Forensics Friday: The Pay-For-Play Problem

Note: Joshua Yost is a State Champion debater and covers hockey for Speakeasy Magazine

The NCAA has faced heavy criticism lately over mistakes regarding their investigation into the University of Miami (FL) leading to a call to arms from multiple news outlets. ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and others have addressed the problems that have persisted under the watchful eye of the blind man’s mute dog. I believe there is a way to fix college athletics, an idea that I feel is ultimately inevitable, it’s time to finally begin paying college athletes.

In a perfect world, yes college athletes would be paid for their work, as it is obvious this is a difficult job and someone does have to do it. The problem in the idea of paying college athletes for their play begins with the institutions themselves. One of the biggest focuses of the pro-pay argument is on the new television deals being made throughout the NCAA. According to USA Today in 2010, the NCAA’s new agreement with CBS and Turner Sports for the March Madness basketball tournament will provide the NCAA with nearly $771 million annually. Just as well, according to Sporting News, the new deal with ESPN regarding the four-team football playoff is expected to be worth nearly $500 million annually.

With these deals in place, and not taking into account the advertising revenue the NCAA gains from Nike, Reebok, and other sponsors, you could assume they make more than enough money to give back to the players. Despite all of this revenue, the sharing options appear to be limited. According to Mark Schlabach of ESPN in July of 2011, about 60 percent of NCAA revenue will go to the Division I member schools, leaving 40 percent to the other two division who abide by NCAA standards.

Likewise, this amount is split amongst academics, basketball individually, other sports, grants, scholarships, etc. After all this, there is still a seemingly a large sum of money that the NCAA then puts into the pockets of stuffy old white guys in suits, who are saying they can’t afford to give up any more money. We more commonly call there stuffy men, the commissioners of the major conferences of the NCAA.

Now let’s think things through for a moment: when you think about college athletes who you believe deserve to be paid, are you thinking of somebody like Tyler Tettleton of Ohio University or Luke Creditt, a quarterback for the Division III champions Mount Union? I’m willing to bet you’re thinking about a player like Tettleton, who plays big games on television. These two play the same game, though, and are both placed under the same NCAA regulations.

There may one significant difference between the two, though – besides the publicity factor – Division III athletes aren’t allowed to receive athletic scholarships per NCAA bylaws 15.4. Perhaps we could use the newfound revenue to provide scholarship money to schools that appear to be beneath the system rather than those like Alabama who are above it (really, who uses deer antler spray? Ray Lewis, what do you think?).

Most significant to this argument is simply the fact that it doesn’t matter who it is playing under the NCAA regulations, or what level of publicity they receive, they are still student-athletes and deserving of the same funding. If the NCAA is going to go along with president Mark Emmert’s plan to provide student-athletes with $2,000 to be used beyond what is covered in scholarship expenses, I fully expect to see them providing the ability to use scholarships to Division III schools. The level of play may be lower, but that is more reason to provide these young athletes with funding and a greater opportunity in life.

If you look to the high price of a college education nowadays, it may be too much to ask a student-athlete to decide to play in Division III without a scholarship, paying upwards of $30,000 a year, working as an athlete providing publicity and revenue to the school and subsequently to the NCAA, and have to provide for themselves. Don’t even get me started on the dangers of a potential injury, could you see if Eric LeGrand played at Framingham State University?

Sadly, this could have actually happened, but with such a small following to a lower-level school, nobody seemed to care enough to report about it. It’s a danger at all levels, not just the ones that you can see. With these student-athletes paying their way through school, they won’t have the ability to also pay the medical bills that pile up through such a significant injury.

Currently, the NCAA runs off the stuffy old white guys who control the major conferences: the SEC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, and ACC. These are the conferences with big enough schools to afford, through their own revenues and the NCAA’s provided supply, to pay their athletes for their contributions. However, smaller institutions such as those in the Mid-American Conference of which Ohio is a member are unlikely to have the funding to pay such a large stipend to their players.

Many of these schools considered “small schools” are, just like the larger schools but lack the publicity from high-end athletics and television deals. Without the large television deals that a school like the University of Texas or a conference like the Big Ten with their own individual networks, these lower level schools are left having to drop portions or their athletic departments, academics, and raise the student tuition rates in order to keep up with the trends in revenue. As a current student at one of these schools, I cannot sign off on something like this.

There are many more students on any one campus than there are athletes, yet an institution in this system would be forced to place students in a financial death trap while providing a more limited education simply because the NCAA and the general population believe that players deserve to be paid for playing. Meanwhile, there are student-athletes participating at some schools who don’t receive scholarships whether it be due to the NCAA regulations or the sport they play in.

Ohio University does not provide hockey scholarships as hockey is not an NCAA regulated sport for the Bobcats, if this is fair or not, it still means these athletes are risking their bodies every weekend in games and receiving absolutely no gain from the school. At least the majority of athletes are being given a proper education, which many will agree has become a necessity in our society.

Having reviewed NCAA regulation and the individual abilities of specific institutions, we can look at the topic of paying student-athletes for play in the full light. When looking to student-athletes for who should be receiving further benefits, publicity is the biggest mark and leads us to believe the only students being improperly funded are those who will soon be making millions of dollars in the NFL.

As stated in the Declaration of Independence, “all men are created equal,” which applies to those who also won’t be playing beyond the college level. Before we begin treating the great and successful like kings, let’s spread the wealth around the land.

One thought on “Forensics Friday: The Pay-For-Play Problem

  1. Pingback: The Columnists: Ep. 1 – Speakeasy Magazine

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