In light of the SI agent story, should players be paid a stipend?

Submitted by MaizeAndBlueWahoo on October 12th, 2010 at 9:42 PM

You know this story is bound, at some point, to reignite a debate over whether players should be paid a stipend of sorts.  Among the arguments in favor is that it would put the brakes on this kind of behavior; TMQ even said so today in his column, and that was before today's little bombshell came out.

I've never been in favor of paying players, as they already receive something that far exceeds the value of what is received by 100% of their fellow students: even academic scholarship types don't receive free health care.  The arguments against the idea are extensive.

Still, as people come to realize how widespread the agent practice is after reading the Luchs article, they might be more in favor.  I say the article is further proof that it would never work - stipends wouldn't shut off the flow of money one bit.  Kanavis McGhee asked for $2,500 - that's well over $4,000 in today's money.  A year's worth of stipends.  Agents have bottomless pockets for this kind of stuff if they think they can snag a player.  The only reason they only pay $5,000 is because the player doesn't ask for $10,000.  Look at what was given to the UNC players:

The value of benefits received by Little was $4,952 while the value of benefits received by Quinn was $5,642, according to facts submitted by North Carolina.

Little received diamond earrings, travel accommodations in the Bahamas and Washington, D.C., and two trips to Miami. Quinn accepted two black diamond watches, a pair of matching earrings and travel accommodations for a trip to Miami.

Stipends are no match for black diamond watches and a trip to the Bahamas.



October 12th, 2010 at 10:57 PM ^

True Story: The Michigan Athletic Department actually pays out-of-state tuition to the University for all football players, even if they are from the state of Michigan.

$149K*: 4-year tuition paid for football student athlete by U of M Athletic Department.
$187K* for players receiving a redshirt scholarship (5 years total under scholarship.)
$3.17* Million: total money paid yearly by the Athletic Department for football player scholarships.

(*Calculated from tuition cost only from the Office of Financial Aid, not including any possible stipends for room and board.)


Athletic Department's 2008-09 Finances:

Revenue of $95.2M;
Expenses of $84.5M;
Net Gain of $10.7M


A Michigan Daily article suggests the AD is projecting a surplus of $16.1M in 2009-10, and the expected surplus is only $4.7M in 2011.


October 12th, 2010 at 9:47 PM ^

In order to protect the integrity of the sport I don't think they should be paid. It's one of the only things that separates them from the NFL and allows the players to play for the love of the game instead of a paycheck. They may generate more revenue for their school than just about any other sport but I don't think that gives them the right to recieve free trips to the Bahamas. You must remember these are still student-athletes we are dealing with, and paying them would put the athlete before student.


October 12th, 2010 at 11:07 PM ^

The "integrity of the sport"?  "Put the athlete before student"?  We're talking about Division I football players here -- they may love the game, but they're playing for a shot at a big-league roster.  And at that level you're hoping that the money-making machine that is a bigtime football program can keep its "integrity"?

The "for the love of the game" argument might apply to Mount Union or John Carroll, but while I don't doubt that many I-A football players love the game, that's not the only reason many if not most are playing.  I'm sure there're NFL players who love the game, too.

Michigan Shirt

October 13th, 2010 at 11:27 AM ^

There also becomes a problem with recruiting players as certain big time schools can offer to pay more than a small school, or if the NCAA mandates the same for all players, then certain schools may not be able to afford it at all (not every Div-1 athletic department makes money so some would not be able to pay players).


October 12th, 2010 at 9:48 PM ^

I think they should be entitled to earn wages that would allow them to do things other college students do.  That being said, I'm not sure that they don't already have this privilege.  I have a friend who was a scholarship baseball player at NY school and if I'm not mistaken, his scholarship paid for his school, books, and still had a little left over.


October 12th, 2010 at 10:03 PM ^

I think for most, getting into a school they may usually not get into is money enough. On top of that, if they want to play in the NFL, where else are they going to go? Start up a league to rival the college system and then they won't have to worry about going to class. Until then, if the go to the NCAA, they play by their rules.


October 12th, 2010 at 10:08 PM ^

What about for guys who don't want to go to school? What about the guys who want to get paid in cash, so their parent's house doesn't get foreclosed or so they can invest in a small business? They don't get an option in this. The NCAA decides the contract between schools and players and the players have no say. What if all restaurant owners decided that all their waiters will be paid in Sour Skittles and the waiters had no choice but to accept? Sure, it might work for some guys but everyone should have the right to negotiate their contract. We would not support this abuse of employees in any other industry, but it has become so entrenched in American culture that we can't imagine it any other way.

st barth

October 13th, 2010 at 9:50 AM ^

NFL is the bigger hindrance than the NCAA.  Nobody is forcing young football players (i.e, 18-21 year olds) to go to the NCAA.  There are a handful of other football leagues in the US that are pro or semi-pro where a young player could work while (make $$$).  But this road is not nearly as full of glory as playing in the prestigious institutions of the NCAA or NFL.

Bottom line is that college student-athletes can not and never will be officially paid.  This would make them professional athletes (by definition) and it would change the schools/athletic departments into pure businesses. That would open a sea-change across the American sports landscape with consequences that few people have considered.  If colleges were to evaluate their student athletes from a primarily dollars & cents perspective then it will become even more brutal (Saban's medical scholarship antics at Alabama will look quaint in retrospect) with respect to performance.  Moreover, if college athletic departments are now in the professional sports business, they will have to carefully evaluate how they invest in the young athletes.  If Michigan were to spend three years training, for example, Tom Brady on the finer points of being a QB while paying him then the business interests of the athletic department would be compelled to get a return on its investment.  Would one good senior season be enough?  How long before these college athletic businesses start pleading that they need more that four years of eligibility for their investments?  Could Tom Brady spent another 10 years at M picking up a JD, MBA, etc?  Where does stop?  And how the NFL now feel about another "professional" league competing against it while having first crack at the young talent?  And at the other end of the spectrum from Tom Brady, what about the young football player who peaks during his freshmen or sophmore year and doesn't develop?  Is he now cut loose perhaps two years short of getting a degree?  Is he now told in no uncertain terms that he was paid for his production but since his jersey stopped selling and he hasn't scored any TD since last year that he is no longer on the team and if he wants to stay in school that he has to pay his own way?..."nothing personal, just business...enjoy the bus ride back to the ghetto/boondocks/wherever."


The truth is that the college football we all presently love so much is actually much better off with the current cat-and-mouse antics of its underground black market (as seedy as it may be) than it ever would be with a payroll department cutting checks to all of its athletes.  On the surface we can all play along with the illusion that these are just students playing to get an education (and really about 99% of them are) while still allowing enough gray area for the desperate or unscrupulous players to grab a few dollars here & there.  For those athletes, if they don't get too greedy, it can work out very nicely for them (as the SI article illustrates).  The universities benefit.  The NFL benefits.  And for us fans, we are better off playing dumb.  It makes the games more enjoyable.


October 12th, 2010 at 11:51 PM ^

The schools aren't forcing anyone to do anything. These kids aren't able to go to the NFL because they aren't three years out of high school. The NFL doesn't make them play college ball. They could sit at home and watch TV for three years, try out for the NFL and make millions of dollars. Obviously that doesn't work. So they can play in college, for a free tuition. It's the same as a job requiring an unpaid internship. they can take it or leave it. 


October 12th, 2010 at 10:34 PM ^

Completely agree with this sentiment.  Many of the kids aren't going to college to get an education, they go to play football (or whatever other sport) so they can make it big. Money is the driving factor and unfortunately they're forced to take classes as well. Basketball has the d-league and europe. Baseball has minor leagues. I believe hockey does something similar. As far as I know, football doesn't have the opportunity for kids to forgo college and get paid (does the UFL?). 5k in their pocket is more valuable than the 100k education that they don't want in the first place.


October 12th, 2010 at 11:22 PM ^

like I said, if they don't like the options presented, then tough. The NFL says you must be out of high school for at least three years. Don't like it, sue (Mr. Clarrett) or make a new league. 

And your example doesn't apply here. The more apt example is if you want a good professional job, you need to intern or volunteer. You may get some payment, but not enough. If you do well, then you make the big bucks. You may want to make the big bucks right away, but the company wants you to intern first. Thats a valid reason for the person to accept the intern, whether they like it or not.


October 12th, 2010 at 9:49 PM ^

Hell no. Don't they get to go to college for free? They even get free meal plans.

In addition, they get to use facilities that are off-limits for most students and have free access to great tutors and other forms of academic help.


October 12th, 2010 at 9:55 PM ^

All valid points, but in all reality, think about how much money the Athletic department generates off of these athletes.  I know that this money goes toward the other sports and AD operational costs, but the scholarship money is nothing compared to the money that is brought in (particularly for football.)

Factor in the fact that these players are risking their lives, bodies playing at an amateur level.  With all the concussions and other injuries that we've seen, it's a tougher call than just "don't they go to college for free?"


October 12th, 2010 at 10:00 PM ^

So the athletes in sports that don't bring in money shouldn't get anything?  I really thought TMQ's assertion that fencers and divers could get stuffed was insulting, actually.  I doubt you'd find that swimmers and soccer players and such do much less work than football players.  You pay everyone or you pay nobody, that's the only fair way to do it.  And I don't think they should be paid.

As for the "risking their lives", well, hence the free health care they get.  If "risking their lives" is a fair assessment - there are many, many more dangerous than playing a sport in college.

Mercury Hayes

October 12th, 2010 at 9:53 PM ^

No. Because if you pay Denard Robinson you have to pay the 12th runner on the women's cross country the same amount or their would be lawsuits. And that is almost as unfair as the athlete's making nothing at all while the university and the bowls and the BCS makes a ton of cash.

Although, if it were a situation of being able to afford it, the NCAA could just do away with the BCS all together and they could pay for it that way.

In any event, this is one of those topics that could be discussed all day. I think a better idea is to get NCAA approved agents for each conference, or one per state. I don't know. Some sort of resource to teach kids something, so they can have and agent, paid by the NCAA by the NCAA football/basketball profits. In turn the agents give back to the athletes, allow them to understand what it means to turn pro. Also, this could eliminate the need for players to be unable to return to their teams after declaring for drafts.


October 12th, 2010 at 9:53 PM ^

I believe if you live off campus, you are given a housing stipend that far exceeds the price of rent.  Plus, you get a free education.  That is enough.


October 12th, 2010 at 9:57 PM ^

Why is that enough? We are denying them the right to make money using their skills on the open market. Can you imagine if the auto companies got together and agreed not to hire anyone for X amount of years? That these potential employess would have to work 3 years with the compensation of "we'll pay your tuition at a local university and here's some food"?


October 13th, 2010 at 2:29 AM ^

However, forces conspire against them to limit their ability to try.  Who's to say that Maurice Clarett couldn't have been drafted as a Sophomore?  Maybe Mike Williams isn't a bust if he didn't have to sit out a year after declaring.

The NFL and NBA have a rule against athletes leaping into their sport.  MLB and the NHL do not.  They draft kids all the time.  99% of them aren't ready to play either.

I don't think they should be paid, I think that the road should be opened to them to do whatever they want.  The system exists because its lucrative for the NCAA and its member schools on the one end, and gives the NFL essentially a free minor league system.  College football is effectively one huge farm system for NFL teams, one that's hugely popular and they don't have to spend money on to develop players.

I really don't see why a baseball player can be drafted in the 30th round and stuck in the rookie leagues but the #700 overall 2* CB has to play at Akron for 3 years.

Steve in PA

October 13th, 2010 at 9:40 AM ^

I'm more familiar with baseball rules, but just because a kid gets drafted doesn't mean he forgoes college.  If a kid can be drafted in the 7th round of NFL draft he could make the decision to go or stay without being paid in college just like baseball players do now.

Would Warren have stayed for this year if he was getting a stipend...probably not.  Would he have stayed had he known he would not have been taken in the draft...most likely.  

This would take a lot of the incentive away from these kids to be involved with agents in the first place.


October 12th, 2010 at 10:31 PM ^

Yes they are aware of it, and yes they do profit from it. Still, the players are given many priveleges and scholarships that ordinary students are not, $100,000+ over four years is quite a generous payment. Besides, stipends wouldn't stop agents at all; players would just be given money along with their stipends.


October 12th, 2010 at 11:04 PM ^

If they were able to leave for the NFL, I would have no issues with the situation.


However, I think if the player says "Hey, I have an academic scholarship so can you give mine to my sister?" or "I have an Aunt that lives near campus so you don't need to pay for my dorm room or meal plan. Can you use that money to help my parents avoid foreclosure?" and the school agrees, that option should be on the table.


October 13th, 2010 at 2:40 AM ^

Ok.  How about this: You're a 5* WR from a desperately poor area of the deep south (let's say... Pahokee, FL).  Maybe you have multiple younger siblings that you have to help take care of.  

Scouts say you're a lock to be a 1st round talent.  What seems fair to you then?  You can take the scholarship to any school you want, and get $250k spent on you over 4 years, but only spent on you.  There's no option to say, get drafted in the 3rd or 4th round now and make what 400k a year as a rookie in the NFL.  Nothing.

It might not be an optimal choice for every athlete (it's probably a terrible choice, given how short NFL careers are, the draft pick bust rate that will surely skyrocket, and the lack of a degree/connections as a fallback) but it should still be a choice.


October 13th, 2010 at 5:48 PM ^

You can't make the rules for everyone based on extreem circumstances.  And for someone who is desperately poor wouldn't you agreed that they should  go to college so that they can receive a degree so that even if their football career fails they have the ability to go out and get a good paying job.  Considering the numbers are stagering on how many players end up broke or in debt just a few years after their playing careers are over.