March Madness is over, NCAA baseball is in full swing, football is starting up, and National Signing Day upon us. Like every other time of the year, it’s good to be a college sports fan.
Growing up in Memphis, TN during the John Calipari era, the Memphis Tigers were the kings of the city. I grew up bleeding and breathing Tiger blue and grey. People would flock to the FedExForum to watch Coach Cal’s Tiger’s take to task most anyone they played against, from Louisville to Tennessee to UAB. There were even years when they were arguably better than the fledgling Memphis Grizzlies, and, undoubtedly, the more interesting product on the floor. So, why should they not be paid a meager salary for the product they produce?
College athletes, in no form or fashion, have anywhere near the same college experience as the normal college student there for academics. The usual day for a NCAA Division I athlete consists of a 16 hour day filled with lifting, school, homework, practice, and all tied together by a few hours of sleep each night before getting up at 4 or 5 to do it all over again. On average, a D1 athlete spends 39.64 hours a week practicing and performing his or her sport.
I asked Bryce Hayes, a linebacker at Division III Rhodes College, his daily routine in the two question questionnaire, Daily Routine of a College Athlete to describe his typical day at a Division III school. During Spring Ball, Bryce wakes up at 4:45 for 5:50 practice while continuing 7AM weight lifting before classes. He then goes to classes with team meetings sprinkled throughout his day, reviewing film, and installing new plays into both defensive and offensive schemes. Needless to say, this is hardly enough time to maintain a job during season so they can to pay off debts, student loans (only 2% of college athletes get athletic scholarships coming out of high school), help their family back home, or have an otherwise balanced college experience.
The most heinous thing about the treatment of college athletes is that they are also robbed of their right to their very own likeness, including signature and face by NCAA Bylaw 12. This was the case of Johnny Manziel being shortly suspended for having the audacity to sign autographs that were then sold on EBay by a third party. The amateur bylaw is also the reason EA Sports is not allowed to publish NCAA sports games anymore without compensation of former college athletes who are no longer subject to the NCAA Bylaws.
But, due to the exposure of college athletes, can we really consider them “amateurs?” We know the names Christian Laettner and Charlie Ward as well as we know the names Kobe Bryant and Tom Brady. They’re televised on TV all year long and sports fans plan their days, scheming on how to get out of work when Bowl Season comes around in December and March Madness in March. It seems, from a cosmetic sense, the NCAA holds these athletes out as anything but amateurs. They are treated more as entertainers that are playing at a high level. The NCAA tends to hold athletes, along with their organization out as the minor leagues.
Those who oppose paying college athletes often argue that college athletics should be likened to an unpaid internship. Fair enough, but is it fair that the NCAA has a monopoly on all the talent and doesn’t allow their interns to get paid a dime?
According to Business Insider, the average college took in around $60 million a year through athletics in 2016, with Texas A&M bringing in the most at $190 million. This is $60 million that the college and NCAA makes off of college athletes who have no choice but to be there so they have a chance to further their dream of being drafted. Even in baseball, a sport where you can be drafted out of high school, college ball is your best bet for developmental purposes.
There are 3 solutions when it comes to pay college athletes, some of which can be intertwined. My preferred solution is a simple, locked-in salary for college athletes of about $15,000 for non scholarship athletes and $10,000 for scholarship athletes on full rides per year. This gives the student a chance to play his sport at basically a minor league level for just under minor league baseball pay rates with the money coming through the school and NCAA jointly. This solution would eliminate the concern that recruits would go to the highest bidder, which would heavily lop side the best recruits towards Power Five schools.
A second solution that can be intertwined into my preferred solution is permitting the players to own their likeness and profit off it if they like without infringing on copyright. This would allow players to sign shoe deals, do local advertisements, and make money off their signature as they see fit. This solution alone would allow players to make money based on their merit or local popularity without costing the university a dime in sales. In fact, this solution could even make the college more money. If players owned their likeness, the university would be able to sell player jerseys with the player’s name on the back, allowing people to buy the jerseys of their favorite college players.
My last solution, is a little more drastic and intricate than my first two, but also seemingly straightforward. Let players from high school jump straight into the pros as baseball does and let the NCAA compete with the pros and minor leagues for talent. This can be done seemingly smoothly enough in basketball by eliminating the one and done in rule. The problem comes in with football and sports with no real professional teams, such as track and field events.
For this to work for football, the NFL would have to establish a minor league system, similar to baseball’s, in which players out of high school can compete on a similar level of competition, while allowing the player to be molded in the way the organization desires them to be molded. I find this solution to be the most free market of the solutions, but the hardest to implement uniformly due to the differences in pro sports. Regardless, if you’re pro paying college players or against it, the NCAA needs to change in a way that’s more friendly to the people that make them a profit.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.