On College Athletics

Inspiration for this post:
NYT: Let’s Start Paying College Athletes

I spend a lot of time reading and absorbing thoughts from various media members and other pundits about What To Do About College Athletics™. The divide between coaching/administering haves and athlete have-nots is not going away. It’s only growing. The current system worked when athletics were pure; when coaches were educators and sports were just another extracurricular activity. Many sports are still in that boat, but football and men’s basketball certainly are not. They generate $6 billion in revenue. Coaches receive millions of dollars in salary, and jump from school to school without any regard for athletes.

The author of this story proposes some interesting changes to the system to account for the disparity between the haves and have-nots. I’m not sure, in its entirety, that this is the holy grail of solutions, but it’s certainly both on the right track and well thought out and plausible (unlike a lot of the other pie-in-the-sky stuff published on this topic).

I have loved the players’ association concept for a long time. Professional athletes have players’ associations, because it’s much easier to be treated fairly when you bargain as a group. In fact, it’s no different in any field. It’s hard to argue the premise that unions create better working conditions for their members. It’s not difficult to find columns out there that suggest athletes should strike to improve their situation. This would be a lot easier with savvy, professional representation in place to negotiate their return to a system that is more fair.

This is the first time I’ve heard anyone propose extra money for education after athletic eligibility is over, and I think it’s such a good idea that I want to expound on it. Once lesser players find out they aren’t going to make it in whichever league they hoped to go to, I suspect there might be renewed interest (and sufficient time) to wrap up a degree. It would also be much better for real student-athletes, who are pursuing an actual (read: non-cupcake) degree while playing, to know they have the money to finish it after sports, if they want to lighten their courseload a little in-season to keep their grades up. Isn’t the entire idea to help people get degrees? As a bonus, this proposal alone would have no affect on amateurism or the purity of college athletics. Kids would still be playing ball in order to get a degree, but perhaps some more kids would actually get a degree in process, instead of being used up and thrown out the back door. Even the APR formula could be adjusted to incorporate these extra years of school.

It seems very obvious that things are a out of whack in college athletics, and with the NCAA member institutions’ most recent thwarting of even an optional $2,000 stipend for athletes, they clearly can’t be counted on to make any concessions. However, the issue isn’t going away, and I think these two options—one dependent on the athletes and one that can be set forth by the institutions—are both pretty reasonable first steps.

About Scott Allen

Scott Allen is a web developer from Indianapolis, Indiana. He has been working with PHP/MySQL and Flash/Actionscript since the late '90s, and has extensive experience in database design and development, server-side scripting, and front-end user experience, especially in the creation of educational content. Connect with Scott on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+
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