Our culture has a tendency to blur the line between rights and privileges. Playing college football—or any collegiate sport for that matter—very clearly falls under the latter category.
The purpose of college is to educate. The fact that sports like football are peripherally contested is an added bonus to the educational experience.
College athletes devote thousands of hours to football during their four years. Their duties don’t allow them a chance to work on the side to earn spending money like many other students do.
But it’s not as if these kids are forced to play sports; it’s their right to choose whether or not they wish to participate. When they accept a full scholarship and then act like a victim because they don’t have spending money, it’s impossible to spare an iota of sympathy.
Many pre-med majors put just as many hours into their studies as players do into schoolwork and football activities combined, yet no one claims they should get a stipend. In fact, that part of the student population is usually paying for their education as opposed to receiving free tuition, room and board like football players do.
A common counter-argument to that is football players bring in millions for their schools but see none of it—they have a “right” to a cut of that money.
But how would a distribution of money be regulated? Would Texas dish out more to players than Akron since they gross millions more in revenue? Would it turn into an MLB situation where the high-grossing schools could pay more to players and attract even better talent?
How about members of teams with little to no fanfare, like rowing or swimming—would they be entitled to something since they don’t generate much revenue? How would women’s sports and Title IX factor into this? These are all questions without viable answers.
In a recent Sports Illustrated article, former agent Josh Luchs depicts the athletes as victims and himself as merely a kind-hearted philanthropist helping exploited individuals who couldn’t afford food or shelter. Does anyone buy for a second that USC awarded R. Jay Soward a scholarship and then essentially let him go hungry and homeless? That’s insane.
The reality is Soward wanted to live outside his means and felt entitled to since he was a star athlete. That’s his problem, not the NCAA’s.
The inference that student-athletes are being exploited is flat-out wrong. The reality is that they’re being extended an unbelievable opportunity to receive a free college education—a commodity that costs $200,000 at elite academic institutions—in exchange for hard work in a game they presumably love. That’s perfectly fair compensation for their efforts.
If they don’t think it’s fair, have them walk a day in the shoes of normal students paying their own way. See how they handle the academic workload without the academic support network athletes are provided. Then when they’re done, hand them a college loan bill.
Maybe it’ll make them count their blessings—that’s what they should be doing.
Looking for the counter-argument? Check out Sam Kline's column here.