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Should college athletes be paid to play sports

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Sign up for our twice-weekly newsletter. Workers should be paid. We can argue about what the minimum wage should be. We can argue about how generous the benefit packages should be. It was developed by the NCAA in response to a lawsuit charging that the family of a football player on an athletic scholarship killed in a game should receive some compensation.

The fiction of the student-athlete prevailed at court. The NCAA was off the hook, as was the university for which the athlete played…and died.

  • At least that was when I first heard it;
  • It was developed by the NCAA in response to a lawsuit charging that the family of a football player on an athletic scholarship killed in a game should receive some compensation;
  • Meanwhile, the players would be assured that medical expenses incurred as a result of their work would be assumed by their employers, who would also be responsible for whatever lifetime care those injuries made necessary;
  • Recognizing that the responsibilities of those players to the coach and the team would take precedence, the colleges and universities would be required to provide the players with open-ended vouchers enabling them to take courses and pursue a degree whenever it was feasible.

In part because the fiction worked as a gimmick to allow the colleges and the NCAA to shirk their responsibility and save money, and in part because it appeals to people who, for whatever reasons, prefer to think of the men who play football and basketball at the university level as amateurs, no matter how much income they generate for others, the fiction has prevailed.

The volleyball players and swimmers have a shot at taking the courses they want to take, thus learning to be something other than volleyball players or swimmers. And when they can no longer work to the standard their coaches anticipate, they can lose their scholarships and become former athletes without degrees. Periodically, there is a scandal significant enough to produce objections to that system.

  • Periodically, there is a scandal significant enough to produce objections to that system;
  • In part because the fiction worked as a gimmick to allow the colleges and the NCAA to shirk their responsibility and save money, and in part because it appeals to people who, for whatever reasons, prefer to think of the men who play football and basketball at the university level as amateurs, no matter how much income they generate for others, the fiction has prevailed;
  • The second prescription for the current ills associated with college sports would be de-emphasis of the product;
  • The voucher idea is not new;
  • The volleyball players and swimmers have a shot at taking the courses they want to take, thus learning to be something other than volleyball players or swimmers.

But the system benefits the most competitive colleges and universities spectacularly, and their resistance to significant change is powerful, and the voices of the athletes who are run over by the system are usually faint or lost. One way for the college and university presidents to achieve real change would be to acknowledge that the schools are operating as minor leagues for pro football and pro basketball and treat the players accordingly; that is, pay them for their labor.

The market would set the rates. Recognizing that the responsibilities of those players to the coach and the team would take precedence, the colleges and universities would be required to provide the players with open-ended vouchers enabling them to take courses and pursue a degree whenever it was feasible.

Should college athletes be paid?

Meanwhile, the players would be assured that medical expenses incurred as a result of their work would be assumed by their employers, who would also be responsible for whatever lifetime care those injuries made necessary. This approach would diminish the level of hypocrisy currently apparent in the revenue sports.

In addition to actual pay for work, this opportunity would seem to be reasonable compensation. The second prescription for the current ills associated with college sports would be de-emphasis of the product. Universities and colleges and the NCAA could decide that college basketball and football have gotten too big for their own good, and for the good of the institutions.

For many of those colleges and universities, the dream turns out to be toxic. Thanks to the glitz and glamour associated with the product on TV, hope endures.

So de-emphasis is unlikely, which means the better approach is modification of the system in order to provide salaries and genuine educational opportunities to the workers who make the industry of the revenue sports possible. The voucher idea is not new. At least that was when I first heard it.

  • We can argue about what the minimum wage should be;
  • For many of those colleges and universities, the dream turns out to be toxic;
  • This approach would diminish the level of hypocrisy currently apparent in the revenue sports;
  • In part because the fiction worked as a gimmick to allow the colleges and the NCAA to shirk their responsibility and save money, and in part because it appeals to people who, for whatever reasons, prefer to think of the men who play football and basketball at the university level as amateurs, no matter how much income they generate for others, the fiction has prevailed;
  • We can argue about what the minimum wage should be;
  • You can listen here.

And of course the idea of paying those who produce the products of college football and basketball has lots of adherents. Should college athletes be paid? You can listen here.

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