certainly more than UA, it is not in the same league yet), but because of Phil, it would be much more willing than Adidas to funnel the kids to a single school - Oregon. And it would be justifiable to the board since if there is a STRONG dynasty at Oregon, it would be very advantageous to Nike.
Adidas may counter by creating a school connection of its own (say Alabama). But pretty much everyone else in NCAA would be fighting for 3rd every year...
Why would you want that as a fan?
Money will not be "more or less the same wherever". The mega schools with the insane boosters could go way overboard. Think Oregon, Texas... You think oversigning is a problem now? Wait till some rich Alabama booster is shelling out $100,000 for 5-stars, $50,000 for 4-stars... just to be on the practice squad.
$100k???? That would be a CHUMP change.
Somebody like Nike can EASILY justify signing a top prospect for millions. If LeBron was coming up with the system in place, Nike would have signed him for the same $90 million deal he got and tell him to go to Oregon for 1 year just to build up his reputation. The same thing will happen in football too.
Nike/Adidas would basically run NCAA.
Why would university presidents agree to that (other than Oregon president)?
Oversigning would not be a problem as if somebody at Boise State tears it up, Nike would just sign him and tell him to transfer to Oregon. No oversigning necessary, better to have that kid start somewhere else so he can develop.
I didn't even mean the cream of the crop. I mean boosters would start "overpaying" (if such a thing can exist) players they don't even need as starters, just to keep them out of the hands of their rivals. If I recall, just such a thing was going on in the southern schools in the heyday of the pay-for-play scandals.
For that matter... Obviously there is a limit to the number of scholarships a school can hand out... but is there a limit to the number of non-scholarship walkons that can be on the team? What if T. Boone Pickens comes to you and says "we can't actually offer you a scholarship to Oklahoma State, but trust me, I'll pay you so much that you won't need one"... and then OSU is rocking a 200-man roster.
If we're talking massive NCAA reforms, capping a roster at 100 or 115 would be about the easiest thing on the list.
Cap the roster limit. Yeah it'll be pretty much the same across the board. The big schools already dominate recruiting, you wouldn't see a radical change IMO. Again, we're not talking about just handing the athletes money and that's it. They'd be working for it. I also really doubt a kid with elite D1 offers is going to take that money to just sit on the bench when he has hopes of making it to the pros one day. Likewise, if he's just sitting on the bench, his marketability goes down. Like I said, we're not talking about just giving players money--they'd be endorsing products. You'd have to have a system in place.
Still think the best solution is to let endorsers pay players if they want. No money from the school/NCAA, no Title IX issues, nothing like that.
This would seem to open a giant can of worms. How could you ensure that the schools aren't involved? For example, given that we have a $60M contract with Adidas, it'd be in the best interests of both parties to have our players endorse their shoes. And obviously, the Nike/Oregon thing is an uncomfortably close relationship. The schools that have less lucrative deals with apparel companies would be at a serious competitive disadvantage, because the companies would want to steer recruits to the schools with which they have their most expensive contracts. This would effectively turn 17-year-old kids into free agents, with schools using their apparel companies to up the ante. I don't think this is the best way to go.
It's only "opening" anything because the NCAA runs an incredibly oppressive system. How do we even know the apparel companies will always be the biggest contracts? Off the top of my head, I can think of athletes that endorse everything from Uggs to shaving products to sports drinks and get paid tons of money to do so.
It's a very dumb system when I can sign a $100m contract with Adidas and Denard can't, when the only difference is that he plays a college sport (and that Denard has some hope of being worth the money). I really see no difference between Mark Zuckerberg being paid by ad companies while in college and an athlete getting paid for using a product, other than some ridiculous notion that we like our athletes to be poor college students.
If it is so "oppressive", they do not have to go to college at all! That is what Steve Jobs and Bill Gates did. Denard can do the same if he feels oppressed.
There are plenty of semi-pro leagues where they can play out of high school. And they can sign all the $100 million deals after that.
In what world is getting free scholarship, room & board, and the BEST coaching in the world available to you "oppressive"???
When it prevents you from earning money at a rate commiserate to your services to the economy. If the NFL said that Tom Brady couldn't sign a deal worth more than the Patriot's practice squad long snapper, it would be rightly seen as ridiculous. Instead, the NCAA gets a pass for reasons I can't understand.
I think I've said about all I'm going to say; I think we're about to start arguing in circles over the same core issue. +1 here because your arguments are cogent and well thought out, but I still think you're incorrect.
But Denard can leave TOMORROW if he believe he is being oppressed. No one is an indentured servant in NCAA. It is COMPLETELY voluntary. If they don't like it, they can just walk away - at ANY time. How can that be oppressive?
It is not the NCAA that is stopping Denard from going straight to pro from high school. It is the collective bargaining agreement between NFL and NFLPA that stops him. And NFL does it since it is the most economical talent development model for them.
Why blame NCAA for something that is out of their control? If you want to blame anyone blame NFL!
NCAA can do fine on its own without NFL or any other pro league. NCAA proved that when NBA signed kids out of high school. The popularity of NCAA did not dip (but NBA popularity certainly went down) even without the top kids. Which just goes to prove that it is not the kids driving the NCAA, it is the schools.
The rules are clearly stated going in - acceptance of financial aid on the part of the student-athlete occurs with the acknowledgement of and agreement to conform to NCAA regulations.
I didn't get paid for what I was worth or what I earned in graduate school? But it prepared me for the next step in my career. It is an optional step of self-betterment that these players can take. If they want to get to the NFL another way (CFL, etc), than so bet it
For the overwhelming majority of NCAA athletes, the status quo is a great deal. Most of them don't really bring anything in to their schools. Even in the revenue sports, there are plenty of quality players that aren't necessarily marketable. Do people pay $1000 a season to specifically watch Mark Huyge? (Put another way, would those fans stop buying tickets if Huyge were to leave school and another RT step in?) He's in probably the 90th percentile of college football players as far as ability goes, and still he's not likely to have a long NFL career, if any. The degree he'll earn from here and the connections he's made are probably going to be more valuable to him.
There is just a small minority of athletes, the Denard Robinsons and such, who actually have the kind of star power to be earning big bucks and can't do it. For them it is a lousy deal. But whether it's worth it to go in a radically different direction, I don't know.
I agree with pretty much everything you're writing here. I don't see Huyge becoming a millionare, I see him being able to get a meal or getting paid fifty bucks to bring publicity to a new burger place in Ann Arbor, which is probably the ceiling for 99.5% of college athletes. Denard might sign a million dollar contract with Gatorade or Adidas, but for the majority it would probably be some money for a night out with their girlfriend or their car insurance payments or helping their parents back home, not their fifth BMW.
Remember, current coaches promote apparel, local businesses and even multinational corporations (didn't Saban do something with Twinkie?) and things work out fine. Oregon doesn't get a staff of multimillioniares working as position coaches just because Phil Knight could afford to pay them whatever salary he feels like.
Trying to posture this as "greedy adults taking advantage of poor kids" is inaccurate, and I think where a lot of the distaste comes from. For all my disagreements with him, I do believe that Dave Brandon is dedicated to graduating student athletes - and that any attempts he takes at "maximizing revenue" is ultimately to give that revenue back to the student athlete so they can excel at their sport and in the university. Doing this is a full time job, so he earns a competitive wage, as do his employees. And the athletes are not his employees.
For the most parts, college athletes play their sport because they love their sport. They're lucky that in this country we recognize excellence on the field/ice/court/pool as being translatable to excellence academically and professionally, so we give them scholarships. Scholarships certainly started as a way to attract the best recruits (see MVictors on Tom Harmon: http://mvictors.com/?p=9596) since universities recognized that fielding a good football team was a way to make money, but in the here and now I don't think it's too naive to think that our ADs, coaches and university presidents care about the athletes for more than just the revenue they bring in.
Now does that mean that certain athletes are worth more money than they receive through scholarships? Does that means it's fair for the NCAA to restrict whether they can have a friend fix their car for a six pack? In my opinion, yes to the first, no to the second. But can we assume this bureacracy exists not just to take money from the athletes, but because administrators actually think a college education is the best route for most involved? Doesn't mean they're implementing it appropriately, but that doesn't mean they're evil either.
......stipends they receive for their scholarships. That and a paid college tuition for four/five years means a ton to most athletes(including football players with the rest of them). After that, increase the penalties upon the school for any extra payments via boosters or "jobs".