Sports Illustrated's recent article about agent Josh Luchs paying a number of college athletes has brought the old "should college athletes be paid" argument up again. While the SI article does raise a number of concerning issues (including whether there should be a refund demanded on any money paid to Ryan Leaf), it doesn’t change what the answer to that ultimate question should be.
No, they shouldn’t.
Does that make me a heartless monster who loves seeing college kids suffer while their corporate masters swim in money? You decide.
College Athletes Get Paid Already
An annual tuition can run from just over $7,000 at a public school to over $30,000 at a private school. Scholarship athletes are getting those expenses paid for them, including room and board. The next time you write a check for a student loan, ask yourself if a scholarship is a benefit or not.
The Rich Would Get Richer
One of the primary reasons there are rules against paying players is to keep the playing field between bigger and smaller schools at least somewhat level.
If big-time schools with big-time donors can just cut a check to convince the best athletes to come play for Big Time U, the advantages those big schools have would be even greater and the system would be even less fair than it is now.
Schools Aren't Swimming in Money
Sure, football is a big money maker for a lot of schools. But where does that money go? For the most part, it goes to pay for non-revenue sports, including most women’s sports. Paying players in revenue-producing sports does nothing but take away resources from student-athletes in other sports.
It Wouldn't Make a Difference
The argument for paying players, in part, is that paying them would make them less likely to take money under the table. Huh? More money is always better than less money.
If a person is going to be willing to break the rules by taking an illegal payment, having an extra couple hundred bucks in their pocket isn’t going to stop them from breaking the rules.
So, in summary, paying college athletes would take money away from other student-athletes, further the unfairness of the college athletic landscape and would not stop illegal payments in any way. Other than that, it’s a great idea.
Remember, what Luchs did is illegal in a lot of states. If folks want to get serious, start prosecuting agents for offering payments and start prosecuting players for taking them. One or two high-profile arrests would go a long way towards curtailing players getting illegal payments.
I’m not opposed to a necessity fund set up and run by the NCAA to cover things like travel costs for funerals or other humanitarian needs. But paying college athletes is a simplistic non-solution to the very real problems facing the system.
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