Off the cuff thoughts about NCAA and student compensation

August means several things. One of them is that football is right around the corner. When I read in the news that Johnny Manziel was being investigated by the NCAA for being paid to sign autographs, something he is not allowed to do because he is an amateur athlete. Now I do not claim to be an expert on the NCAA, or how college athletic programs are funded, but for the past several years at least, I’ve question the NCAA’s stance on their student athlete compensation. Schools and the NCAA are making billions of dollars and the students receive no compensation above their scholarships. Any additional compensation in any form, including water from a hose, can be met with fines, suspensions, and depending on the extent of the violation, sanctions against the athletic program. However, the NCAA still makes money off of these students and schools, even the ones that are punished.

Now I know, because I’ve heard it before. You will say that they are receiving compensation, a free education. A college education is certainly nothing to sneeze at, but it is a drop in the bucket in terms of the total amount of tax exempt revenue being generated by collegiate sports. I’ve heard the same people make this argument for college football, then side with striking workers asking for additional compensation. These student athletes don’t have the choice that other workers have. They can’t leave their school and find one that will pay them more money; no school is allowed to provide more than the scholarship, but I’m not hearing the anti-trust argument. And let’s look at what it means to be a student athlete. It certainly means practices, games, travel, all on top of school.  I didn’t take the time to gather significant data, but it is clear from articles like this that being a student athlete does not always mean the student side is emphasized.

But even in spite of all of that, I can be persuaded that there is no fair way to compensate all student athletes with an additional stipend. Even if I can concede this point, I can’t concede endorsements. It seems to me that students should be allowed to sign endorsement deals, except that it takes money away from the NCAA and the school, you know, the ones making the rules. I’m sure I’ll get blasted for even suggesting this, but I’d be willing to consider the endorsement goes to a trust that the student athlete can use for school expenses or to help family, at least until they go pro or graduate, we’ll work out the details if necessary. It wouldn’t be my first choice, but it would undoubtedly address some of the concerns people would have about college students signing multimillion dollar deals.

I thoroughly enjoy football, and will likely see at least one game in person this season, and watch countless other games. Sure, some student athletes go pro, but not most and even those that do are not guaranteed large contracts. There is plenty of money to go around. How about cutting the bowls out of the economic loop and giving the ones who day in day out work hard a bigger slice of the pie?

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