Paying college athletes: no laughing matter!

LOS ANGELES, Jul. 14, 2011 – The burning issue of how much money a collegiate student athletic should receive is now, officially, out of control. Witness this contribution by Bleacher Report columnist Amy Daughters, who covers Texas Tech:

Yes, if you pay the football players then the bowling team and track and field deserve the same treatment, right?

Perhaps this is precisely where the entire discussion needs to be reanalyzed and redirected therefore producing a viable solution (but not avoiding huge controversy).

Here’s the alternative argument; why pay student athletes (beyond a full scholarship at their given institution) who don’t generate money above and beyond the operating costs of their sport?

Why treat a soccer player and a football or basketball player exactly the same when in truth they are simply not?

Yes, they are both student athletes but one sport produces zero income for the athletics program and the university while the other produces enough money to fund the entire athletics department (and possibly turn a huge profit).

Daughters goes on to point out that in the “real world,” if two salesmen bring in different levels of revenue, they will be compensated at different levels, so that’s the way it should be for college athletes.

Amy, a whole bunch of Title IX lawyers, the Women’s Sports Foundation and NOW are praying that the NCAA will follow your suggestion . . . because they’ll be in court so fast even Usain Bolt couldn’t catch them, with suits alleging discrimination and demanding “equal pay for equal work” for female student-athletes.

Why? Because universities, virtually all of which receive government funding or research grants of some kind, are not the “real world.” They are in the non-profit, government-funded world, which operates by a different set of rules . . . and laws.

What’s more, it should be noted that there are more than a few NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision programs and NCAA Division I basketball programs which lose money. So those players would get their “full scholarship” but nothing more? We have now permanently consigned half the FBS to second-class status. And what about the inequity in paying a third-string offensive guard on Auburn’s national-champion football team last season the same as Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton?

Somewhere, the ghost of Teddy Roosevelt – whose intervention into college football led to the creation of the organization that became the NCAA – is laughing.

So what’s my solution? Predictably statistical, my idea would be to try and avoid using a sledgehammer to kill an ant, and address the root problem: that a scholarship check that covers expenses in Baton Rouge, Louisiana or Lincoln, Nebraska doesn’t quite stretch as far in Los Angeles. There are numbers for this, available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the folks who compile the Consumer Price Index. In fact, a custom index keyed to the two biggest personal expenses for students – housing and transportation – could be created rather easily.

That would actually solve the issue which student-athlete activists cite as the base problem that started these discussions in recent years, before Ohio State’s Terrelle Pryor ever won one of those Big Ten championship rings that he pawned for an extra tattoo.

And although schools in major-market areas would ask for financial cover through an adjustment to the NCAA’s distribution of television and sponsorship monies, at least it would keep the lawyers in their offices instead of in Washington, D.C. courtrooms. And, as a lawyer myself, I would say that in this instance, that’s a good thing.

(You can stay current with Rich’s technology, sports and Olympic commentaries by following him at


  1. Sure, pay the football and basketball team. But then all of their expenses (uniform, travel, medical, practice site rental, coaching fees, get the picture?) will come out of their salary. You could not pay them enough!

  2. There is always a reason to do nothing, or very little. Since the university world is so different from the business world, then Amy and her bunch of lawyer friends should start going after the fat cats at the NCAA with eight figure salaries. And while they are at it, they can go after the coaches in the same situation. Also add in the AD’s, asisstant AD’s, assistant coaches and Athletic Department staff that make over $300,000 per year. After all, why should they make more than the President of United States.

    I would bet if that happened, we would quickly find a solution to this impasse where tons of money is being made by talent with merely a pittance going to that talent.

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