Amateurism is dead: Everyone has an NCAA take. Here’s mine.

DISCLAIMER: It’s a hot topic in the sports world right now: debating whether or not college athletes should get paid or not. I’ve debated internally for several weeks whether or not to weigh in on the subject, as there is a 100% chance that my “hot take” won’t be any more compelling, or unique, than those of other pundits who have said their piece on the matter.

However, regardless of whether or not I am just reiterating better points made by better writers with better knowledge, I still feel the need to touch on the issue, because it’s an important one that I feel strongly about. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Also, Jon Stewart punished the NCAA and its president, Mark Emmert, in his April 10 episode. Check it out.

Should college athletes be allowed to get paid?

Yes. Absolutely. Certainly. Definitely. Why is this even a debate? The NCAA is a lucrative, bogus, corrupt scam of a governing body that is making hundreds of millions of American dollars off the backs of amateur athletes who aren’t allowed to accept a free Chipotle burrito, let alone money earned from their likeness. Obviously, a salary is unwarranted for college athletes. That’s not the argument of any logical person with a dog in this fight. However, there are some stats and figures that make one question how on Earth the NCAA considers what its athletes do to be “amateur”. Here are some:

  • Alabama athletic programs rake in more money than all 30 NHL teams and 25 NBA teams with $143 million (Source: Deadspin)

  • Ohio State’s athletic director got an $18,000 bonus when wrestler Logan Stieber won his third national title in March. Hmm. Must have worked out with him and helped him cut weight. (Source: Dan Wetzel)

  • Oregon’s AD gets a $50,000 bonus if the football team makes it to a bowl game. Any bowl game. The Toilet Bowl Game. Doesn’t matter. (Source: Also Wetzel)

  • Revenue from 2013’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament was $769.4 million. In all, the NCAA made $912.8 million. $62.7 million went to scholarship funds, $25.1 million went to academic enhancement. The surplus was $61 million for the NCAA. (Source: Indy Star)

  • NCAA President Mark Emmert made almost $1.7 million two years ago (Source: USA Today)

  • In 2012, Nick Saban earned over $5.5 million INCLUDING performance bonuses, endorsements, etc. His players made $0 from endorsements and performance bonuses. (Source: USA Today)

That’s enough of that, I’m getting woozy. Here are some typical arguments (in bold) from people who should stop arguing:

Well, then they should get a job. All they do is play a game. Nobody told them to play a game for a living.”

Nobody told you to work as a janitor your whole life either, but there you are because it’s all your’er good at. For some of these kids, playing a game is all that they are good at. For others, it’s what they are best at, and they have an opportunity to make a career doing what they’re best at. Isn’t that what everyone is trying to do? Sure, their professional careers will make them A LOT of money. More money than you, the janitor. But there’s a huge problem when that much money is flying around here and there, based solely on amateur athletes doing their job.

Being a college student-athlete is a full-time job that requires, conservatively, 5-6 hours of workout/practice time a day. On top of that, there is 3-4 hours, also conservatively, of class/study time each day. No, not all athletes go to class, but that’s another issue: Schools (and coaches) allow kids to skate by because they want to see them play. Because they want to win. Because winning = more money. Not getting student-athletes to go to class and get the most out of their education is on the adults who are paid to do exactly that, not the kids’.

Why should they get paid? They already get a full-ride scholarship. I had to take out student loans. I should get paid, too.”

Hmm. That’s a good point. Never thought of it that way. Oh, wait: Is the school selling jerseys with your school ID number on the back? Are tens of thousands of people cramming into your chemistry class to watch you fill up a beaker? No, and those full-ride scholarships weren’t just handed out, they were earned. By the athlete. Who worked hard, sacrificed a lot, and used his/her talents to get where he/she is. If this is your argument for why college athletes shouldn’t get paid, you should have worked harder and used your talents to earn a scholarship, too.

Scholarships, by the way, don’t mean these athletes are taken care of and living a life of luxury. Scholarships don’t account for cost of living, food (nobody eats the cafeteria food or uses their meal plan all the time. Why? Sometimes you’re at practice from 4-8 p.m., and the cafeteria closes at 7 p.m.), and other expenses.

Also, that scholarship can be pulled on a whim if an athlete is hurt on the job (aka playing a game). No insurance, help, or financial aid. Just gone. How is this ok?

Is there an easy solution? No, of course not. Northwestern’s football team is changing the game by fighting for union status, and it’s exciting to see where that goes. It can be simplified by allowing a kid, a Johnny Manziel, to make royalties off a t-shirt with his name or number on it. Or to be paid for an autograph that could be worth thousands of dollars. The NCAA is bogus, and that’s the bottom line.

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