you sold your souls, and you’re going to continue selling them
September 13, 2011 4:53 PM   Subscribe

For all the outrage, the real scandal is not that students are getting illegally paid or recruited, it’s that two of the noble principles on which the NCAA justifies its existence—“amateurism” and the “student-athlete”—are cynical hoaxes, legalistic confections propagated by the universities so they can exploit the skills and fame of young athletes. The tragedy at the heart of college sports is not that some college athletes are getting paid, but that more of them are not.
posted by gerryblog (55 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
College sports, ad far as I can see, is a scam that cripples young men (primarily) while denying them an education in return for shilling for professional sports. Yay, us.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:58 PM on September 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


Mmmm, legalistic confections. There's nothing like a raspberry tort.
posted by XMLicious at 5:05 PM on September 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


Genji,

What is your evidence for widespread crippling? Injuries occur, but at what scale?
posted by effugas at 5:06 PM on September 13, 2011


He's not really talking about "college sports," right? He's talking about football and basketball at Division I schools.
posted by craichead at 5:07 PM on September 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


What is your evidence for widespread crippling? Injuries occur, but at what scale?

"We've already established what you are, now we're just haggling over the price."
posted by gerryblog at 5:08 PM on September 13, 2011 [9 favorites]


As an amatuer historian who would like to be on CSPAN, I'm going to explain how this and the war on drugs are part of the mixed legacy of women's sufferage. Only if you buy my forthcoming book: Vote Hers? The Mixed Legacy of Sufferage.
posted by humanfont at 5:15 PM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pay them.

This makes them employees. Then you can hold them accountable when they drive drunk, throw their girlfriends down stairs, and rob Burger Kings.

The above crimes have been committed by ISU student athletes over the last 20 years.

The idea that they will be thrown off the team just isn't enough of a disincentive.

I remember when I worked at the local Waldens we tried to get some football player that was a huge Harry Potter fan come read the book to kids when the latest book came out (early 2000s). He couldn't get it cleared through the NCAA, since it would be promoting a business.

Eh. I totally agree with Frank Deford on this one. We will eventually pay them. Start now.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:25 PM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


This makes them employees. Then you can hold them accountable when they drive drunk, throw their girlfriends down stairs, and rob Burger Kings.

What do you mean? They cannot currently be held accountable for those things? I disagree. Making them employees would mean (in some jurisdictions) that the university would be the deep pocket for lawsuits based on the conduct of its employees and would be required to bear defense costs and indemnify the employees. Is that what we want?

The idea that they will be thrown off the team just isn't enough of a disincentive.

They can be prosecuted, too.

I remember when I worked at the local Waldens we tried to get some football player that was a huge Harry Potter fan come read the book to kids when the latest book came out (early 2000s). He couldn't get it cleared through the NCAA, since it would be promoting a business.

I'm having a hard time seeing why it's bad that a college athlete was not allowed to participate in that for-profit publicity stunt. If he had been prevented from reading to kids at a library, that'd be different. But at a store to promote a new book release? Come on.
posted by The World Famous at 5:34 PM on September 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


effugas : What is your evidence for widespread crippling? Injuries occur, but at what scale?

You jest, right?

In my state, we currently have a huge initiative to increase awareness of the dangers of traumatic brain injury at the JV level and below because coaches will make sure a kid who just took a good blow to the head appears responsive after they wake up - Then send them back in to play!

I also personally know of at least one highschool football coach who outright directed a play to "accidentally" take out a star on the opposing team with a double-tackle (this play has some common name, but I don't happen to know it) against his knees from the front and waist from behind. Don't worry, he probably deserved a whole lot worse, but eventually got busted for, of all things, forging a doctor's signatures on player physicals.

And you want to know if college athletes actually get crippled? Heh. Good one!

These poor bastards deserve to get paid. I only wish they had enough brains (and study time) to take advantage of their scholarships while their bodies hold out, instead of majoring in Basket Weaving.
posted by pla at 5:35 PM on September 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


And you want to know if college athletes actually get crippled? Heh. Good one!

Actually, the question expressly acknowledged that they do and then asked "at what scale."
posted by The World Famous at 5:37 PM on September 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


1. As the article mentions, part of the appeal of college sports (football) is the ability of graduates of a particular university to feel a real association with the athletes on the field. They are students at University of State just like I was! Thus I shall root for them! This connection is killed when the athletes on the field are making six figures per year and just happen to be using the university's stadium and wearing the university's colors.

2. Athletes ARE paid: their pay is being in the running for a shot at a big-money NFL contract. Specifically, their pay is the value of any future NFL contract less the probability of winning that contract. College football is just the NFL's minor league. The NFL gets free publicity for its future stars, the colleges get revenue from holding the games, and the athletes get a shot at the big NFL contracts.

3. That being said, disallowing third-party payments seems draconian. Let the kids own their likenesses and sell it to EA sports. And yeah, get the kids medical insurance.
posted by norabarnacl3 at 5:37 PM on September 13, 2011


Full wizard costume, fake beard, travelling under the name Quarterbackius Whoeverio.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 5:37 PM on September 13, 2011


They are students at University of State just like I was! Thus I shall root for them! This connection is killed when the athletes on the field are making six figures per year and just happen to be using the university's stadium and wearing the university's colors.

Is that why nobody ever roots for professional sports teams?
posted by The World Famous at 5:40 PM on September 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


The problem with these arguments (and we seem to have this one about every 4 weeks or so) is that it's hard to distinguish between the people who hate football or sports in general, and those who love the game but genuinely want to improve it.
To me, the former sound like rednecks discussing hip-hop music.
posted by rocket88 at 5:41 PM on September 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Man, it absolutely boggles the mind how bad the NCAA has treated some of the players. Refusing to pay their long-term care after they got injured during play? That's a special kind of cold.

As far as fixing the situation, I favor splitting the NCAA into a for-profit non-university-affiliated minor league to the NFL, and a completely non-profit university sport league. The idea of a student-athlete wasn't a bad one, it's just been terribly applied.
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:46 PM on September 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


What is your evidence for widespread crippling? Injuries occur, but at what scale?

Well, a brief search of the literature turned up the charmingly titled

FO Mueller, et al. "Catastrophic head injuries in high school and college football players." American Journal of Sports Medicine 35.7 (2007): 1075-1081. CINAHL. EBSCO. Web. 13 Sept. 2011.

Which has this:
Outcome

There were 8 fatalities as a result of injury: 5 athletes with an isolated subdural hematoma, 1 athlete with a sub-dural hematoma and diffuse brain edema, 1 athlete with atriovenous malformation, and 1 athlete with diffuse brain edema. All patients died within 28 days of the injury except 1 athlete who remained in a coma with a feeding tube for 5 years.

The forty-six athletes with a nonfatal (permanent neurologic deficit) injury were determined to have a variety of residual deficits such as memory loss, slurred speech, paralysis, blindness, seizures, personality changes, hearing loss, spasticity, and medical complications. None of the athletes with a nonfatal injury returned to playing competitive football after the reported catastrophic head injury.

Thirty-six athletes were classified with a serious injury with no residual neurologic deficits. Two athletes returned to football without any known recurrences.
The study covered 94 catastrophic injuries in high school and college football players across the 1989-2002 Academic years. They point out that injury rates were relatively low:
In the study period there were an average of 7.23 direct high school and college catastrophic head injuries in scholastic football participants per year. There were 0.67 injuries per 100 000 high school and 0.21 injuries per 100 000 college participants for a risk ratio of 3.28.
(I pulled a little bit of statistical information from the second quote for readability.)

Anyway, so just looking at head injuries, about 4 high school and college students were directly crippled and or killed playing football every year during the study. This is not counting the students who suffered delayed impairment due to repeated head trauma, which seems to be an increasing concern.

So, I would say, yes, students are being crippled for the enrichment of colleges and (even more so) professional football.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:55 PM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I favor the NFL and NBA starting their own damn minor league system, then the kids that just want to play football or basketball in school can do so. Although college baseball was highlighted in the article, it seems to have far less issues than basketball and football. I think that is because kids looking to make it to the pros are not forced to play student for a few years. They can sign the big dollar contract at age 18 and go straight to work playing baseball for a living.

College sports works well for most of the kids. The big time basketball and football schools are the edge cases.
posted by COD at 5:57 PM on September 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


I realize, by the way, that my example above is a fairly sloppy kind of research. I am a tad busy with work this evening, but, really, about 2 minutes of searching turned that up, I would be surprised if there isn't a lot more. Football seems especially bad on the knees and head.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:57 PM on September 13, 2011


On the injury question, this research (being done a friend) shows that at the high school level, football players that didn't suffer a concussion are walking around with brain injuries from football.
http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/research/2010/101007NaumanFootball.html


I think in 20 years we are going to look back and realize the head injury issue with football was way bigger than we realized.
posted by COD at 6:01 PM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


American College sports are one of the strangest things about the US.

Also, given there is a system in baseball with none of the college sport nonsense it is startling to see how the US does things differently for college sport.

It would be really interesting to see if people compared the outcomes of young minor league baseball players to college sports folk.

Has anyone done this?
posted by sien at 6:11 PM on September 13, 2011


actually the outcomes from ex-minor leaguers are probably even worse than it is for ex Division 1 athletes. Especially once you adjust for race and family income (baseball is mostly a white and hispanic sport at the pro levels in the US, African Americans are overrepresented in the Football and Basketball)

I mean a decent number of the guys who don't make the NBA and NFL graduate with at least some degree. I'd guess the number of people who use their bonus for signing a minor league contract out of high school to go college once their playing days are done is quite low.

This is not an argument against paying players. Or in someway fixing revenue sports.
posted by JPD at 6:21 PM on September 13, 2011


At this point, it's pretty obvious that the big-league college programs are pretty much semi-pro leagues, comparable to the AAA teams associated with major league baseball.

Most of these guys are not student-athletes who'll play two or three seasons, get a degree and go on to become pharmaceutical salesmen or something. These are apprentice professional athletes who are going through the academic motions in the hope that they'll make it to the big time.

Paying them is only fair and a recognition of the reality of their position.
posted by jason's_planet at 6:22 PM on September 13, 2011


Three questions for those here saying that college players should be paid:

1. How much should they get paid?

2. Should the amount of pay be offset by the value of the scholarships, books, academic assistance and privileges, and other perks they receive already?

3. If you answered No to #2 above, why?
posted by The World Famous at 6:26 PM on September 13, 2011


Since seriously playing a sport usually destroys any chance of the student/athlete pursuing any other gainful employment, I'm in favor of paying them a small stipend to make up for that. How about we link it and pay them exactly the same salary that a University pays its TA's?
posted by tyllwin at 6:32 PM on September 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


Most of these guys are not student-athletes who'll play two or three seasons, get a degree and go on to become pharmaceutical salesmen or something. These are apprentice professional athletes who are going through the academic motions in the hope that they'll make it to the big time.

This is just manifestly untrue. Maybe 50 -100 guys a year make NFL rosters every year as rookies - that's not even a whole college team. Basketball is worse.
posted by JPD at 6:36 PM on September 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Since seriously playing a sport usually destroys any chance of the student/athlete pursuing any other gainful employment

What are you basing that assertion on? I don't have any statistical information on the issue, but personally I know lots of people who have built very successful and lucrative careers in law, business, and politics on their past prowess as star college athletes, particularly football and basketball.
posted by The World Famous at 6:38 PM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


These poor bastards deserve to get paid. I only wish they had enough brains (and study time) to take advantage of their scholarships while their bodies hold out, instead of majoring in Basket Weaving.

I'm puzzled by this kind of comment. A lot of football players are quite smart. Ever looked at a high-level college or NFL playbook? It's pretty complex.

Re: basket weaving. I have no doubt some players go for the easiest majors they can. But a substantial number get real educations. I taught at a major football school for a bit (Nebraska) and had a couple of scholarship athletes in my class. I never received any pressure to give them better grades than they deserved, and when they struggled, they worked hard to improve because they didn't want to put their eligibility in danger. That's just a couple students at one school, so I don't know if it's representative, but the stereotype of the dumb football player coasting through school just to play the sport doesn't match my experience.

That said, I wouldn't be opposed to a stipend to make up for the fact that most athletes don't have time to hold down a part-time job while in school, and I absolutely think they should get good health insurance.
posted by Hypocrite_Lecteur at 6:42 PM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Since seriously playing a sport usually destroys any chance of the student/athlete pursuing any other gainful employment

What are you basing that assertion on? I don't have any statistical information on the issue, but personally I know lots of people who have built very successful and lucrative careers in law...


Oh, no, no! I didn't mean it that way. I only meant that someone on most other scholarships can also work part-time to finance their vacations, some sort of car, or a night out now and then. Someone tied to the rigorous schedule of a football/basketball player probably can't. I'm only talking about while they're in school!
posted by tyllwin at 6:56 PM on September 13, 2011


Somebody else here on metafilter mentioned an idea with merit not in this thread. Let all student athletes have two years full ride after their ncaa eligibility has ended. That way they can at least focus on their education and it would confirm the schools commitment to the notion of student athlete. Or just pay them. The ones who can pick up a pro gig will do so. The rest can enjoy two years of quality education.
posted by yesster at 7:15 PM on September 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


norabarnacl3: "That being said, disallowing third-party payments seems draconian. Let the kids own their likenesses and sell it to EA sports."

If nothing else, that might prevent completely ridiculous infractions, like today when the NCAA put Boise State on probation for having some players let other players sleep on their couches for a few nights without paying rent.
posted by Copronymus at 7:44 PM on September 13, 2011


Genji,
There were 0.67 injuries per 100 000 high school and 0.21 injuries per 100 000 college participants for a risk ratio of 3.28.
That's not much. That's less than the risk of dying from one skydive a year, way less than the risk of any form of motor vehicle accident...heck, that's somewhere around the rate for going outside and getting struck by lightning.

I think there's a case to be made that students should be given a stipend, or that they should be given a few years free. But:

1) The injury rate isn't awful
2) Sports are *fun*, and *fun* is not *evil*
3) Sports are, as a good friend of mine told me, massively associated with kids graduating (at least girls).
posted by effugas at 8:08 PM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mitrovarr - As far as fixing the situation, I favor splitting the NCAA into a for-profit non-university-affiliated minor league to the NFL, and a completely non-profit university sport league.

NHL Hockey is a little bit like this. There are junior leagues like the AHL, QMJHL, OHL, WHL, ECHL, &c. The AHL and the Q have pretty significant fan bases since they're teams in small towns across Canada and there's some money in it. Some of these are minor league affiliates to NHL teams and others are feeder teams.

College (University) players are also drafted (and courted, signed) at a non-significant rates, too, though. However, the college system doesn't release players to professional teams until the players are 21, 22, 23 (unless they drop out of school to join a Junior team) when a lot of their minor-league peers have been playing professionally already. The college players are at a developmental disadvantage compared to players who left (usually very very rural) home at 14, 15, 16 to billet at a (usually a slightly less very rural) home to play in order to get a professional contract when they're 18-ish.

Anecdotaly, great NHL players who used to be college players are rather rare; however, it seems like a lot of players who didn't make it in the NHL who had college backgrounds do a bit better than players who either revert back to junior leagues or retire into hon-hockey careers. Of the players who retire either at end-of-career but especially for players who's careers were cut short, I see/remember more college grads who get front office or lawyerly-type jobs.

Given the most common socio-economic-psychological background of youths who aspire to play in professional football and basketball, this "you're going through college" requirement is, I think, a harm reduction strategy for youths who aspire to be employed as a player/performer in the NFL and NBA..
posted by porpoise at 8:09 PM on September 13, 2011


Student ath-o-letes. Hoho, that is brilliant, sir!
posted by dhens at 8:15 PM on September 13, 2011


The vast majority of college athletes have no shot at a professional contract. Football, basketball, baseball, softball, any sport. Most of them are going to play while they're in school, and then go on with their lives. A good number of them will be lucky enough that they were able to get their tuition paid by playing a game they enjoy.

The tuition issue is not why I am not big on the idea of paying college athletes. Instead, there's a few other things. First, you can't just pay the men's football and basketball (typically the big moneymakers, and the targets of most of the scandals.) If you pay any of them, you have to pay all of them. Title IX would make sure of that.
Next, a few hundred bucks a month from the college isn't going to make a lot of these guys think, "Hey, I shouldn't take this money from this shady guy." Agents want to get to good players as soon as they can, and they're willing to throw a lot more money at a potential star than a college would ever be able to pay. Lastly, there's that big batch of schools that would be left pretty much unviable if they were to pay their players. I'm not talking the BCS conference schools. I'm talking the smaller schools, the ones that will travel cross-country for a $250,000 payout to be a knockover for a big school. There's a lot more of those than there are big time schools.

I'm not naive about the current joke of amateur-hood that college sports is. To me, a far bigger problem is the money-sucking powers around the game. Just take a look at the recent Fiesta Bowl scandal. Or the Cam Newton pay-for-play scandal - what's Auburn have to lose here? Even if the NCAA drops that hammer on them (a big "if") everyone has already won. Auburn has their title and parade and all the extra money they've made from it. The networks made their money. The bowls and the conferences and the NCAA made their money. That's what really makes the whole system laughable - kid, if you break this while convoluted system of rules, you'll be run out of town on a rail. But if we break the rules, we're still getting ours.

So what's the solution? I don't know. My idea would be that a system would be set up that would allow the schools to evaluate which athletes have a legitimate shot at going pro. Those athletes would be given the option of having their sport be their major. They could also choose a traditional student-athlete path. Those who chose the former option would owe the school a portion of their professional earnings up to the value of their tuition and books. But they would not have to go to classes if they chose not to, and instead would work at improving their game. This would simply legitimize what already happens now with many star athletes. Would it fix the corruption? I doubt it, but it would acknowledge at least the status quo.

College athletics are not going away. But sooner or later, there's going to be an upheaval in how business is conducted. I just hope that there's some common sense involved when the big overhaul finally happens. But I'm not holding my breath.
posted by azpenguin at 10:15 PM on September 13, 2011


A snippet that jumped out at me:
Educators are in thrall to their athletic departments because of these television riches and because they respect the political furies that can burst from a locker room.
At least at the big levels.
posted by ZeusHumms at 11:46 PM on September 13, 2011


The World Famous : 1. How much should they get paid?

Some reasonable share of the multi-millions they bring in. Not saying we should have college footballer pulling down six million a year, but what we have now amounts to nothing short of indentured servitude.

2. Should the amount of pay be offset by the value of the scholarships, books, academic assistance and privileges, and other perks they receive already?

Sure - As long as you factor those perks (which that the schools already pay for, and still rake in millions on top of) into their pay before taking it back out. So after adding 40k a year in scholarships to let's say another 40k in pay, you can take it back out. :D

I would point out that that would have one side-benefit - Those college athletes that actually have some academic potential could conceivably double-dip that way (by getting a scholarship separate from athletics); thus favoring students over sports.

Hell, how about if we just drop the pretense of "school" here and call a spade a spade - Chop the "athletics" from college completely and call it something like a "pre-pro" league.


3. If you answered No to #2 above, why?

Technically I didn't, but I did in spirit, so to repeat - Because the schools already pay for that. Except, schools shouldn't pay for that, because universities exist to polish one's education, not breed a better gladiator.
posted by pla at 3:22 AM on September 14, 2011


A bit of a tangent, but discussing (lack of) pay for student atheletes doesn't seem complete without comparing the pay of football coaches with other university employees. It's a few years old now, but I was blown away when I saw this graph.
posted by metaBugs at 3:26 AM on September 14, 2011


I don't think we should limit the definition of "crippling" these students to catastrophic head injuries or death. My two cousins are the sons of a college football coach and have had footballs since they could hold them. In high school they both suffered knee and ankle injuries that, even though they both got scholarships to play football in college, ended up benching both of them before their sophomore years. They've had multiple surgeries and the last time I saw the youngest he was still walking with a limp (at age 22). These injuries are going to plague them the rest of their lives.
posted by olinerd at 3:47 AM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


The real tragedy isn't that colleges can't pay men's basketball and football athletes...it's that the NBA and the NFL are not paying for their own minor leagues, and are instead fobbing the task of running them off on universities, who then bear the social and financial costs of hosting what are essentially non-students.

SO yeah, form minor leagues, hire the players out of school, pay them all - but stop hosting them on university campuses, stop giving them scholarships, stop running separate special tutoring services so that students who actually study can do their homework for them, stop making campus security services bear the cost of policing the bad behavior of people who aren't on campus for any other purpose away from sports, stop offering special classes for them where professors don't require attendence or homework to pass them, stop creating easy-pass options that dealue actual students' degrees, stop deprioritising sport intended to keep actual students healthy and active in favor of pre-professional training for a few. Stop searching nationally for NBA and NFL prospects, and start searching close to home for smart kids in underperforming schools who deserve and need scholarships and support services. Concentrate on providing fitness (and fun) opportunities to actual students. Send the pre-professional athletes to pre-professional athletic training elsewhere.

As an alum of a big sports school, I refuse to get upset about the "plight" of the "undercompensated" so-called "student-athlete." Really, these teams are parasites, sucking energy and resources away from what universities (especially public universities) are actually for.
posted by Wylla at 4:59 AM on September 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


Hmmm... "dealue" seems to be a new spelling of "dilute" I've just invented! (Sorry....)
posted by Wylla at 5:17 AM on September 14, 2011


1) The injury rate isn't awful

That rate was only for the most extreme and obvious forms of a single type of injury -- it did not address rates of joint damage (which I gather is prevalent), muscle/ligament damage, and organ damage (which I think really is rare). It also only addresses the immediately obvious consequences of head trauma. The FPP I linked to suggests that we are becoming aware that frequent, low-grade head trauma may be as damaging in the long term as catastrophic head trauma.

That was one study of a finite number of teams. I expect if a universal study was done, we would discover a higher number of injuries. On the other hand, perhaps the rate would remain the same.

All this aside, we have now entered the unsettling territory of just how many high school and college student deaths would be "too many" to say that football is too dangerous to continue? As gerryblog says, above, are we "just haggling over the price?"

2) Sports are *fun*, and *fun* is not *evil*

Sure. But there are a lot of fun things that we don't let our students do (e.g. climbing the dorms, drinking immoderately) because we would rather not have them die. There are sports that do not have the high levels of injury of football, and perhaps those sports should be featured.

Furthermore, we are not really talking about sports in a vacuum here. We are talking about sports and money and a fairly vulnerable population of players. As the article we are discussing makes abundantly clear, professional sports are already buying the students; they are just doing it through intermediaries to save themselves costs and liabilities. That's not my definition of *fun*.

3) Sports are, as a good friend of mine told me, massively associated with kids graduating (at least girls).

I don't know about this in any serious way, so I can't really comment with authority. However, a discussion with a faculty member in our Kinesiology program who works with our female athletes casually confirmed my impression (drawn from my own students) that the female athletes are well aware that there is no significant hope for a professional career for them. They use their sports as they were intended -- to play, as amateurs, a sport they love while getting the education they can use to achieve their career goals. The male athletes, in my experience, are not so self aware.

In another vein, football is especially problematic as a sport because the teams are incredibly huge. This inevitably causes a pinch which gets blamed divisively on Title IX instead of football's inherent sustainability as part of higher education. It is a cancer in a number of ways, but the money makes it far more virulent.

My solution would be: Professional Football is on its own. It's scouts are not allowed anywhere near children, so no recruiting in high school. They can rely on statistics to see who they want to contact after graduation for tryouts. Anyone they want to sign they can inform of the risks, and provide with generous medical and disability plans, along with a trust fund to pay for a good college. After that, they can negotiate what they like, train the players, pay for their injuries, wash out the kids who are not quite good enough, and everyone who survives has access to a college education which they can focus their attention on, assuming they haven't received a crippling brain injury. Perhaps they can even play college ball without the pressure, although perhaps that would be better left to kids who love the game, not kids duped into thinking that they have a significant chance at a professional slot.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:29 AM on September 14, 2011


The NBA has a minor league. Nobody wants to watch it.

The reason college sports are the way they are is because people love them and they consequently make a ton of money. It's not the fault of the NBA or NFL, it's the fault of the NCAA. All they have to do is abandon the fraudulent "noble principles" quoted above and allow colleges (and anybody else) to pay their athletes as they see fit.

There is no rational reason they shouldn't be paid. If you're a college student with a part-time job, you can get paid for that. If you're a student who is also an instructor, you can get paid for that. Why can't you get paid if you're a student who is also an athlete? Just so Mr. Rich Alum can pretend that the athletes are like he was, only a little stronger and faster?
posted by callmejay at 5:56 AM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't know about this in any serious way, so I can't really comment with authority. However, a discussion with a faculty member in our Kinesiology program who works with our female athletes casually confirmed my impression (drawn from my own students) that the female athletes are well aware that there is no significant hope for a professional career for them. They use their sports as they were intended -- to play, as amateurs, a sport they love while getting the education they can use to achieve their career goals. The male athletes, in my experience, are not so self aware.
I don't think the issue is so much gender as whether you have any realistic (or realistic in your fantasies) shot at the pros. Pretty much no female athlete thinks that, and most male athletes don't think that either. I had a friend who played football at a Division III school, and he knew he wasn't going to play in the NFL. He decided in high school that he wasn't going to shoot for the NFL and that football would be his ticket to a good education, rather than his career. (Given his background, which was extremely disadvantaged, this took a remarkable degree of self-awareness and savvy, though. People thought he was nuts to turn down football scholarships for a need-based scholarship at a Division III school, but he wanted to know that his financial aid wouldn't go away if he got injured.) Again: we're not talking about college sports here. We're not even talking about all of college football. We're talking about a tiny subset of college athletics which is a huge business and gets much more attention than the other, much bigger subset of college sports.
posted by craichead at 6:12 AM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


There is no rational reason they shouldn't be paid. If you're a college student with a part-time job, you can get paid for that. If you're a student who is also an instructor, you can get paid for that. Why can't you get paid if you're a student who is also an athlete?

Because, as I see it, the culture of premier college sports (pretty much football and basketball, maybe hockey at some schools) distracts the student from the academics. If the point of the scholarship is to help a physically gifted student get into a college that s/he could not otherwise afford, why do the students need tutors? Why are there regular grade-fixing scandals? Why do a disturbing number of players seem to graduate with a very poor grasp of their subject?*

If the point is for these players to be students, then they should be students. The practices should be built around their classes, not the reverse. The number of away games should be severely curtailed, which will mean smaller, local leagues, because a student cannot travel extensively during the semester and experience what college has to offer. They should have no more than 20 hours of sports-related work a week, since that is all the time we allow student workers to work. They should be Scholar-athletes, not scholar-Athletes.



* Not all, mind you, but, if the point of the program is to empower students, then any number greater than zero shows that the program has problems.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:18 AM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Again: we're not talking about college sports here. We're not even talking about all of college football. We're talking about a tiny subset of college athletics which is a huge business and gets much more attention than the other, much bigger subset of college sports.

well, yeah, and good for your friend; that seems like a very stable attitude. I am glad it worked out. But Football and Basketball are not a "tiny subset of college athletics," The problem is that they are a tail that has become so swollen by outside cash that they have overwhelmed the whole dog. For a lot of people, it seems that college football and basketball are higher education, which is insane, but, apparently, true.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:22 AM on September 14, 2011


porpoise, my young cousin plays hockey at a college in Minnesota. Too many of the other MIAC players have (semi-)pro experience before they enroll to *cough* pursue their studies. Yes, my cousin could probably make it playing Juniors up north or something, but he wants to go to college, too -- and his parents want him to get a degree.

He doesn't want a stpiend, he wants to be on a team with other "regular guys" -- not men with wives and families to support.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:27 AM on September 14, 2011


Wenestvedt - universities don't exist to give people like your cousin an opportunity to play hockey with exectly who he wants to play with. If he wants to go pre-professional, a university shouldn't be the place to do it. If he wants to get a degree and play hockey on the side, then a college in Minnesota seems like the place to do it. (That said, I agree with several posters above - it's men's Football and basketball that are the problem, and even then, it's only a problem at a subset of schools. )

As for these sports making a ton of money for universities....I've never seen a calculation that takes all of their costs into account. Most of the time, the rationale seems to be that one assumes that a certain (high) % of alumni donations are directly tied to football/basketball, and then measures those against the direct costs of running the program itself, sometimes including athletic scholarships.

I've never seen anyone who tested the idea that many/most alumni give only to support football, and I've never seen anyone who took the full costs of these programs (incuding extra security effort and damage done by athletes, "academic services" to keep athletes who didn't get admitted to university under normal standards afloat, extra classes to provide 'gut' subjects for athletes, value of lost academic reputation, value of services lost to other students, etc. ) into account. As an alum of such a school, I can tell you with confidence that for students who don't play, it's likely a net negative, in my experience, but I'd really like to see someone run the (honest) numbers.

Again, I am all for sports, but university sports should be for students who are there to study (and keep fit, and have fun!), rather than an end in themselves that sucks resources out of the university's actual purpose.
posted by Wylla at 8:11 AM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


GenjiandProust, I left out my more radical idea: that being a student should be optional. Scholarships should be mandatory for all paid athletes who want them during or after their time on the team, but why force everybody to pretend that all of them want (and should) be students as well? Let the ones who are willing and capable be students, and let those who are using D1 as a minor league and aren't interested in college do what they want to do. The team would be affiliated with the school like a pro team is affiliated with a city: somewhat loosely.
posted by callmejay at 8:38 AM on September 14, 2011


I guess I'm advocating a pragmatic, start from where we are, solution. I think the ship of "university sports should be for students who are there to study" sailed a long time ago. There is WAY too much money involved to go back, pragmatically speaking.
posted by callmejay at 8:39 AM on September 14, 2011


pla wrote: I only wish they had enough brains (and study time) to take advantage of their scholarships while their bodies hold out, instead of majoring in Basket Weaving.

I take it you don't actually know any former D1 football players?
posted by wierdo at 9:16 AM on September 14, 2011


You of course realize the majority of students at big D-1 schools love their sports teams, love the social events surrounding them, even love the players. At most D-1 schools - especially the BCS ones - the number of students - even student-athletes - who are far enough below the academic standards of the schools is tiny relative to total enrollment.
posted by JPD at 10:24 AM on September 14, 2011


"The NCAA is, by any conventional antitrust standard, the biggest illegal cartel in the United States."
posted by mrgrimm at 10:59 AM on September 14, 2011


technically every major professional sport ex-MLB is an illegal cartel. Heck - the NFL was even found to be one in court. They had to pay $1 in damages.
posted by JPD at 11:26 AM on September 14, 2011


Five of the top 10 highest paid state employees in Washington are in college athletics. (Actually, all 10 are in higher ed: the others are a university president, and the rest are researchers; surgeons IIRC.) I honestly don't care if their money doesn't technically come out of tax funds; it just doesn't sit right with me.
posted by epersonae at 2:28 PM on September 14, 2011


Sports in America, by James Michener. Thirty(?) years ago. Said it was coming.
Move on, people....there's nothing to see here.
posted by girdyerloins at 11:29 PM on September 14, 2011


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