"So what is the best plan for paying players? No plan at all."
March 6, 2018 11:54 AM   Subscribe

Deadspin writer Patrick Hruby lays out the case that the way we think about paying college athletes is in of itself fraudulent, and that we should start by rejecting the framing of the NCAA and instead look at players as being like anyone else. (SLDeadspin)

The argument points out that the cries for a "plan" for paying college players is in of itself built around the NCAA's concept of amateurism, which itself is built on classism - and as such, the starting point has to be rejecting that concept from the start.
posted by NoxAeternum (60 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
And while it’s not any more perfect or fair than any other part of the free market, it more or less works!

Does it?
posted by The_Vegetables at 11:59 AM on March 6 [2 favorites]


I've said it before and I'll say it again. The NBA needs to expand its Developmental League into a full-fledged minor league system and drop its age requirement back down to 18. The NBA has the revenue to train their own employees.
posted by Groundhog Week at 12:04 PM on March 6 [28 favorites]


Or ask the 70 to 80 percent of college students who aren’t athletes, but are active in the labor market

Yes, ask them about their lifetime of debt because they decided to be a social worker instead of a *slight wretch* football player.
posted by deadaluspark at 12:06 PM on March 6 [7 favorites]


That is such a dumb idea that it could only be proposed in the age of Trump.
posted by Keith Talent at 12:06 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]


The NBA needs to expand its Developmental League into a full-fledged minor league system and drop its age requirement back down to 18. The NBA has the revenue to train their own employees.

Which doesn't actually fix the problem. The NCAA will still be making money off of March Madness and other college sports - and the labor of college athletes, even if the top players are going into the NBA system. The NCAA needs to be broken.
posted by NoxAeternum at 12:08 PM on March 6 [11 favorites]


Yes, ask them about their lifetime of debt because they decided to be a social worker instead of a *slight wretch* football player.

You do realize that the vast majority of college players won't go pro, right? And yet they're out there putting wear on their bodies and risking serious harm, while being forbidden from sharing in the revenue their labor brings in.

College athletes aren't your enemy, and it would be nice if they weren't treated as such.
posted by NoxAeternum at 12:12 PM on March 6 [35 favorites]


I think it's ridiculous to argue that it's somehow okay for a university to sell a $150 replica jersey with a player's name on it, or lease luxury boxes in football stadia built with taxpayer money for hundreds of thousands of dollars a season, but it's immoral for the player to profit themselves from their participation in NCAA athletics. Pay every one of them, as far as I'm concerned, football, basketball, gymnastics, tennis, golf, all of it. The NCAA is hopelessly corrupt and exists only to ensure that the universities profit off of the skills and abilities of the athletes. It's exploitation, plain and simple.
posted by wintermind at 12:13 PM on March 6 [46 favorites]


I'm not going to claim the market is perfect, but paying the players would at least move towards a more equitable system. The current system is ludicrously unjust, amateurism is an elitist sham, and the NCAA should be destroyed.
posted by protocoach at 12:18 PM on March 6 [10 favorites]


while being forbidden from sharing in the revenue their labor brings in.

Last I checked the majority of that revenue was stilled used on sports, like new stadiums, uniforms, mascots (gotta get rid of the old racists ones at some point, right?), and the like.

Meanwhile, they can't find the money for a new college library. I don't know, they may not be getting paid (which I do actually agree is atrocious, and it's pretty atrocious the legal arguments the NCAA is resorting to), but to be fair, they get access to and benefit from the revenue that labor brings in far more than regular students who are not in the sports program.

Obviously, this varies from school to school, however. By and large, though, money goes to sports, not to education.
posted by deadaluspark at 12:19 PM on March 6 [4 favorites]


Which doesn't actually fix the problem. The NCAA will still be making money off of March Madness and other college sports - and the labor of college athletes, even if the top players are going into the NBA system. The NCAA needs to be broken.

Even if someone finally gets the decision they want in the courts, legislatures will be falling over themselves to pass laws to work around it.

Like getting health insurance through employers, or the existence of title insurance, colleges being in the big business of athletics is just such a fucking weird uniquely American thing.

If most Americans ever travelled, they'd see how bonkers it seems from the outside.

It'd be like if public libraries had a side business in gun ranges that produced a vast amount of revenue that funded their stacks. They'd wax eloquent about the essential nature of firearms training to libraries and their patrons, and have a huge "non-profit" ensuring that nobody else could muscle into their turf. Oh, also all library patrons would be required to donate 4 hours per year to staff the ranges.
posted by leotrotsky at 12:22 PM on March 6 [12 favorites]


Meanwhile, they can't find the money for a new college library.

That doesn't have anything to do with paying players.
posted by protocoach at 12:23 PM on March 6 [9 favorites]


what I really appreciate about this article is that, while some of the particular "the simplest solution is the best here" arguments it lays out may not hold water (and I'm sure those points will get plenty of debate in here), its fundamental case is incredibly compelling and almost stupidly obvious, at least to me:
But that’s only if you think about it the way the NCAA wants you to think about it—if you think of college athletes as a special and peculiar class for whom work is play, rights are privileges, and making money is at best deeply suspicious and at worst downright evil. That is bizarre on its face, but also that’s the underlying moral calculus of amateurism—the insidious, upside-down reasoning that labels a labor-exploiting, self-admitted cartel clean and the mere act of earning what you’re worth dirty.
or: we should be starting from a position where student athletes are paid and working out the difficulties from there, not this reverse and perverse position where the schools get make ungodly money and are only punished when they actually attempt to give some scraps of that to the people earning it

arguments about salary cap and trading and fairness should be secondary because the fairness of competition should be secondary to the fairness of people being paid for work. we can work out the kinks after we address the underlying injustice that turns any attempt student-athletes make to receive compensation for their clearly valuable talents into a national fucking incident.
posted by Kybard at 12:25 PM on March 6 [11 favorites]


There's a certain logic to "let the market decide", but at the same time, the market has its failings. This is kind of a unique opportunity to develop a more equitable system, and it would be a shame if we stopped working on that and just left it all to the market.

"You can’t pay the starting quarterback more than the third string tackle"

Maybe I've been reading too much Ruskin, but paying them the same, or paying either the same as, say, a women's lacrosse player, doesn't strike me as egregious.
posted by kevinbelt at 12:27 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]


Last I checked the majority of that revenue was stilled used on sports, like new stadiums, uniforms, mascots (gotta get rid of the old racists ones at some point, right?), and the like.

You're suggesting that it counts as paying an employee if you give them the things they need to do their job.
posted by tofu_crouton at 12:28 PM on March 6 [23 favorites]


Like getting health insurance through employers, or the existence of title insurance, colleges being in the big business of athletics is just such a fucking weird uniquely American thing.

If most Americans ever travelled, they'd see how bonkers it seems from the outside.

I'd argue that the hundreds (thousands?) of soccer academies around the world, like La Masia, are at least as strange from an external perspective - you join a school at age 5 to focus on soccer and sorta get an education.
posted by protocoach at 12:31 PM on March 6 [7 favorites]


I'm sure someone smarter could come up with a giant list of things that Hruby isn't considering, but his fundamental point is sound. Any "plan" or "framework" that people discuss necessarily assumes that paying athletes for any of the value that their work creates is by definition a concession to these players. And that's crazy. There's a market value for their labor, and the market would find it pretty quickly.

Maybe a school like Notre Dame would decide that they are too pure and would leave big-time college football. (Maybe there would be enough recruits who valued a Notre Dame education enough to stay in that amateur system.) Maybe the big time prospect who signed a giant deal with Ohio State and then turned into a bust would be way overpaid. Maybe some lesser schools in the power conferences couldn't keep up and would have to take step back. Maybe the luster of college sports would fade when the athletes truly were just hired guns.

There would definitely be winners and losers along the way, and they wouldn't necessarily be aligned in the early years as schools figured out how best to find the balance for their institution. But why does that matter? It is so weird that the very notion of college sports has taken on this outsized importance, and that such importance is given to its preservation over the exploitation of workers.
posted by AgentRocket at 12:34 PM on March 6 [3 favorites]


There's a certain logic to "let the market decide", but at the same time, the market has its failings. This is kind of a unique opportunity to develop a more equitable system, and it would be a shame if we stopped working on that and just left it all to the market.

But they have to exist in this society, and therefore in the existing market. We're not putting them on an island where there's no existing state and asking them to build a new one. I definitely agree that the market is not perfect, but that doesn't justify exploiting workers until there's an actual equitable society.
posted by protocoach at 12:34 PM on March 6 [4 favorites]


By and large, though, money goes to sports, not to education.

At my alma mater the sports program is a separate legal entity. No "university" money supports sports. The sports programs are self-sufficient. In fact, the university takes a cut of the sports TV money, so the football/basketball programs are income producing for the school.

So if you eliminated all sports it's not like the school would suddenly have an extra $100 million per year for libraries and professor salaries. Maybe some donations that now go to sports would come back to the school, but the loss of that connection with alumni would probably be a far worse result for the school.
posted by COD at 12:39 PM on March 6 [2 favorites]


Last I checked the majority of that revenue was stilled used on sports, like new stadiums, uniforms, mascots (gotta get rid of the old racists ones at some point, right?), and the like.

Take a look at coach salaries, athletic director salaries and such. The NCAA is like those non-profits where all the money is expensed into someone at the top's pocket.
posted by srboisvert at 12:40 PM on March 6 [8 favorites]


Having spent too long working in academia, most of the internal resistance I see towards paying athletes is the expectations that they will somehow become a different subset of student. (We'll leave aside the fact that they already somewhat are...) So fine, let's call it something familiar that better explains exactly what it is: An athlete is an assistantship with a very specific labs requirement whose efforts that the university and their coordinators profit off of just like any other. Now then, imagine the power that suddenly occurs when the existing workers can include those very visible student workers, when they demand a living wage and benefits for all student workers. Now see why it is important to everyone who works for the university that compensation occurs?
posted by 1f2frfbf at 12:47 PM on March 6 [22 favorites]


A quick skim through the article suggests to me that it's a deeply weird proposal, but the idea at the kernel of it, that pseudo-amateur collegiate athletics benefits everyone aside from the student-athletes isn't a bad point to make. I feel like I should note before I get up my head of steam on this that I'm the definition of a non-fan, so I'm looking at this problem from a very strange perspective.

I think the modern (NCAA) version of collegiate athletics is an amazingly strange creation, for several reasons. First, student-athletes are, in essence, asked to choose which of those two they want to be, and many of them, choose to be athletes first and students second. This isn't helped by the idea of athletic scholarships and diminished admission standards for some student athletes (e.g., team X needs a player with these skills, so let's woo them to our campus, with, perhaps, less attention to their ability to do the level of coursework required). Yet they need to maintain a certain level of academic performance to be eligible to play. That would be bad enough, but the fact that the university (and the entire apparatus around collegiate athletics) can make money from them that they can't see any of just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. So, what we wind up with are these student-athletes pulled between competing demands within a system that values them for what they do, but isn't interested in their educations and doesn't compensate them directly.

What I'd like to see is a pretty different system from what exists, designed to relieve the tensions I described. I'd decouple the entire idea of student-athletes, and treat NCAA-style collegiate athletics as a separate professional league, tied to the existing university identities. However, I'd make two major changes: the athletes aren't student-athletes, but rather athletes who are paid to be athletes, and who are additionally compensated with a scholarship to the school that they can choose to use (provided they can pass admission standards) after they have either finished out a minimum term of play, been injured to the point that they cannot (or choose not) to continue to play, or have finished out a professional career and want to receive the education that they would not have been able to get if they were distracted by the team.

Then again, what I'd really like to see is no pseudo-professional collegiate athletics, because I don't think of them as remotely relevant to the educational mission of the university, but I'm never going to get that, so decoupling the two is the closest I can come up with for a relatively sane system given the current infrastructure. I also have a side-rant here about university policies that treat athletics-related absences the same way they treat religious observance absences, but that's somewhat separate from the current question (although it speaks to the odd centrality that collegiate athletics have on US campuses).
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 12:54 PM on March 6 [2 favorites]


Sports where it's been somehow determined that it's okay to play professionally for (not much) money right out of high school, leaving your family and support system: baseball, hockey

Sports where it's been somehow determined that you can not play professionally right out of high school: basketball, football

I wonder what the difference is between the "average" prospect high school baseball or hockey player, and the "average" prospect high school basketball or football player is? Hmmmmmmm
posted by thecjm at 12:57 PM on March 6 [20 favorites]


[One comment deleted. NoxAeternum, you posted this thread but that doesn't mean you get to stipulate the parameters of the permissible discussion. Please step back and just let people discuss the linked material on its own merits.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 1:02 PM on March 6


Don't want the NCAA paying players? Want the money the player can make be divorced from the NCAA's tenuous claims of a level playing field?

Allow every scholarship player to make money from their likeness. Give them a cut of merch with their name and number. Let the sell autographs.

Oh and while we're rewriting NCAA rules, if players have to wait a year between transferring and playing for another school, so do coaches!

Basically - if a coach can leave for a better situation, so can a player. If a coach can get paid for speaking gigs, or get money from Nike, or can sign autographs, or can get free suits and free leases on an Escalade, or start in local tv ads, so can players. Or vice versa if a player CAN'T participate in any of these sources of secondary income, then neither should any coach.
posted by thecjm at 1:06 PM on March 6 [10 favorites]


The NBA needs to expand its Developmental League into a full-fledged minor league system and drop its age requirement back down to 18. The NBA has the revenue to train their own employees.

Absolutely. There's no reason why elite feeder leagues for football and basketball should be connected to colleges. The "student-athlete" theater act is a complete lie.
posted by theorique at 1:26 PM on March 6 [7 favorites]


From the article: "If anything, a free market could help smaller schools procure better players, provided they picked their spots."

Initially, I misread the final word as "sports" there. But I think it's an even stronger argument that way. Maybe Tennessee Tech decides it can't be competitive with the top teams in football, so it's going to scrap its football program, but instead it's going to become one of the best schools in the country at swimming, since they can make attractive offers to a dozen top swimming prospects for what the top football schools are paying for one player, and that's not a bad thing.

I might pick at some of Hruby's details (even most pro sports leagues have instituted a salary cap), but the broad strokes make a lot of sense to me. I particulary approve of how he suggests Title IX might be applied: "Alternately, the federal government could decide that the law means any school pay for male athletes would have to be matched by pay for female athletes, in which case dumping amateurism would effectively introduce a dollar-for-dollar tax on men’s sports salaries that would be a boon for women." Even though that goes against his general pure-free-market ethos.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:46 PM on March 6


My son is a "student-athlete", and it is not a "complete lie". This is in a non-revenue sport, but one that is a big deal in the part of the country he is in. Given the majority of players in the revenue sports are NOT going to make the pros, I think quite a few take advantage of the "student" aspect of their scholarships.
posted by Windopaene at 1:58 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]


My son is a "student-athlete", and it is not a "complete lie".

The term "student-athlete" was specifically created by the colleges and the NCAA to avoid any liability for workman's compensation:
Today, much of the NCAA’s moral authority—indeed much of the justification for its existence—is vested in its claim to protect what it calls the “student-athlete.” The term is meant to conjure the nobility of amateurism, and the precedence of scholarship over athletic endeavor. But the origins of the “student-athlete” lie not in a disinterested ideal but in a sophistic formulation designed, as the sports economist Andrew Zimbalist has written, to help the NCAA in its “fight against workmen’s compensation insurance claims for injured football players.”
“We crafted the term student-athlete,” Walter Byers himself wrote, “and soon it was embedded in all NCAA rules and interpretations.” The term came into play in the 1950s, when the widow of Ray Dennison, who had died from a head injury received while playing football in Colorado for the Fort Lewis A&M Aggies, filed for workmen’s-compensation death benefits. Did his football scholarship make the fatal collision a “work-related” accident? Was he a school employee, like his peers who worked part-time as teaching assistants and bookstore cashiers? Or was he a fluke victim of extracurricular pursuits? Given the hundreds of incapacitating injuries to college athletes each year, the answers to these questions had enormous consequences. The Colorado Supreme Court ultimately agreed with the school’s contention that he was not eligible for benefits, since the college was “not in the football business.”

The term student-athlete was deliberately ambiguous. College players were not students at play (which might understate their athletic obligations), nor were they just athletes in college (which might imply they were professionals). That they were high-performance athletes meant they could be forgiven for not meeting the academic standards of their peers; that they were students meant they did not have to be compensated, ever, for anything more than the cost of their studies. Student-athlete became the NCAA’s signature term, repeated constantly in and out of courtrooms.
The term is a lie - a pernicious one created by the NCAA to cheat players out of the protections they needed when they were harmed on the field.
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:10 PM on March 6 [15 favorites]


This is in a non-revenue sport, but one that is a big deal in the part of the country he is in.

Let me guess - hockey player in New England or the northern Midwest?

If your son is an NCAA level hockey player, then they are a great example of how the collegiate sports system could work.

Most of the very best players his age are have left home and are playing semi-professionally in a junior league (semi-professional as in they're paid a small stipend and are supposed to be going to school during the day, not as in they have a full-time career on the side) or professionally if they're from Europe. They're already draft eligible by the time they start university and the very best of them are in the NHL right now.

And what about the best young hockey players in the NCAA who are good enough to be NHL draftees? They're often there because they want to be learning in college, or they need to get better, or they like the college down better than whatever little Ontario 'burg they'd end up playing in if they were in the OHL. No matter the reason, unlike basketball and football players, top hockey prospects have choices beyond "go to a college where the coach is paid millions while you'll be punished if you sell that t-shirt Nike gave everyone on your team."
posted by thecjm at 3:23 PM on March 6 [5 favorites]


From what I understand, the idea that these are 'amateur' athletes is the only thing keeping the NCAA alive. It's patently untrue, but if they were paid, the NCAA would become a minor league NFL and become much less interesting to the paying customers.

(I'm of the opinion that lying to people to keep the game going does no-one good. Let the NCAA pay its players. Let the big schools straight up buy their way to a good team. Let the audience go, preferably to an actually good game.)
posted by Merus at 3:54 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]


"they want to be learning in college"

How many college hockey players have you met? ;)

But seriously, this is something that gets left out of a lot of "student-athlete" discussions. Not all athletes are there to be diligent scholars, but then not all non-athletes are, either. I knew a lot of kids in college who were just there to drink beer and play video games. And not all athletes are there to coast through survey classes. We had a national championship-winning QB who majored in Molecular Genetics, and Alabama recently had a national championship-winning QB who was a Rhodes Scholar finalist. It's not some clear-cut dichotomy.
posted by kevinbelt at 3:57 PM on March 6 [2 favorites]


thecjm -- weeeeeellll.. There's the USHL, which walks, talks, and smells like NCAA (because it's meant to keep the players in USHL "NCAA eligible amateurs" ..)

All other junior leagues (read: candian) are clear: hockey is your job, no NCAA eligibility to worry about.
posted by k5.user at 4:00 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]


if you wanted to pay the athletes while still letting the schools collude to keep their wages artificially low, you could mandate that their pay be pegged to the hourly pay of "normal" student employees working as TAs or whatever.
posted by vogon_poet at 4:03 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]


In all these discussions please try to keep in mind that 99.999% of student athletes are not going to make a living at it. Even the ones who go to the Olympics or win national championships. 95% of sports will never be televised, even at the elite level. And the NCAA represents ALL student athletes, it has to consider them all.
posted by fshgrl at 4:10 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]


And the VAST majority of scholarships go to athletes you will never hear of who don't play football and would never be good enough to papyrus professionally. They are not "paying" the third best long jumper in Illinois to attract the ticket buying public to some event.
posted by fshgrl at 4:15 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]


In all these discussions please try to keep in mind that 99.999% of student athletes are not going to make a living at it. Even the ones who go to the Olympics or win national championships. 95% of sports will never be televised, even at the elite level. And the NCAA represents ALL student athletes, it has to consider them all.

And nothing we're discussing would be detrimental to them. Hell, every NCAA athlete has to deal with their bullshit earning caps, which can force athletes to give up opportunities. There's also the argument that revenue athletes (who tend to be black) subsidize non-revenue athletes (who tend to be...not.)

The problem is the NCAA, period.
posted by NoxAeternum at 4:19 PM on March 6 [7 favorites]


In all these discussions please try to keep in mind that 99.999% of student athletes are not going to make a living at it. Even the ones who go to the Olympics or win national championships. 95% of sports will never be televised, even at the elite level. And the NCAA represents ALL student athletes, it has to consider them all.

And the VAST majority of scholarships go to athletes you will never hear of who don't play football and would never be good enough to papyrus professionally. They are not "paying" the third best long jumper in Illinois to attract the ticket buying public to some event.

Ok, so why does that justify the exploitation of the athletes who do make money? You're literally just regurgitating the NCAA's talking points without bothering to try to justify the current exploitative system. Why does the right of the third best long jumper in Illinois to go to school on a scholarship outweigh the right of Lamar Jackson to be paid the money he earned for Louisville? Generally, when people make an argument for radical redistribution of income, they acknowledge that that's what they're doing and justify it on some grounds, but you aren't bothering to provide any justification for why giving a scholarship to Timmy from Evanston is so important that we need to take it from Lamar Jackson. And you aren't addressing that most of the money that is being extracted from the efforts of Lamar Jackson isn't actually going to any non-revenue sport athletes, it's going to his coach, Bobby Petrino, who's making almost $4m per year.
posted by protocoach at 4:28 PM on March 6 [5 favorites]


The European model mentioned above is not much better. Young kids sign up for the, say, Ajax Academy, are paid little, and education is given a short shrift. They are bound to a contract which is transferable with payment of fees to Ajax. If they crash out, as many do, at the U17, U20, or other levels, they have little to show for it. Depending on their age, it may be very difficult for ex-players to catch up in education. For those few that make it to the top leagues, they may command a great salary but the real money is the transfer fees paid by clubs to purchase the talent. The club owners, who run the academies, make huge sums. I would not recommend that as an alternative.
posted by sudogeek at 4:36 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]


Last I checked the majority of that revenue was stilled used on sports, like new stadiums, uniforms, mascots (gotta get rid of the old racists ones at some point, right?), and the like.

I'm currently on strike because my employer wants to shred the pension agreement we both signed up to when I started work. The CEO came along to tell us the organisation couldn't afford the pensions anymore. In a remarkable show of chutzpah they pointed out the good news was that they could afford 100s of millions for new buildings. Somehow, it didn't feel like a great substitute from my perspective. I am glad you are not my union rep.
posted by biffa at 5:11 PM on March 6 [5 favorites]


The European model mentioned above is not much better.

The European model for restraint of trade is that its illegal.
posted by biffa at 5:12 PM on March 6


The European model makes kids choose to pursue academics or sports at 16. Most choose sports if their parents let them and get chewed up and spit out. The American system is FAR better. At least you get a free college education out of it.
posted by fshgrl at 5:42 PM on March 6


The American system is FAR better. At least you get a free college education out of it.

First off, it's not a "free education" - the players are earning it with their labor to the school. Second, the players can still have it taken away from them through no fault of their own. Third, players have testified to coaches threatening them with their scholarships if they took majors that the coach felt was too "demanding of their time."
posted by NoxAeternum at 5:56 PM on March 6 [5 favorites]


At my alma mater the sports program is a separate legal entity. No "university" money supports sports. The sports programs are self-sufficient. In fact, the university takes a cut of the sports TV money, so the football/basketball programs are income producing for the school.

Your alma mater is outside the norm. Of the over 1000 colleges and universities that participate in any NCAA sports about two dozen make money from athletics.
posted by edeezy at 6:44 PM on March 6 [4 favorites]


Whereas in Europe you get a free/cheap university education regardless of your educational abilities.
posted by schmod at 7:06 PM on March 6


Regarding the claim that virtually no schools have profitable athletics programs, the accounting used to prove that is shaky at best and outright deceptive at worst. Some other relevant points, made during the O'Bannon case were collected can be found here. One of the ones that strikes me as a fairly obvious tell is the fact that schools really, really want to get into Division I. If college athletics were the money loser that the NCAA wants you to believe it is when they cry poverty to avoid paying athletes, why do so many highly-educated, presumably rational actors participate in it? Why do so many more highly-educated, presumably rational actors desire to get involved with it? Are the 120 programs in Division I all staffed and overseen by people too dumb to understand a balance sheet or a P/L statement? Or is it more likely that people like John Jenkins, who is himself paid nearly $900,000 dollars per year to lead a university, have looked at the numbers and decided that keeping athletics around makes financial sense?
posted by protocoach at 7:27 PM on March 6 [4 favorites]


Whereas in Europe you get a free/cheap university education regardless of your educational abilities.

No you don't. University admittance is extremely competitive in Europe, much more so than here. 40% of Americans have a third level degree of some sort, a far higher percentage than most EU countries. Heck, France fails 90% of its first year med students just because.
posted by fshgrl at 10:50 PM on March 6


No you don't. University admittance is extremely competitive in Europe, much more so than here. 40% of Americans have a third level degree of some sort, a far higher percentage than most EU countries. Heck, France fails 90% of its first year med students just because.

This is why you really shouldn't generalize about Europe. Getting into college here in Belgium was not "extremely competitive". I stood in line for about 45 minutes, and spent maybe another 45 filling in paperwork. Had my high school degree been from a Belgian high school, it would have taken maybe 15 minutes.
It may be more difficult in other countries, but just anecdotally, I've never met anyone who really wanted to go to college but couldn't get in.
posted by Karmeliet at 1:11 AM on March 7 [2 favorites]


That is a suspiciously slanted comment. In France, passing your baccalaureate gets you admitted to university. It's competitive if you want to go to the grandes ecoles, yes - but we're not talking about them, presumably. And US tertiary degree attainment is only a couple percentage points higher than the EU average, and slightly below that of France ( https://data.oecd.org/eduatt/population-with-tertiary-education.ht) Where are you getting this misinformation that Europe is so terrible?
posted by the agents of KAOS at 2:29 AM on March 7 [3 favorites]


One of the ones that strikes me as a fairly obvious tell is the fact that schools really, really want to get into Division I.

That's like arguing that acting must be a financial success because so many people move to LA for a chance. People, even university presidents, are motivated by more than just money.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 2:32 AM on March 7 [3 favorites]


It seems like there are two concurrent arguments going on here and in the debate about money in college sports in general - whether every scholarship athlete is being taken advantage of, and whether scholarship athletes who otherwise would be playing professionally are being taken advantage of.

Is someone who got a scholarship for archery or field hockey making money for the school? No. Neither is the student with a debate team scholarship or the person who got a scholarship for having A's and a high SAT score. None of these people are paying full tuition, but they're insuring the prestige of the school - which makes it easy to recruit both paying students and donors. I still think that NCAA transfer rules are unnecessarily arduous and I'm sure that scholarship athletes in any sport are looking for all sorts other reforms.

But Division I high level football and basketball are an entirely different issue. These are the sports where some (not all, but a select few) of the scholarship athletes are playing at a professional level right now. They have skill and talent and drive and most importantly celebrity, and are not allowed to profit from any of that. While they're punished for the slightest infractions, their coaches and athletic directors are making 6-7 figure salaries. This story comes up again and again - in 39 states the top paid state employee is a football or basketball coach. They're got giant stadiums, huge training facilities, giant coaching and support staffs, and are in many cases the only connection people have to their particular school or the whole concept of college at all. And the scholarship athletes get nothing in return for that beyond what any other scholarship athlete gets.

Conflating the two issues - treating a top football or basketball recruit who is potentially losing millions of dollars of career earning by not starting their professional career at 18 like they're on the travelling cross-country team - makes for bad arguments. And conflating the two is exactly what the NCAA wants you to do. Does the cross-country coach make $3m a year? Does the AD at a school that's only known for track make $900k? Do 50k people go to cross meets? No. But let's keep treating top level college football and basketball by the same rules anyways.
posted by thecjm at 5:39 AM on March 7 [2 favorites]


If college athletics were the money loser that the NCAA wants you to believe it is when they cry poverty to avoid paying athletes, why do so many highly-educated, presumably rational actors participate in it?

Looking at the profitability of an athletics program alone is misleading. An athletics program, even if it's not directly funding the school, is generally a huge boost to the local economy and to the school. Admissions numbers rise and fall based on athletics. Alumni donations rise and fall based on athletics (and a lot of times state funding is just another form of alumni donation, with various politicians voting to protect funding for their alma mater). If tuition or donations or state or local funding support a school, that school is often still indirectly financially supported by the athletics program, even if on paper that program is in the red.
posted by tofu_crouton at 6:02 AM on March 7


But Division I high level football and basketball are an entirely different issue. These are the sports where some (not all, but a select few) of the scholarship athletes are playing at a professional level right now. They have skill and talent and drive and most importantly celebrity, and are not allowed to profit from any of that. While they're punished for the slightest infractions, their coaches and athletic directors are making 6-7 figure salaries. This story comes up again and again - in 39 states the top paid state employee is a football or basketball coach. They're got giant stadiums, huge training facilities, giant coaching and support staffs, and are in many cases the only connection people have to their particular school or the whole concept of college at all. And the scholarship athletes get nothing in return for that beyond what any other scholarship athlete gets.

QFT. Look, the athletes who are famous and skilled are being exploited and should be paid. I only know the sports broadcasting side, and the NCAA is being paid a billion dollars a year for March Madness rights. None of the athletes are paid. Here’s an outdated article from ESPN about the NCAA, which is, at minimum, a very rich organization. I think the point of the article is that arguing over details is a waste of time and distracts from the main point that the stars of college sports are receiving almost none of the remuneration. The system is also deeply racist in the sense that college basketball and football has a larger black population and those players are subsidizing lacrosse and swimming althletes who receive a free college education.
posted by rainydayfilms at 7:47 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]


If schools are going to maintain professional sports teams (and I argue they shouldn't) then they should fucking well pay the professional athletes they employ for those teams.

The argument that they're just normal college students who happen to play a little football/basketball on the side is such a huge lie I'm amazed they didn't burst into flames when uttering it. They are professional sportball players who happen to do a little college on the side. We can't talk about this rationally unless we admit reality.

The only reason the NCAA opposes payments to the athletes is because those payments would cut into their massive profits by a tiny fraction.

On a completely separate note, it's worth remembering that only the very top sports schools actually profit from sportball. Most schools that maintain a team do so at a fairly significant loss which is paid for by all other students.

But regardless, the young people who are courting brain damage by playing pro-football for their schools (and lesser, but still potentially lifelong injuries for playing pro-basketball) should be paid. And paid well.
posted by sotonohito at 8:44 AM on March 7


My son is a "student-athlete", and it is not a "complete lie". This is in a non-revenue sport, but one that is a big deal in the part of the country he is in. Given the majority of players in the revenue sports are NOT going to make the pros, I think quite a few take advantage of the "student" aspect of their scholarships.

Fair point. I think it's a sliding scale. I knew various college athletes, none of whom had any designs on making it to the pros, and they took their sports seriously along with their studies. They learned a lot and in some cases received scholarship money to cover their college bills. But it's a very different game at the top Division I football and basketball colleges. The top players there simply aren't "student-athletes" the way your son or my friends are.
posted by theorique at 9:38 AM on March 7


Where are you getting this misinformation that Europe is so terrible?

I AM European. And I don't think it's terrible, I think it's better to limit college and have it be free or low cost. But it's competitive as he'll in most European countries. To say it's not is a joke. Otoh too any Americans have useless and expensive degrees as far as I can see. Better to have more vocational training.

But the professional athletics development programs in Europe are not good. No one should drop out of school at 16 to play soccer but they do there. It is one reason by sports are so class based in Europe in many places, imho.

In the US college (I have a degree from the US and one from the EU) yes the big sports are a problem and scandal etc but that's a tiny, tiny percentage of the overall athletes and the programs here are good! How do you think people make it to the Olympics in non revenue sports?
posted by fshgrl at 9:54 AM on March 7


How do you think people make it to the Olympics in non revenue sports?

By being invested in it (and having one's parents investing time and resources) from an early age. This, by the way, is why it was a scandal when a Power 5 AD got paid a bonus for one of the college's wrestlers winning his weight class at the DI championship - said wrestler had made it there in large part because of that individual/family investment, and the AD bonus struck many as his profiting off of someone else's hard work.

Also, as people have pointed out, the non-revenue programs, which tend to have more middle and upper class athletes who are white because of the above, are routinely subsidized by the revenue sports, which have a player base that is much more diverse. There is a very problematic tension there.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:52 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]


lacrosse and swimming athletes who receive a free college education.

The vast majority of college swimmers and lacrosse players, in fact the vast majority of all non-revenue generating sport athletes, are not on full scholarship and are not receiving free college education.
posted by lstanley at 1:05 PM on March 7 [2 favorites]


The vast majority of college swimmers and lacrosse players, in fact the vast majority of all non-revenue generating sport athletes, are not on full scholarship and are not receiving free college education.

And yet they're still bound by the restrictive NCAA rules for things like income. (Back when I was in high school, considering college athletics, the cap was $2k/year.)
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:29 PM on March 7 [2 favorites]


If you ARE European, then why are you so misinformed about higher education in Europe? where did you get the impression that France has a lower rate of tertiary education than the USA?
posted by the agents of KAOS at 1:54 PM on March 7 [2 favorites]


Shaun R. Harper doesn’t make the point that NCAA athletes should be paid in this article, but he does point out that the system is set up to disproportionately benefit coaches and the NCAA administration, most of whom are white.

Good Bet for the Office NCAA pool: Black Men will Play and White Men will Profit (Washington Post)
It could be argued that it is black male student-athletes on basketball and football teams, the NCAA’s two revenue-generating sports, who largely earn these white men’s lucrative salaries. A common counterargument is that scholarship athletes benefit from simply being afforded the opportunity to enroll in college. I contend in the report that going to a university, laboring and generating millions for the institution — but ultimately failing to earn a degree — disadvantages student-athletes, a disproportionately high share of whom are black men. Over the past four years, 55 percent of black male student-athletes graduated within six years, a rate that is lower than student-athletes overall, black undergraduate men overall, and undergraduate students overall. Black male athletes graduate at 14 percentage points lower than their teammates across the Power Five conferences.
posted by rainydayfilms at 1:45 PM on March 12


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