Sunday, August 14, 2011

Paying College Football Players is Absurd

Denver Post sports columnist Mark Kiszla hit the "debt ceiling" of absurdity in today's Sunday commentary by asserting college athletes should receive a stipend. Acknowledging the situation of the Ohio State player selling his ring for money, Kizla interviewed two Bronco's players - Hall of Famer Floyd Little and second round draft pick Von Miller. Little completely opposed the idea, while Miller allegedly said a stipend "would be nice." Ultimately, Kizla's piece goes completely over the top with some of his reasoning. The image of players begging for $20 to get a haircut after having $20000 - $50000 in bills comp-ed is beyond reason.

The obvious response to Kizla's defense of these poor, struggling football players is: Where the heck are the kids' parents? What is their responsibility for making sure their child can get a haircut, go to the movies, and have a snack - especially after other citizens have foot the bill for their kids education. Kiz naively assumes all college football players are poverty-stricken refugees from public housing. Then, he features Von Miller who grew up with middle class parents who are small business owners. After getting a free ride from tuition, Dad can pony up for a Von's haircuts and movies. Can you imagine how much the Miller's grocery bill dropped while Texas A&M was feeding and housing him for four years?

Kiszla also assumes the Ohio State player who sold his ring needed the $8000 for haircuts - rather than beer money and club cover charges. When I was a student at the University of Illinois, I knew more than a dozen Illini players. None were hurting for money on the weekends. As a high school teacher, I've had dozens of students go on to play college sports, including football and basketball. None had trouble with daily living expenses.

Playing college football is not a job, and these players are already being compensated. They not only get a free education and a reasonably comfortable living situation, but they are given a free opportunity to compete on a national stage for millions of future earnings. Once they make those millions, do any feel a responsibility to pay back the university for spotting them? Of course not. They use the university as much as the university uses them. And if anyone is going to pay a stipend for these kids, it shouldn't be the colleges footing yet another bill. If Von Miller and his NFL buddies think it "would be nice" for players to get a stipend, maybe they can create a charity fund from their signing bonuses. At this point, Von could sponsor quite a few players for $300 a month.

The idea that these players deserve a monthly paycheck is unsupportable. The belief that they need it because they can't afford a haircut is downright outrageous.


Anonymous said...

You are way too dismissive of pay for these men.

From an accounting perspective, Penn State, for example, made 37 million dollars on their football program (I'm sure the scholarships are part of the "expenses")

You seem to think that these players are students. Well, formally they are, but in reality, the reason they are at the school is to play football. You say that the players get as much from the universities as the universities get from the players. I'd say this is factually untrue to the tune of 37 million dollars.

If you really believe that most of these players are student-athletes, instead of athletes masquerading as students, you are, I hate to say, quite naive.

mmazenko said...

I acknowledge the situation of which you speak - not naive about it. However, that is equally part of the problem. These schools and the NCAA claim "tax exempt" status based on "an educational mission." Clearly, that is not the case with football and basketball - though it is with the majority of college athletes who don't go pro. If they are going to rake in billions in TV revenue - and not provide an education, they should lose tax exempt status. However, since that won't happen, let's conclude that 96% of those players will never play pro sports - so the education is, and must be, the focus.

Simply because the program makes a lot of money does not mean these men are employees or stockholders who deserve a percentage of the take. In fact, much of that revenue supports the educational mission for the rest of the college athletes. Colleges and universities were not created nor given tax exempt status to serve as the minor leagues for the NFL and the NBA. So, if that's the goal, they need to be separated from educational institutions.

Regardless, my criticism of Kiszla's point stands - as he is arguing these kids need a monthly stipend because they can't afford a haircut. And that, Abelia, is absurd.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you on most points.

Still, the question isn't whether they are employees (they aren't), it's whether they should be. The courts have taken a dim view towards unpaid internships that provide little education that have become popular at some companies.

While most players don't need stipends, some do. If they weren't so busy working for university playing football, it would be called work-study.