NCAA Athletics: We Need a Catalyst to Spark Another Power Shift

Nick LiljaCorrespondent INovember 19, 2008

Median said it best.

“We need a catalyst to spark another power shift.”

It used to be that school was about an education. Have money? Pay some now for schooling and make more after you get a degree. You get in, get out and get on with life. Want to play a sport? Great. That’s a perfect way to live a healthy lifestyle.

Then slowly it turned from strictly the rich and privileged getting an education to people who were perhaps more gifted on the field of play. Great. Another win-win. Use your skills on the field to get an education and better yourself for the rest of your life.

In the last 15 or 20 years it has changed to, what EPMD would call, Strictly Business. And much like the rest of America that business is stricken with slime balls. Have skills? Want to get paid? Here’s a quick solution: Go to school and hone your skills, and get a chance to play professional sports. Oh, and get a degree as well.

“Is it the puppet or the puppeteer?”

If someone dangled the opportunity for cash in front of my face I’d take it. And get an education, they say? Shoot, sign me up. I don’t blame the athletes, it’s not their fault. The greed and corruption of America as a whole has led us to this. Shady boosters, slick-haired agents, maybe even a sideways recruiter or two are all responsible. It’s the greed that kills, though. It breeds delusions of grandeur.

Recently, I read an interview with Shane Battier in a Maxim Magazine from 1999—don’t ask. Battier, a former NCAA athlete, who went pro, brought up an interesting point about paying student athletes. He didn’t complain about practice at 5:30 AM, he didn’t say it was impossible to be an athlete and have a steady job and he didn’t whine and complain about the situation like a lot of the “arguments” that are brought forward.

His problem was with revenue. The NCAA makes so much money, most of the money from March Madness, why couldn’t the players get involved in revenue sharing? They play the games that bring the fans and those fans pay the money. Why don’t they get a cut? And he is right, for the wrong reason.

Getting an education isn’t a business. School, for everyone, is business move. Like the old saying goes, you must spend money to make money.

That doesn’t mean paying athletes is out of the question. But, it’s a slippery slope in the NCAA. The athletics department at every NCAA school is a business, no doubt. The only one I know where the product they supply is the only portion of the company that doesn’t cost anything.

Their product is free to produce. But the product, the end result, what fans exchange their money for is the players on the court who do not cost the athletic department money.

It’s changed the game because without the players the coaches couldn’t function in this. And it’s true. Without The Tarver Brothers there is no Jay John or Kevin Mouton or whoever they hire in April. Without Mario Chalmers there are no sold out games at Kansas. Without the long line of failed quarterback in the NFL there would be no Jeff Tedford.

Coaches, recruiters, facilities, and scholarships are now apart of the equation. The athletics department pays for tuition. Pays for books. Pays for transportation to and from away games and the per diem. Hope you can eat lunch on eight bucks.

But all of that doesn’t equate to money in their pockets. That doesn’t help pay the bills. Unless they are on a full ride in which case they get a check every month, from what I’ve been told, up to 900 dollars at certain Division-I schools.

So, really, they do get a cut. They get a cheaper education, heck, maybe even a free one. But student athletes that are not on scholarship have to pay for the same bills, the same tuition and the same books. Chances are that they are not the ones that will be going pro. Chances are they are the ones that are here for an education. Only they have to pay, not the school, not the NCAA, and most certainly not Myles Brand.

This is where a solution should be born. If the NCAA isn’t the flowers and sunshine it used to be. It’s a cold hearted business. The truth is there are two types of student athletes. The one’s whose priority falls on getting an education first and “going pro” second and the reverse.

If the NCAA interested in being beneficial to all student athletes then, just like in the real world, there should be a choice. Do you want to get paid, have your school paid for or get nothing?

For the student athletes that want the degree and are in school for an education first, keep the same program that is currently standing and tweak it. For every athlete that competes in at least one contest/meet/game/match during a season allow the NCAA and the schools athletic departments pay for full tuition for that year. Pay for tutors. Pay for books.

Pay for everything that is involved with the education of the student for up to four years. Include travel expenses and per diem on road trips like currently offered. Have it work like FAFSA, if they don’t compete in one contest by the end of the year, they have to start to pay that money back.

For those student athletes more worried about bills and less about an education they would be paid a different way. They get paid a stipend percentage of some revenue sharing pot decided by the NCAA and the schools athletics department. The pot would be made up of the money made by the NCAA from television contracts as well as individual ticket sales from the individual universities and the money saved from changing the current system.

The stipend would be less than a scholarship, won’t pay directly for school, and won’t pay directly for any school related materials but will cater to those athletes not worried about their education. They have bills and rent. If they are truly going to “go pro” then paying back the student loans they obtain for two or three years will be no issue.

As for the last group, the athletes who choose to receive “nothing,” Provide a bonus every time they compete. Much like a normal job offers overtime. This bonus could come from the stipend fund and have a finite amount of money available to each team.

The NCAA is a business and should look at itself as such.

“This is a catalyst to spark another power shift.”

It would give the power back to the student athletes that make the money. The NCAA needs to be fair to the people that earn it so much money. Giving them a small portion of the NCAA’s $564 million won’t hurt.

But it might tingle a bit, and that’s a good thing.