Student-Athletes Should Be Paid

Sports fans have a lot of prime college sports events available on TV from college football to college basketball to other college sports. The fans are being entertained by “amateurs” who toil in a professional world.

There are many college games that a fan can see in person or watch on television over the holidays which extends over about a 17 day period. You want mediocre football teams, there is a bowl for you. You want high level football games, there is the Fiesta and Peach Bowls played in NFL stadiums on national TV which pays an enormous sum of money to deliver the games to homes across the country. Tickets to those games also cost a lotr of money. There is nothing amateur about the college football playoffs except the players not being paid. The same holds true for college basketball tournaments and college hockey tournaments. The question is why this is still acceptable in 2016? How can the people putting their bodies on the line for entertainment not get paid. No one is watching a college basketball game or football game to watch a coach although you would never know that listening to network TV announcers shining up the halos of coaches who win.

What exactly is a student-athlete? The answer is unclear. The term “student-athlete did not exist when Walter Byers took the job at the helm of the NCAA in 1951. It would first appear a number of years later following the death of a college football player on the field. The case involved a Fort Lewis A & M student, Ray Dennison who died from injuries suffered in a game in 1955. Dennison’s widow sued for workman’s compensation in Colorado. She lost. Dennison was a student not an employee.

That enabled Byers to come up with the student-athlete term because the NCAA got legal cover from the judge who ruled that Fort Lewis A&M was not in the football business. Byers thought trading a scholarship for getting a player was a good deal and it probably was before television and marketing partners started to pour billions for the right to television or become partners with the NCAA and individual colleges. Left behind were student-athletes who didn’t quite get a full scholarship, who had to put in a great deal of time sometimes involuntarily into sports and were limited to making $2,000 a year in outside jobs Paying players was out of the question to maintain the pretense of amateurism while everyone else made money off the back of the athletes. The NCAA refuses to change the system.

Bowl committees get paid by title and secondary sponsors and TV. They pass the money onto colleges yet the players see known of the hundreds of millions of dollars pumped into college sports.

 

Ever watch one of those digital niche channels that local over-the-air TV stations offer? There is a channel called Buzzr TV which features just games shows from the 1950s through the 1980s. One of the shows, To Tell The Truth offers a rather interesting look into sports. The game, which featured three people claiming to be the same person, was simple. Four panelists tried to figure out who the real person was. The show featured people from all walks of life but the sports people were different because some came from the world of professional sports and were able to keep whatever winnings which included sharing as much as $1,000 three ways and a gift package of cold and headache remedies and those from the Amateur Athletic Union. The money-making show was not good to amateur athletes. They were allowed by the AAU to appear to tell their story but the amateur athletes had to donate their earnings which could be as little as $50 to the AAU. They could not keep the money.

 

More than five decades later, the problem remains. Today, Olympic athletes can be paid but nothing has changed at the college level except there are scandalous amounts of money available for football and basketball coaches while the stars of the show, the players, are getting nothing except a college scholarship. Big time football schools are reaching out to successful smaller programs and poaching coaches which is perfectly fine in the college world even if the poached coach has a contact that must be broken. It seems the college presidents and chancellors want wins not educated players and are willing to pay big money, some of which comes at state colleges from taxpayers who make the college coach the state’s highest paid employee. Everyone makes money except the stars of the show. A practice that has gone on far too long.

 

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