OT: HBO's Student Athlete

Submitted by bronxblue on October 2nd, 2018 at 10:10 PM

If you've got HBO (or have "cut the cord" and simply using your parents' log-in), the LeBron James-produced Student Athlete documentary is on right now.  It's obviously got a point of view (the NCAA makes billions, the athletes get very little), but I think tracking different athletes (HS seniors, current, and former players) across the spectrum will be immensely interesting.  


M Go Cue

October 2nd, 2018 at 10:44 PM ^

Me James should try being the solution.  Start his own league.  I doubt he, or anyone else would be able to match the lifelong value of a full 4 year scholarship.


October 2nd, 2018 at 10:54 PM ^

That’s just it.  These kids are getting an opportunity to attend and graduate from some of the top academic institutions in the world.   You’re crazy if you don’t think these kids aren’t getting paid.  Have you been to an academic center on campus?  What about dining with the team?  How about the facilities only offered to athletes?   Healthcare?  These kids live like celebrities. 

Frieze Memorial

October 3rd, 2018 at 2:33 AM ^

It's an intractable problem.  There is one model for these different types of athletes:

--The soccer player on a 25% scholarship, who loves their sport and is getting a great education

--The women's rower on a 0% scholarship, who has been wheedled into staying on the team (because the school needs to balance out the football team's numbers for Title IX)

--The basketball player on a 100% scholarship, who doesn't really care about the education, but is being expertly groomed for a great career in the NBA

--The football player on a 100% scholarship, whose body is getting destroyed and he's starting to realize the NFL isn't going to happen, and he has spent his school years getting ready for football so he's not really in a position to take advantage of a University education.

It's required that Universities be fair to all athletes.  So what can you do?  If you allow likeness profit, you're allowing all sorts of undesirable outside forces take control of your program.

If you pay a salary to football and basketball players, you have to pay everyone. That's not happening.

I see how University athletic departments benefit from this model.  I see how some student-athletes benefit.  But there are definitely some student-athletes getting screwed.  Probably the only real long-term answer is that Universities are going to have to get out of the athletics game entirely.


October 3rd, 2018 at 9:08 AM ^

The Universities don't have to give up athletics entirely.  They can just remove the scholarship component and make it voluntary participation like the Ivies and D3.


But for this to work we need a viable alternative to FBS college football for high level prospects.  The NFL isnt going to invest millions into what would probably end up just breaking even for them.  And the NCAA can't change their mind and become a pro league without some severe ramifications.  Tough spot.


When you add it all up the football players are probably getting around 100k a year in value for their tuition, room and board, big ten stipends, training table, academic support staff, orthodontia, healthcare, etc.  Are some scholarship players worth more than 100k a year to the athletic department?  Of course, but not all of them.  


It is hard to quantify the value of the coaching too.  Kids who pursue careers in football be it coaching or playing are certainly going to have a leg up on guys from lesser known schools.


Interesting thought provoking discussion, thank you.


October 3rd, 2018 at 9:37 PM ^

The problem is the type of “degrees” they are receiving are not very marketable.  The actual address this in the documentary.  How can a student, practice everyday, study, play the games, go to class and work to make money.  Your comment is ridiculous.  I can tell you never knew a collegiate athlete.


October 2nd, 2018 at 10:46 PM ^

Wouldn't watch if I had HBO. Propaganda. As a father paying for 2 children in college - it ain't free. $50k-$100k for 4 years depending where you go. Cry me a river about a scholarship player who get free coaching, free tuition, free medical, free food, free dietician, free weight room, free tutors, etc, etc, etc


October 2nd, 2018 at 10:50 PM ^

I'm not going to get into the same debates because lord knows I don't expect to change anyone's mind and nobody will provide even a modicum of solid argument to change mine, but college sports isn't "free" for athletes.  They have to play the sport, train all the time, stay eligible while being restricted in what they can do outside of the classroom, etc.  It's almost like a job, but one where your boss has virtually unlimited control, you are chastised constantly by strangers for your actions, and you can be effectively fired if you are injured doing said job.


October 3rd, 2018 at 9:36 AM ^

They could make money of their likeness, which would require absolutely no check cutting.  That's the first step.  They could create trusts for all athletes, include some additional money as part of a scholarship, etc.  There are myriad of ways that are economically viable for people, but they get ignored for reasons that typically mean a hell of a lot to the people who have the money already.


October 2nd, 2018 at 11:18 PM ^

I'd also like to add that Zach Gentry getting a couple extra bucks froma BTN contract isn't going to change your bottom line in terms of tuition one iota.  So being mad about the high cost of college (which is another valid, real dsicussion we need to have in this country) doesn't feel all that relevant to the discussion of athletes not being able to make money off their likeness, for example.


October 2nd, 2018 at 11:27 PM ^

Agreed.  Have witnessed how student athletes already receive many advantages over the average student. At most would be ok if student athletes get paid the campus student-employee hourly rate whenever they are on-the-clock at practices or game.  Otherwise, Lebron and/or other well-off pro athletes can feel free to work the system to find a way to donate money to the student athletes themselves.  


October 12th, 2018 at 2:46 PM ^

Tuition is more or less a subjective value and isn't physical money, not to mention the fact that tuition is higher with better athletics. And a lot of these athletes in sports that are profitable (football and bball) are from homes that are impoverished. Yes, the free tuition is helpful, but that doesn't pay the bills at home. 

I was an NCAA athlete in a non-profitable sport that was on scholarship, but my father is a pretty respected prof at Michigan and we never had money issues. The system was great for me. But I am sure a lot of the guys on the mega profitable football team and basketball team have money issues at home, or come from homes with a single mother who has money issues. Not trying to be presumptuous or prejudice at all - it's just how it is. Add to that that 80% of the guys on the team that actually play are getting general studies degrees, so it's not like the education for them is all that incredible.

Title IX is tricky to get around, so you'd have to pay every player the same amount of money, but I bet those football players and basketball players would gladly do that over nothing.

There's no doubt the whole situation is tricky, but I just think it's a bit ridiculous that there are stores full of Michigan football merchandise, message boards with people devoting much of their life to the football team, people betting on college football and making a ton of money, people on twitter constantly talking about Michigan football, etc and the kids just get the things you mentioned above. Everything you just listed is afforded to kids on full rides on the swim team.


October 2nd, 2018 at 11:41 PM ^

I don't think student athletes should get paychecks; but they should be able to market their gear, likeness, image, etc. and make money off of it.


October 3rd, 2018 at 7:16 AM ^

Exactly, this should be the solution. If someone outside of the university, like a bagman, wants to pay a player they should be able to. This is already happening under the table and nobody cares. Just put it out in the open so places that want to be competitive but within the rules can do so.

The non-revenue sports should be equally as free to receive such payments, if there exists someone willing to pay them. No need to mess around with Title IX; just give everyone the same opportunity to be paid and the market will take care of the details. 


October 3rd, 2018 at 12:04 AM ^

The value of the athletic training that these students get is always left out of the equation when we talk about paying student athletes.  Most are not pro-ready when coming out of high school, and need their coaches to help them get to the next level.  IMO, the NFL/NBA should allow the few super talented individuals to go pro right away; the rest can enter college and get the free training that is offered by being a student athlete.  I think they should have to stay a certain length of time (more than one year) if they do enter college.


October 3rd, 2018 at 9:42 AM ^

I don't know how much athletic training has to do with it as much as physical maturation.  I didn't engage in much weight lifting or training while in college, but I got noticeably stronger when I went to the gym semi-consistently because I went from 17 to 21.  So if there was an alternative junior league, that would be sufficient.  But the NFL (and to a lesser extent the NBA) wants these guys to have big names so that you'll pay money for draft insights, training camps, etc.  Baker Mayfield mattered to millions because of what he did in college; if he was toiling away at the equivalent of AAA football somewhere I doubt anyone would notice.  Oh, and the NCAA gets to reap billions of dollars off them as well.

So again, all of these arguments seem centered around this idea that there aren't a handful of players in sports deciding how to maximize their pocket books while minimizing their exposure and liability to the athletes that make them the money. 


October 3rd, 2018 at 9:45 AM ^

So by this analogy, you shouldn't be able to complain about college coaching because you never coached at the D1 level (unless you did)?  Or complain about politics because you are not a senator (unless you are)?  I didn't know people couldn't comment on things unless they experienced it directly, because how could someone possibly be able to form coherent thoughts in their heads by simply observing the world around them. 

Also, you mean the guy who was able to jump directly to the pros before the NCAA and NBA forced other NBA-ready players to go to college so that the NCAA can get a billion dollars from the licensing rights to their games is pointing out that it's a messed up system.


El Jeffe

October 3rd, 2018 at 10:58 AM ^

This argument usually revolves around two different observations, and neither side really engages with the other, as far as I can tell.

  1. One argument has to do with the cash and in-kind value of a college football scholarship. Obviously, if you add up out of state tuition (for some students), room, board, training, travel, swag, etc., that number gets to be pretty high.
  2. The other argument has to do with who has reaped the surpluses of increasing revenues flowing to college football.
  • In 1969, Bo's salary was about $135,000, which is less than a million in today's dollars. Harbaugh makes $9 million.
  • The overall UM athletic department revenues in 2008 were about $92 million and in 2018 they are projected to be $188 million, an increase of 74% in real terms, just in the past decade.
  • Then there is the revenue paid to a zillion other people including Men in Gold Blazers who make money organizing bowl games and such.

So one reasonable starting point would be to say: is there a way that some portion of that surplus can be redistributed to the players, that is, above and beyond the increases in the real value of their scholarships? I don't pretend to know the answer to this but it seems like a reasonable question.