Sorry, The NCAA Cannot Pay Football Players Because Of Title IX

Gerald BallCorrespondent IJuly 25, 2010

HARRISON, NJ - MARCH 20:  2010 Super Bowl champion Reggie Bush #25 of the New Orleans Saints poses for a photo prior to a match between the New York Red Bulls and Santos FC at the first match to be played at Red Bull Arena on March 20, 2010 in Harrison, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jonathan Fickies/Getty Images for New York Red Bulls)
Jonathan Fickies/Getty Images

It is curious. Whenever an NCAA player gets caught taking money, and it results in his team forfeiting victories, championships, and scholarships, the condemnation comes fast and furious: "Greedy! Cheater! Thug! Selfish! No respect for rules! Does not appreciate the value of an education! Can't you just wait 3 years and then go pro? If you are worried about injury, take out an insurance policy! How can you be so selfish and put yourself above the team, the sport! You give yourself and your family a bad name!" 

Yep, that's what they say. That is...when it is an SEC athlete. But when it is a star USC athlete like Reggie Bush? Please. Change the system! It's corrupt! Abuses are unavoidable! Everybody does it, they just don't get caught! Hypocrisy! The players generate the money and don't see a penny! Everyone gets paid but the athletes! IT IS MODERN DAY SLAVERY! 

So while it is someone going to one of those dirty, low class aggie schools in the cheating-hicks SEC, it is simply a lack of morals and self-control. But, when it is someone in the Pac-10 ivory tower of elite institutions with high standards; well OUR PEOPLE are better than that.

It CAN'T be a problem with PLAYERS who are UNWILLING to live up to the terms of the CONTRACTS that they FREELY ENTERED INTO. OUR PLAYERS ARE BETTER THAN THAT! I mean, look at how nice, humble, down to earth, clean cut, and All-American values Reggie Bush looks when he is wearing his diamond studded earrings, dating Kim Kardashian, making false extortion charges to the FBI, lying to the media, the NCAA infractions committee, and to Texans owner Bob McNair, and paying off witnesses?

If a high character guy LIKE THAT can't follow the rules, then obviously the problem is the rules themselves! NOT the failure of these guys to go into investment banking, real estate, particle physics, the Marines, or whatever other field that won't "exploit" them. Or for that matter, the failure to go play baseball and hockey, who makes millionaires out of 17 year olds routinely, or the failure to go play tennis or Olympic sports, who gets athletes even younger than that very rich.

Nope. Forget about going into a field other than sports and making as much money as you can just like the 99.9999% of us who can't run a 4.2 40. (Actually, Reggie Bush only ran a 4.38 40. On a very fast track. NFL defenders who have had no problem catching him from behind, even when Bush has a head start, can easily confirm this fact.) Or forget about choosing a sport that allows you to start making money a lot earlier. Who wants the extra work? Who wants the risk? What I want is a system that will pay me money in the sport that I CHOOSE. A system that will put money in my pocket AND give me a free education (USC tuition, up to $21,000 a year for undergrads) EVEN IF I AM ONE OF THE VAST MAJORITY OF HIGHLY-RECRUITED ATHLETES THAT NEVER BECOMES A WELL-KNOWN MARKETABLE FIGURE! 

See, that is what they are telling you. These guys want their cake and eat it too. In order to make money in baseball, hockey or the Olympic and individual sports, you have to be good enough to compete against the best in the world and win, and if you can't, you get nothing. You have to go out and earn your endorsements ON YOUR OWN. And if you can't, you have to buy your own equipment, pay for your own coaches and training (at the cost of tens or hundreds of thousands a year) and pay your own entrance fees into tournaments, while competing with professionals who DO win millions a year on the tours and who DO have sponsors and who have BETTER coaches and equipment than you do because they can afford them because they are BETTER THAN YOU. And that is the sports world. These guys can also go down to Barnes and Noble or Walden Books, learn how to build a better mousetrap, and market their skills in the normal economy. Carpentry? Roofing? Plumbing? Welding? Website design? Nah. That is too much like work. And, er, too much like RISK.

Trust me, this isn't what the NCAA athletes want. They don't want to try to make it on the PGA or ATP tour. They don't even want to make $20,000 a year in minor league baseball or hockey. No, they want a full ride at one of the best universities in America (even if it is an SEC school) where if they don't pan out and wind up riding the pine for the next 4 years, they can have a degree to fall back on. They want the university to take all the risk on whether they can actually play or not. And ONLY IF they actually develop into good college players is when they decide that they are being exploited and deserve more from the system than Mitch Mustain (you know, the Parade High School player of the year riding the pine who generates no revenue for USC, wins no games for USC, but is getting a free education worth nearly $100,000, and may even get a shot at the NFL). 

And amazingly, a lot of people agree with them. Instead of demanding that their spots go to kids who are willing to honor the contracts that they sign and appreciate the value of a free university education, you want to indulge the entitlement attitudes of guys who want to take, take, take. Including a guy like Bush, who failed to live up to the obligations of his scholarship fund for legitimately needy and underprivileged kids despite having pocketed over $50 million in salary and endorsements in 4 years. 

Well, too bad. Now there are lots of reasons why paying players is a bad idea. It would end the competitive balance between institutions, increasing the balance between the haves and the have nots. There is no fair way to determine a player's worth and compensate him based on it. It would become even harder to separate the legitimate income from the illegitimate income (and the people who give it). But the main reason is that when you are dealing with dishonest narcissists that are becoming more numerous in college football because of the increasing idol-worship athletics culture that is making nationally known figures out of people like Jimmy Clausen and Peyton Manning WHILE THEY ARE STILL IN HIGH SCHOOL (note that ESPN is showing more and more high school football and basketball games ... wait should we start paying them too ... if not why not!?!) no amount is ever enough because they will convince themselves that they want more. So you can give some of these kids $10,000, $50,000, $100,000 stipends plus royalties from jersey sales and what have you, and they will still want more. 

But that isn't the best reason. The best reason why we can't pay football (and basketball) players is Title IX. Because of Title IX, universities would not just be able to pay only the athletes that generate revenue, or the athletes from sports who generate revenue. Instead, thanks to Title IX, you would have to pay everyone. Everyone from the star QB of the top 5 football team to the third stringer on the badminton team would have to get a check. And that, people, is why it wouldn't work. So, instead of bashing the system, we need to start cheering the student-athletes who actually abide by it. Because thanks to Title IX, the system is not going to change.


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