It seems every week, I hear of a new scandal involving a college athlete and the reason is always the same … money. For the past few months, the NCAA has been digging their claws into USC and Ohio State, two of the most storied athletic institutions there are in college sports. The consequences of these schools not playing fair have been the loss of championships and current coaching staff members and many in and out of the sport wonder if the simple solution is to pay college athletes for their performance. I vote a big, fat, NO.
Let’s first be clear about something. College athletes are already paid handsomely for their athletic performance. They may not receive hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, but they are given a chance to earn a college degree at a top notch university for free. Plus, most college athletes receive a stipend each year, good enough to cover room and board, books and food. Unfortunately, many students decide not to take advantage of this offer, deciding to leave the team, or leave the sport early for a big professional contract. Either way, it’s somewhat of a wasted opportunity.
The Value of a Scholarship
Anyone that knows my story knows that I took on roughly $200,000 in student loans over a five year period and I’ve chalked it up to the worst decision in my young life. Had I actually been given a full ride by the University, I wouldn’t have spent the last few years of my life managing creditors every second and I might even be able to buy my first house. Instead, I still struggle to improve my credit score and my dream of a house will have to wait a little while longer. A full athletic scholarship would have easily been the most valuable thing I’ve ever received in my short life.
Unfortunately, many college athletes don’t see it that way. Instead, they decide to take advantage of being famous (some more than others) and exploit themselves or their university to get paid. This can be done in a variety of ways, most notably:
- Selling Memorabilia or Merchandise – College athletes assume the jersey’s and equipment they are given are theirs to sell and that is not the case. Strict rules prohibit athletes from selling gear provided by universities but the market for autographed memorabilia is huge. Sometimes college kids actively seek to make money this way, other times, they’re approached and say yes.
- Taking Gifts from Agents – This is the reason why so many violations occur in college sports. Too many people are looking to make money from amateur athletes and students rarely say to to cars, cash and other big ticket items.
- Shaving Points During Games – In extreme cases, some student athletes decide to take games into their own hands and play poorly to ensure the other team “covers the spread”. This probably goes on a lot more than you think because only players who are bad actors are the ones that get caught. Even this year, a few basketball players at the University of San Diego are being investigated for point shaving.
The one variable that all of the above have in common is the acceptance of the student athlete to break the rules. It’s obvious to me at least that if student athletes are paid for their play, nothing changes. A debate will rage on which students get paid the most, and instead of some athletes feeling like they deserve more money, all athletes will. The only thing that changes is a loss of revenue for Universities and or the NCAA, which will ultimately raise the cost of tuition and services for everyone.
How To Fix the Problem
I wish I could tell you I’ve developed a full proof system to fix the tampering that goes on with student athletes, as well as enforce the significance of how valuable a college degree is, but I don’t. Kids are going to make mistakes no matter what you do and the only way I see to combat the problem of backdoor deals is to educate students more and add more surveillance so that anyone caught breaking the rules is punished.
College is supposed to be a time to have fun, learn enough to generate a solid living for the rest of your life and make friends you’ll never forget. Students will have the rest of their lives to make money, and the good student athletes will have no trouble cashing in on their skills. The smart student athletes shouldn’t have any trouble either but that leaves a large population of everyone else to be manipulated. Take it from a guy who paid dearly for his education – a free college degree is payment enough.