Out of Bounds: why pay for play is bad for college sports

  College football and basketball are sports that get a lot of hype. College football is arguably the second most-watched sport in America behind the NFL, and March Madness is a giant basketball conglomerate we glue our eyes to in the spring.

With viewership like this, one can only imagine the type of money the NCAA rakes in. Well, it is as much as we think, $871.6 million in revenue in 2011-12.

With this amount of money, the question always asked is: “Should we be paying these athletes?” My short-answer is “No.”

I understand that the athletes are the product and no one is making the money without them, but I see nothing wrong with players volunteering their time to play at the next level.  First and foremost, they are students – as the title goes, “student-athletes” – and playing a college sport should be viewed as a privilege; mind you, we’re talking Division I athletics. If you are at a university, whether on scholarship or not, school should be the priority.

The long answer is still generally “no,” but there’s some wiggle room in there. Should the players receive pay from the school? Absolutely not. That would be an abomination to the entire system.

I cringe at the thought of a high school recruit being offered a contract to go to school. Plus, the student-athletes already get money for food on away trips, and many of them also have work-study stipends.

But let’s say this pay does come from the school. Now is everyone on the football team getting the same pay, or does the NCAA pay the athletes? What about the football teaam and women’s soccer team or an SEC school and an Atlantic 10 school? Is everyone making the same, or are the amounts different? Is this a fair allocation? There are so many issues, so many sides to be had, that the practicality of the whole scenario is nauseating.

Where I “wiggle” is from outside the confines from the school, which involves the stupidity of the NCAA. I am so annoyed by athletes – especially basketball players getting suspended by the NCAA for playing in charity events or pro-am tournaments.

The classic example in defense of the athletes is this: If an art student is allowed to sell works without consequence, why can’t an athlete playing basketball do the same? And I agree with that. If I am a Division I athlete and I win a tournament with a cash prize, why is it the NCAA’s job to say I can’t have it?

I think if the NCAA would loosen its grip on college athletics, the argument for paying the athletes would go by the wayside. The NCAA acts as a big brother to sports rather than as a supplement to them, and it makes for a tense environment.

You need not go any further than the fact that – and this is real – the NCAA views providing cream cheese for school-funded bagels to be “pampering.” Yeah.

One quick, Band-Aid solution to this whole conundrum is to let athletes go to the pros right out of high school. This isn’t any rule of the NCAA but rather the professional leagues. The NBA’s rule is gray, but generally, it requires a year of college before the next step. The NFL requires three years after graduating high school regardless of whether or not the player attended college.

Eliminating this stipulation solves everything. The athletes who are going to go pro otherwise, and likely will be a problem for the NCAA, are gone, and the only students playing in college are using that as a stepping stone, not a roadblock.

I fear the worst is coming: that players will be paid in the near future. There are a lot of advocates for them being paid, more so than for the converse argument.

The day that a college athlete receives a paycheck for scoring some points is the day that college athletics loses a fan in me.