As I read the recent article on PolicyMic about greater enforcement of NCAA violations, I could not help but shake my head in disapproval. The suggestion seems to be mostly all stick and no carrot, with no discernible benefit for those who are affected most by these issues: the players. Players continue to receive a poor education, and those on the football team and men’s and women’s basketball teams are exploited in the name of school profit.
One part of the solution seems fairly simple to me: pay the players.
Some would argue that a scholarship would be enough. It would seem odd that someone who is getting a multi-thousand dollar education would have the right to complain, but this does not take into account the money that is required outside of a scholarship. There’s food, travel between school and home and other recreational activities designed for leisure. Many of these students come from modest backgrounds, and do not have the wherewithal to support themselves alone.
In response, some would say these players should get a job, but this idea is unreasonable given the work required for their scholarship. For example, football players practice in the spring, the summer, and also practice in the fall between games. This can become hectic for football and basketball players because they are year-round sports. Often there are ‘two-a-days’, with practice in the morning and the evening. Then there are the classes that each must take to maintain their scholarship. This does not leave much of any personal time for the majority of the year, let alone a work schedule.
Paying student athletes would not make them unique on a college campus either. For example, Ph.D. candidates, as well as college newspaper editors, earn stipends due to their contributions to the school and its prestige. It only seems natural and reasonable that the most visible faces of the schools that bring in large amounts of money and help pay for the athletic opportunities of thousands of other students should receive some small compensation as well.
The simple fact is many of these players play and practice every day around the millions of dollars they make for their schools, from which they receive almost nothing. Most of these players will not even make it to the professional leagues, meaning that the time they devote to sports is mostly for personal pleasure and public entertainment. It would only seem natural that some of these players see possible benefits to their fame and wish to exploit these opportunities. In order to help curtail this behavior, players must have some means of being supported so they can focus more exclusively on their athletic and academic needs, and so these offers are not as tempting. We’re not talking large contracts, but a stipend of several thousand a year could keep the NCAA from suffering the headaches it has had at schools such as Ohio State and Alabama.
Enforcement is an essential feature in this process. The scandal that has rocked the University of Miami is inexcusable, regardless of my proposal. A pay-for-play system would also allow the player to be held more responsible for his or her own actions since his/her financial need has already been accounted for. In addition, there is the very tricky question surrounding Title IX and whether benefits must be split equally amongst all athletes, regardless of time committed or individual backgrounds. Nevertheless, the majority of NCAA violations are not big scandals such as in Miami, but more often come in the form of gifts or small amounts of cash. A system of paying athletes could deter this type of abuse and provide student-athletes a much-needed and deserved stipend.
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