Do College Athletes Deserve a Piece of the Financial Pie?

Brian BakerContributor IAugust 27, 2008

Around this time of year, campuses around the country come back to life.  The start of classes also sees the dawn of the new college football season.

A few things will remain constant, however.  The SEC will be brutal.  Notre Dame will get far more credit than it deserves.  People will argue over who belongs where in the BCS.

Then some idiot on ESPN will talk about how unfair it is that the players don't get paid.

The reasons college football players, or athletes of any college sport for that matter, aren't paid are numerous.  Obviously, college athletes get a degree at no cost—the same degree, in fact, that I paid tens of thousands of dollars for.

Not only is it free, the money for their scholarship comes from the tuition pool—the part that doesn't come from overall taxpayer subsidy.

Not only is this degree free, but it's also probably from a better institution than you would have been able to get into without that 4.3 speed.  I'm the biggest Charles Woodson fan you know, but anybody that thinks he could have gotten into Michigan on his grades alone is probably about as smart as Charles Woodson.

Notre Dame fans: Take heed.  This applies to every D-I school, large and small.  I say this because the vast majority of Irish fans to whom I dictate actual sports knowledge seem to think their starting lineup is chock full of Mensa members—like Vontez Duff. 

Athletes get money.  It's not cash in hand, but what they come away with definitely has monetary value.  It's in the form of a degree, free meals, no rent, and in the case of bigger schools, sweet bowl game packages.

Forget all of that for a minute.  Forget the ridiculous amount of money involved.  Ever been to a college party with a football player?  You'd know if you had.

For those of you that haven't, the parties are bigger, everybody on campus wants to go, and the players (even guys that never leave the bench) have their pick of the hottest girls that line up to talk to them.

Is there more?  You bet.

Athletes routinely get out of trouble they start.  ESPN just ran an article about a few schools (Penn State in particular) with strikingly high arrest and/or disciplinary records among their teams.  They usually end the same way: no charges.  Probation.  A few hours of community service or sitting out a game at the most.

From all angles, big time college athletes get ahead.  Hell, I was just a hockey player at a mid-major school.  While pretty insignificant, it was still able to get me a tiny bit ahead.

Sure, some schools make money from athletics (although most do not), and the athletes don't cash any checks, but the rewards are definitely there in all other forms of college life.  If scholarships were such a bad deal, would people around the country be busting their asses to get one?

Even if we ignore all of the above and explore the idea of a scholarship athlete being overworked or otherwise exploited, it still doesn't add up.  Don't like it?  Don't do it. Already signed up?  Quit.  There are no contracts involved

Just as they have the right to dismiss you from the team, you have the right to do the same thing yourself.  If Tim Tebow decides tomorrow he's done playing football, that's all there is to it.  Florida has absolutely no recourse.

My point is this: Am I bitter?  Absolutely not.  Living as a big time athlete must be an outstanding life.  Those guys have the best opportunities available, and why should they feel bad about taking advantage of it?  I sure wouldn't turn it down.  Neither would you.

There are obvious benefits to being a scholarship athlete, and paying cash isn't necessary.