Monday, April 1, 2013

Pay The Players? Fine. Answer These Questions First...

Now is the time of year when the usual caterwauling begins about how these poor college basketball players are exploited by the evil monolithic NCAA.

The usual cries of "pay the players" begins, but never gets much farther than a one-sheet model of how that might actually work.

So for those who think the players should get "something" in the way of actual CASH... then I challenge you to answer the following questions.

1. How much?
And don't dismiss this with a casual "I don't know, they'll figure that out" statement. You can't be taken seriously until you start to run the numbers. Tell me JUST how much you would start with, and ripple that number through a university's athletic department spreadsheets to see if it has any adverse effects.

2. Who gets paid?
Are we talking every "scholarship player"? What about walk ons? Do schools have flexibility in paying guys? Could a school like Duke say: "We pay guys who stay for their junior and senior year, but not freshmen and sophmores?" How soon do you think resentment would brew on teams, when star player X is making the same $3,000 a quarter "stipend" as the GPA boosting scrub at the end of the bench?

3. How do they get paid?
Cash up front? Vouchers for clothes, food, and expenses? Plane tickets home? Deferred payment until they graduate or just leave?

4. Is there any behavior that would prevent a player from getting paid?
You know, drunk driving, assault charges, flunking out, cheating?

5. What About Putting Players "Under Contract"
Currently, a scholarship is a one-year renewable deal. While unfair to the player in that a coach can arbitrarily yank it, it does provide the ability for  players to transfer if that happens (albeit after sitting out a year). Coaches can technically "block" a scholarship player from transferring (see most recently the Danny O'Brien case) but that almost never happens, and also never withstands the usual media scrutiny. So let's talk contract. If a school is now PAYING a player cash, he's a pro. And if that's the case, why shouldn't a school be able to bind that player with a contract to play more than just 1 year? What if a 1-year player would be required to "buy out" his remaining 3 years of a hypothetical "contract" if he decides to turn pro?

6. You know this won't end the need for NCAA enforcement, right?
Because if every player gets a $3,000 "stipend" then he'll have some rollin' around cash. And what would prevent a deep pocketed booster (ahem, I'm looking at you, Alabama!) from giving that kid even MORE cash to roll around with? Then the kid could claim he bought his Escalade with his saved up "stipend" money and how can you separate the two? If anything, an official "stipend" would only increase the amount of dirty money in the system because there is now a viable cover story as to how Johnny got that fur coat.

7. How long before somebody says "hey, $3,000 is not enough!"
Answer: immediately. Because to some people, they want the NCAA to barely break even on basketball and football, and so the ink won't be dry on a "stipend" plan before there's a push to raise it. (see "Minimum Wage"). And you are aware, aren't you, that other "quasi-revenue" sports (like perhaps baseball) will ALSO start to ask for some money. And so will every tennis player, swimmer, and gymnast.

8. What do you do with schools who now choose to drop out of "paid NCAA sports?"
Schools like perhaps Vanderbilt and Stanford. They might well just say: "Hey, we don't really feel like paying athletes. It's not what we're all about as Universities. So we're going to form a new non-scholarship league, sorta like the Super-Ivy." How do conferences deal with the loss of these important cogs who may not compete for national championships, but are valued and needed members of the conference?

9. What happens when programs lose money?
Because many of them do already. Are they allowed to "suspend" stipends until the program moves back into the black?

And perhaps the biggest question I have for otherwise smart people like Jay Bilas who say this is akin to "indentured servitude"....

10. What The Hell Are You Talking About?
Big time D1 college sports (especially the revenue sports) are maybe the GREATEST DEAL GOING for young athletes. You get media exposure at every level that helps your quest to become a highly paid professional. Your school, spends THOUSANDS of dollars to MARKET YOU! You get elite level coaching and training. You get academic advisers to help keep your grades up. You get to make personal contacts with prominent boosters who may end up enriching you as a business partner in the years to come, for no other reason than "Boy, you threw that hail mary pass to beat 'State'! Would you like to be a rainmaker for my trucking company?" You get to travel first class. Stay first class. Eat first class. Have the thrill of playing before sold out arenas on national TV. Your family has priority access to tickets to the games (not sure if they are free, but still). Oh... and that other little thing you get....


I still am flabbergasted that this is treated by some in the media as nothing. As a door prize. It's like they don't know anybody who worked TWO JOBS to PAY for their own college education! At most schools, this is easily a $100,000 gift from the heavens.

To play a sport!

Yeah, I know. It's "long hours" and "look how much the TV contract is bringing in..."

But shut the hell up. Seriously you people. This is a deal only an idiot would refuse. How do I know this? SIMPLE! The NCAA member schools are having NO PROBLEM finding young athletes to accept scholarship offers.


The line extends to fucking INFINITY!

Now granted, if they went down that line far enough, the talent pool would suffer, and the games would not be quite as athletically exciting as they are now.

But you know what? They wouldn't suck. And we'd still watch.

If a young athlete feels "exploited" by the "system" he can also just OPT OUT. Go to a small school, DII or DIII or non-scholarship Ivy league and do his thing there. Many kids do already, because they value a first rate education in ADDITION to the chance to turn pro.

So go ahead. Put your righteousness where your mouth is.

Oh, what's that? You WANT the TV appearances, marketing campaigns, big stadiums, media exposure, pro coaching, pro training, best workout facilities, tutors, adoring fans, fawning boosters, world class travel...... AND... want MONEY too?

Screw you. Seriously.

Here's the number for Grinnell College. Knock yourself out, kid.


  1. “A FREE F'ING EDUCATION!” Ask any parent putting a kid(s) through college what they’d think if it was suddenly gratis. Holy crap, that’d be awesome.

    I would be open to allowing athletes earning income outside the university. We could use the model similar to when the Olympics where only open to “Amateurs”. It gets the NCAA out of that area of compliance and allows the market to decide what to pay. I just don’t want money coming from the university, especially one in a state where I am paying taxes.

  2. Nevermind that the schools that actually turn a profit from the athletic department use that money to help keep tuition rates lower than they would have otherwise. Paying athletes would increase tuition rates substantially.

  3. Czabe, the problem isn't the fact you need to play the revenue sports but you will also have to pay the kids in the revenue generating sports to meet title IX issues. Let's also not get into the fact, these kids are going to have to figure out the tax implications.

  4. I see your multiple points. However, what about the kids that suffer severe life-changing injuries while playing sports? Sure there's the one guy that was an honorary draftee in the NFL, but the honorary draft doesn't pay for the medical bills and lifestyle adjustments. The definition of student-athlete prevents the same kind of insurance coverage that the professionals get. Just something to think about. I don't know what a solution looks like, but it is a big piece of what makes me question the current setup.

    I'd also like to point out that while there is the impression that they are all getting a free education, that isn't necessarily the case for the majority of the players on partial scholarships. If a player has a skill (let's say they are a great nature photographer) they are barred from selling the fruits of their labor (nature photographs) to fund their college tuition gap. Yes, it's because boosters would buy the goods to circumvent the system, but because of this stranglehold on an individual's ability to sell their skills, the individual must work a campus job or take out student loans. Yes, your answer is that they are choosing to play the sport at the school, but why should a kid be pushed to student loans as a solution when they have a viable skill?

    Finally, the individual doesn't own their likeness or autograph. The school can make money off of them, but they cannot do the same. Yes, I realize it is the same problem with boosters buying these items to circumvent, but any joe schmoe on the street can sell his autograph to another consumer. Czabe, as a Libertarian leaning guy, don't you have an issue with the roadblock to open commerce?

  5. MTchemist is exactly right and you are wrong Czabe. It's not about paying the althetes. It's about giving them the FREEDOM to market themselves and accept that "dirty money" if they so choose. If they want to do a commercial they should be able to do. If they want to be an underwear model - more power to them. The restrictions they are under is completely against free must be hanging around too many commy liberals lately to not see that.

  6. BS to the take the money and run crowd. It's one of those evolving things that the more you hear it, the more you say: Sure, why not pay the kids. I've put two through, one private, one public. A free ride is enough. The market suggests such and those who are stacking weak evidence against, like the 1% of 1/10 of 1% guy who brought up accidents are just plain wrong. Good points all Czabe.

  7. MT & Boss are missing the theme of the blog post, which is indeed about PAYING the athletes. Not about NCAA restrictions, commerce, injuries, etc. It IS about whether or not to pay the athletes. Revising NCAA restrictions is a separate issue. Czabe's points have significant merit within that scope.

  8. Boss, they have FREEDOM to market themselves and take the money. It's called 'going pro'.

    1. Tell that to Maurice Clarrett and any other freshman college football players.

    2. Thought we were discussing basketball.

  9. The tuition/full ride is compensation. And as such, I think injuries should be treated like workers compensation. Being an athlete for a scholarship is a job. I know that their medical care is taken care of while they are athletes, but if they are injured like Ware from L-ville they should cover subsequent surgeries like removal of the rod later in life too. But, pay them a salary in addition to the compensation they already get? No.

  10. I say let the Agents pay them while in College. That way the free market will decide. And everything will be reported above the table where the IRS can see it. The way the system works now, minors are signing "contracts" and exempting themselves from Labor Laws(agents) without legal representation (agents) to assess their market value and legal rights.

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  12. I played big ten football and always considered being a student athlete as a privilege, a badge of honor. The economics weren't easy but it made us better people in the long run. I knew that I supplemented non revenue sports but that was just one more point of pride. Paying college athletes is a slippery slope that I don't ever want to see universities start down.

  13. Oh, c'mon Czabe, the "hidden hand" of the free market solves everything, right?

  14. They all get paid anyway...

    “I took golf, fishing and softball as classes,” Clarett said, according to Deadspin. “Away from class, anything you can think of I did in my 13 months at Ohio State. … I was living the NFL life in college. I got paid more in college than I do now in the UFL.”

    Enough said.