The Wall Street Journal advocates paying athletes

Submitted by mgolund on October 5th, 2017 at 8:18 AM

Title says it all

Highlights the absuridty of facilities, salaries, etc. - all the places money goes except to those who create the value. Frankly, some of this logic would apply to college in general. Good read.



October 5th, 2017 at 10:15 AM ^

I don’t disagree with athletes getting paid, I actually think they should, but they should also be responsible to pay for school then as well and make decisions like everyone else with a college job. Unfortunately school loans will be what most these kids will take out and that will put so many of them at a disadvantage later in life.

The real issue in my opinion is when the athletes can go pro, where the real money is, not the peanuts they will be making in college.


October 5th, 2017 at 12:33 PM ^

Olympic sport athlete, I call contribution to the Universtiy was equally important, and I expect the same 'pay' particularly as my costs to the University were far less than football, basketball, hockey, and baseball...why should I get paid less for attending the same classes, earning the same varsity letter, practicing just as long, competing just as hard and having the same standards set for representing the University???

Bottom line, Academic scholarship IS payment...if they don't like it, don't go to college and play sports...train for the pros, hire your own coaches, hire your own nutritionist, hire your own strength and conditioning guru ( I am available at a fair rate) and create your own national publicity. The notion that the solution to money scandals and cheating is through player payment is idiotic and absurd. The solution is HAMMERING schools for cheating instead of selectively turning a blind eye to certain programs because they are the hand that feeds the NCAA...when the 'judicial system' that oversees cheating is also the system getting paid...that's a conflict of interest...look no further than the weight of the FBI investigation vs NCAA sanctions. Enough with this BS.


October 5th, 2017 at 8:31 AM ^

You mean, other than the ones who are on scholarship for academics reasons, or as part of an organization, or parental or family support, or any number of other ways students don't wind up paying full freight?

Again, I'm fine with this being a debate, but it seems like half of the people I see arguing against giving players a stipend breaks down to "I didn't get anything, so they shouldn't either".


October 5th, 2017 at 9:31 AM ^

All scholarship athletes who don't live in the dorms already get a stipend that is ~1800 bucks a month five years ago, so it may be more now.  The total value of a full scholarship to UM, especially for out of state students, when taking into account tuition, room and board stipend, books, academic support, and the training they get in their sport is worth over 6 figures.  Depending on how you value the training it could be nearly as high as a quarter million dollars. 


Plus if you give young men money I can't imagine what stupid stuff they'll end up buying with it.  

The NFL already has a problem with alumni going broke, giving college kids even 5k a month is only going to end poorly for a vast majority of them as they'll take out loans on cars, houses, jewellry, etc.  And what happens when they don't make the NFL and exhaust their eligibility and are left with a general studies degree, if any degree at all?  


October 5th, 2017 at 9:42 AM ^

The "they'll buy stupid stuff" argument is so offensive I don't know where to start.

You know how many people buy stupid stuff every day? Are you saying that we shouldn't pay people for their work if they might spend it on something you wouldn't?

Many of these athletes would be sending money home to their parents, buying food, etc.


October 5th, 2017 at 9:51 AM ^

Sending money home to their parents isn't a great argument either.


It isn't that they'll purchase stupid stuff, but rather that they'll make poor financial decisions and end up having to declare bankruptcy if they can't maintain the level of income that college football would provide.  


Student athletes are already compensated for their "work" through free tuition, room and board stipends, academic tutoring, etc.   If you don't like the compensation don't take the "job".


October 5th, 2017 at 10:01 AM ^

The argument that labor can self-select is only viable if the market is competitive, which is clearly is not. The NCAA/NFL have an arrangement that creates a monopolistic cartel of 130 buyers of football labor, who largely fix the price paid to labor across institutions and set that price below the average for the market. Employees are left to choose among institutions largely on differences in how nice the employee lounge is and options for "side employment."


October 5th, 2017 at 10:45 AM ^

1.  You are conflating the sometimes-overstated issues with guys experiencing financial stress in the pros with college athletes getting paid for the use of their likeness and abuse they receive on their bodies in service of a university.  

2.  They are "compensated" without any bargaining power.  Schools have worked with the leagues to limit when players can matriculate, so some are forced into attending school for some pre-determined number of years.  So this isn't remotely a free market where labor and management have freedom to negotiate to a fair rate and access.  And many athletes do want to attend school, to get an education, and would probably not mind being able to get an internship over the summer, a job during the off-season, etc.  But they can't, because the NCAA won't allow them in many instances and because their highly-compensated coaches and staff expect them to be at every "voluntary" meeting and workout, to prepare all year for the next season, etc.  

Again, I don't see why players getting more money bothers people.  Every counter-argument is some paternalistic "but what about the children?" BS that seems to hinge mostly on how tightly said person holds onto their own personal views of the value of student athletes as people beyond the uniform he/she wears.


October 5th, 2017 at 10:57 AM ^

I don't think the NFL and NBA deciding to use the NCAA as a free minor league is the fault of universities.  Billionaires want to make sure investments they make are safe, and forcing kids to play in college is way to do that.


I think it is a real problem that there isn't a viable alternative to college football for players between 18 and 21. 


If you want to increase their stipends, or let them sell their likeness that is fine, but then let's get away from the "amateur" title.  I'm not against players getting more money.  I'm against the ever increasing professionalism where the universities are franchise owners in a pro sports league.



October 5th, 2017 at 2:18 PM ^

1.  The NCAA worked closely with the NFL and NBA to enforce these rules, the notion that they were passive in this process, that they don't derive some value in having professional-style sports without paying those prices in terms of salaries isn't a fair charactertization.  A major reason the NBA pushed for the bar against players skipping college was because they liked the excitement and name recognition those players had before coming into the league.  Otherwise, you had guys who played at some small HS somewhere suddenly a top-5 pick.  But if instead said player was featured at Duke or UNC for a year, then the casual fan is more engaged and that makes the whole mechanism surrounding the marketing of these players strong and more lucrative.  Same with the NFL - they may claim there are concerns about the physical ability of a player to compete at 18, but then don't draft him.  Or do something like baseball or hockey, where you draft a player and then let them mature in college while providing them with a stipend comensurate with their draft position.  Claiming "player safety" or "quality of the game" from a league that is notorious for dismissing player safety concerns always bothered me because it was such a bald-faced lie.

2.  I mean, the only people who keep pushing amateurism as a concept are the NCAA and their member institutions because, again, it protects them from certain legal liabilities.  If these athletes are treated as employees of the universities, then they have to provide insurance, unemployment benefits, let them collectively-bargain if they can create a union, etc.  I honestly don't care about the professionalization of college sports because basically every other element of academia has already gone there.  Universities are economic drivers on par with major corporations, and they run themselves like companies.  And they also enjoy many of the same tax breaks and protection from legal liabilities enjoyed by non-profits.  So I am 100% fine with the University of Michigan, which has billions of dollars in its endowment, millions of dollars a year in technology licenses, and has an athletic department that signed one of the richest licensing deals in college sports history with Nike, to just act like the monolith it is and stop trying to make me think that Rashan Gary doesn't generate any lasting value for the school.


October 5th, 2017 at 11:39 AM ^

The implication is that he thinks the demographics would be paid cannot be trusted to manage their money. Whether the demographic of choice is age, race, socioeconomic status, whatever doesn't matter. I think 40 year old middle class white dudes make a lot of terrible purchasing and money management decisions, maybe we should have an organization set up that keeps their money until they've completed some financial literacy classes.


October 5th, 2017 at 9:49 AM ^

Former NFL players are roughly equally likely to regular Americans 25-34 to declare bankruptcy (cite). The problem is that people, in general, are bad at anticipating the future. But the sort of paternalism implied by telling a bunch of people "you aren't responsible enough to manage your finances, we'll take care of it for you" - when the reality is they do as good as anyone else - is kind of insulting to them.


October 5th, 2017 at 9:59 AM ^

The average college kid isn't responsible enough to take care of his finances.  You want to know why?  Because we don't fully mature our impulse control until 25.  Impulsive behaviours tend to not be good in the long run.  


Honestly, the more I look behind the curtain on college athletics the more I think the University of Chicago and the Ivy league had it correct all those years ago.


October 5th, 2017 at 1:56 PM ^

No but I'd tell him that he should save as much of that money as he could because getting 10's of thousands of dollars on fidget spinner reviews isn't going to be a long career.  Much like football for the vast majority of football players.


And I'm not advocating that we hold their money.  I'm advocating that universities do some soul searching and decide if they want to be franchise owners or not.  If so then remove the facade of "student" in student athlete.


October 5th, 2017 at 10:39 AM ^…


Enjoy that read, my favorite's are the iraqi currency investment and the military trained dog.  I get freedom and all, but I also think young men before the age of 25 don't have the impulse control to effectively manage finances for long term success.  Is that reason to deprive them of compensation?  No.  But college athletes aren't deprived of compensation.  They full value of the tuition, room and board, tutoring, academic counselling, training, etc. that they receive is easily in the 6 figure range.  


October 5th, 2017 at 11:31 AM ^

Whether or not they're currently deprived of compensation (or should be paid cash) is a perfectly reasonable debate to have. That's obviously not the point I am attempting to make.

Should I not have been offered a salaried job at 22, with more money than I'd ever had my hands on, because other people cannot manage their money? Should my employer really care if I spend it on cheetos or bonds or Iraqi currency? If I keep showing up to work and doing my job how the money gets spent isn't their issue, nor are the spending habits of the student-athletes. If they blow it, that's on them. The school can and should offer financial guidance to help them make good choices, but to deprive them of what they've rightly earned because you think they could be irresponsible based on a broad generalization and thin data, well that's damn near the definition of patronizing.


October 5th, 2017 at 2:10 PM ^

Fair points.  But your employer can have a say in how you behave outside work if it does impact your performance.  


That said, if we use the NFL as a guide the players are entitled to ~48% of the revenue they provide.  So the question is do we split that 48% of college athletics revenue amongst all players at all levels?  D1 only amongst D1, Each school amongst only it's scholarship athletes?


Michigan athletics has about 160 million in revenue each year.  So 48% of that is 76.8 million to be divided up amongst ~900 scholarship athletes.  That is only 85,333 per athlete each year.  Umich cost of attendance is over 60,000 a year for out of state students.  


So at UM, which is the elite when it comes to athletic revenue is likely shorting it's athletes by 25K a year based on these numbers.  If you have to share revenue among all D1 schools and all D1 athletes it is likely to be much less. 


October 5th, 2017 at 4:02 PM ^

Again, you are arguing against a straw man here. I am not suggesting how they should be paid, how much they should be paid, if the NFL's revenue sharing and apportionment is at all relevant, none of this is germane to my point, a point which you've conceded. I applaud your math though, top notch stuff.

That an employer can fire you for smoking pot, or any other reason that's not related to a protected class, is beyond irrelevant to any of this. These kids can also be fired for those things (see Johnson, Nate) and I'm not sure how you got to job performance from your orignial concern that they are too immature to handle money. You're flailing for any and every bit of thread to hang on here and it feels like I'm watching a pogo stick.


October 5th, 2017 at 10:35 AM ^

You know, most of these guys won't spend it any stupider stuff than what "normal" students do.  And lots of out-of-state students also receive scholarships and other services that absolutely could rival the 6-figure totals people fret about athletes receiving.  

Also, who cares if the money they get from school doesn't set them up for life?  Why does it matter to you what they do with their money?  It's not yours.  Your money went to pay for Dave Brandon's huge house, his staff of NardDogs or whomever, to pay for head coaches getting millions of dollars, weight rooms that get remodeled every couple of years, etc.  It's not like the AD is giving this money to charity.  Every other type of student can get a job, market his or her likeness, whatever.  They have vanishgly few restrictions.  But athletes, people who create the value the University can then license and sell to the public, aren't allowed to do much more than get a small stipend per month and get made fun of for their "general studies" degrees because most of the people most vociferously against them are just jealous or annoyed that someone they view as inferior in some way might be rewarded above them.


October 5th, 2017 at 10:51 AM ^

I don't fret about the 6 figure total. I'm trying to increase awareness about the full value of what athletes already receive.  


College athletes can get jobs too.  In fact there have been scandals about no show, no work jobs for athletes in the past.


Honestly, I make fun of general studies because it illustrates the absurdity of college athletics.  I think colleges should de-emphasize athletics like D3 and the Ivies and stop offering athletic scholarships all together, only offer academic grant in aid. 


Being a franchise owner in a pro sports league isn't the mission of universities.  And someone will capitalize on the 18-21 year old talent pool the the NFL is ignoring.


October 5th, 2017 at 2:35 PM ^

We all are pretty aware that athletes receive a decent amount of value when they play at a school.  I would like to point out that the average NBA salary is about $6.2M; in the NFL, we're talking about $2.1M.  So even if the average athlete at Michigan gets, let's say, a yearly value of $100k, that still pales in comparison to a true "professional" salary for the same general work product.  It's a bit of a silly comparison I'll admit, but it is illustrative of how much value these guys have even a year or two later.

As for the no-show jobs, a big reason those exist is because the NCAA does limit where kids can work in the summer and how hard it is to maintain eligiblity while, again, being expected to be at practice every day even in the offseason.  

De-emphasize athletics if you want, but people need to stop glorifying the Ivies and D3 as some bastion of idealized american sports.  The Ivies have billions of dollars in resources and spend them on athletes; letting a kid into Harvard and then paying for it as an "academic scholarship" isn't functionally different than an athletic one except you can feel superior to others.  Hell, Tommy Amaker has Harvard pulling in a top-30 class in basketball for 2018, and pulled in a top-25 class two years ago.  I'm going out on a limb and saying that a school that doesn't require families making under $250k a year to pay much in the way of tuition might be able to move some money around to get a guy onto campus in the same way, say, Stanford does with an athletic scholarship. 

As for D3, most of those schools can do the same financial gymnastics when necessary; I don't remember the book's title, but there was one about a decade ago that followed the Patriot's League and you saw, to a lesser extent obviously, the same types of players being coerced to join certain schools over others, to be goaded into playing hurt, etc. you see elsewhere.  They just were able to (a) sometimes get guys on campus with better financial support from family and friends, or (b) convince guys to take on financial aid packages as well.  To me, that isn't a better option than a University with millions of dollars paying for guys to compete.


October 5th, 2017 at 3:23 PM ^

The average P5 football/basketball player salary value is worth $170K if you take 48% of the total revenue (NFLPA collective bargaining agreement) of the P5 leagues (~2.2B) and then divide it by the number of football/basketball players (~100 per school, 64 schools) in those leagues.  The combined revenue of the NFL and NBA are nearly an order of magnitude greater than that of the combined P5, we are talking like roughly 18 billion to 2 billion. And there are approximately half the number of teams per sport in the NFL/NBA compared to the P5.  


I have nothing against kids getting paid.  I think the issue is that there is no viable alternative to college football for 18-21 year olds.  And there is a real question to be asked, is it the mission of a university to be essentially a franchise owner in a pro sports league?  If yes, then let's drop the moniker "student-athlete" and call them what they are, players you own the rights to.


October 8th, 2017 at 4:05 PM ^

Well how much do you think those kids are worth? Because it isn't in the millions of dollars averaged out over each kid.  The revenue numbers just aren't there to support it.


The fact is that the total P5 revenue from FY2016 was ~2.2 billion.  There are 64 teams in the P5 conferences.  They have 98 football and Men's basketball players at each school.  So if you were to divide the entire P5 revenue by the number of football and men's basketball players you'd only get ~350,000 dollars per athlete.  And we know that a sports league can't exist if 100% of its revenue goes towards salary, which is why I used the NFL's collective bargaining agreement as a guideline.  So yeah, are these kids worth more than what they are getting?  Yes.  Are they worth millions? No way.  And that doesn't even begin to address the title ix issues that would come up. 


So show me a data driven analysis of what you think these kids are worth.  Otherwise you havne't provided me an argument.


October 5th, 2017 at 11:47 AM ^

for an athlete to be paid at the college level. These athletes receive a lot for playing a sport. Outside of a free tuition, Free room and board. They get to ply their trade in the finest and nicest facilities that the average student is not allowed to set foot in, unless it's the stadium to watch a game and they pay to get in. They have academic buildings with free tutors, again an average student can not even set foot in.

They are basically given a free wardrobe, in shirts, shoes, shorts, sweat suits, jackets, gloves, hats, socks, polo's. All of their free clothes will usually be washed for them if they bring them to the training facilitels, They are coached by top coaches, have trainers and doctors at their fingertips for any ailment again something any average student doesn't get.

Besides free meals at any dinning hall, they are also given training table meals that would make any of us envious. Plus they have nutrious snacks supplied for them at any workout or practice.  Then to top it all off they also receive stipens to help them make ends meet because everything already given to them for free supposedly doesn't cover being a college student.

I understand playing a sport at this level is extremely tough and time consuming, but these kids are given plenty for what they do and if it's not enough then don't play and just go to school like any other average student. If you want to pay them, then have them pay their own Tuition and room and board. Have them pay for tutors and all their clothes they receive.  Sure athletic departments make a lot of money off of football, but it also costs a lot to build all these facilities and pay people to work in these departments and maintain these facilities and cover travel costs and everything else involved with athletics. Athletes are compensated just fine for playing the sport.


October 5th, 2017 at 2:02 PM ^

You say they are being 'given' to the player. But they aren't.

Only the athlete's continued participation in team activities ensures he continues to receive them. He is right now buying all that stuff with his labor. He is trading his play for (to start) the socks, the roof over his head, the tuition. They are skipping the step of writing the player a paycheck for his work, and him writing one right back for the stuff he gets, creating the illusion of "giving".

Right now, the cable companies are valuing the players' labors' worth as so great that the excess money alone (above and beyond the food, tuition & socks, etc. he gets) is enough for stadiums for sports he doesn't play, waterfalls and iPads. 

Coach Carr Camp

October 5th, 2017 at 8:47 AM ^

I don't fully get this argument. Plenty of students are on some kind of scholarship or financial aid, but nothing stops those people from making money on their own likeness. If you don't want the university paying them, fine, but why is it that because he's getting a free education he can't put his own signature on a piece of paper and sell it to someone else?  

We'll be Champions

October 5th, 2017 at 9:02 AM ^

Right, like I think of football as a merit scholarship for a really strong student, they just happen to be a strong student in a sport. Also, just because they are on scholarship does not negate the fact that they make millions of dollars for the University, and cannot make anything based on the fame they gain from doing so. 


October 5th, 2017 at 9:11 AM ^

From a "pure economic justice" perspective, I think this is a very, very good point. If the student-athletes are going to get paid, then they should have to foot the bill for school, just like anyone else. On this model the schools will say, "OK, school will be paid for. Under [INSERT MODEL FOR COMPENSATION] you will be paid X, the cost of school (including tuition, books, room and board, food, etc.) costs Y. If Y>X, you will receive a normal scholarship covering everything, and no cash. If X>Y, you will receive the difference of X-Y." I cannot imagine a lot of non-wealthy parents saying, "we'll pay for school, so you, our precious angel, can have lots of cash while in school." Now, I COULD see some athletes "mortgaging their future" and paying for school with loans so they could "live phat" (did I do that right?) while in college, and pay it back once they make the NFL. What a terrible decision that would be... 


October 7th, 2017 at 5:41 PM ^

No. Because the entire philosophy behind paying players is "give them access to their market value." And from countless observations, we can confirm that their market value is clearly a scholarship *plus* other outside income (whatever a booster or sponsor wants to pay). Insisting on an either/or style of paying them really lowers the level of discourse...lowering the quality of thought approximately to the level that produced the current situation with all its problems, poor optics, and questionable ethics.