David Ubben at The Athletic (Springdale native, by the way) wrote a well-reasoned piece this week on how to fix the problems with the portal. He notes that, although pro sports has free agency, it doesn’t have the kind of chaos we’re seeing now.
Why? Because they …
wait for it …
wait some more…
Pay the players. With contracts. Admit that they’re actually employees, which they’ve been for decades.
As Ubben points out, there is nothing “amateur” about a system where the Big Ten is getting $2.64 billion for six years of TV rights, or the SEC is getting $3 billion over 10 years. It is just a professional system built on the backs of indentured servants, AKA players on scholarship.
We fought a war about that 160 years ago, if you remember your history courses (and weren’t fed the “noble lost cause” BS). Don’t think armed conflict is required here, but the college sports system still needed fixing.
The amount of roster turnover we’re seeing this week isn’t good for the sport, and the fix will not be easy, but it needs to be done. (Heads exploding in 3, 2, 1…)
One thing that would help is let schools take as many transfers in that transfer out. It’s like that in basketball now. A team can get upside down fast with coaching changes or other mitigating circumstances.
Competitive balance isn’t the issue here. No matter what system is in place, unless they initiate a draft of high school players with the worst teams picking first (which would require the contracts Ubben advocates), Bama and tOSU and Jawja are always going to have advantages.
First, the little guys won’t be able to keep up. But then the little guys can’t keep up now.
Second, it will require a complete revamping of the college athletic system to “find the money.” But that’s not a bad thing. As good as Nick Saban is, it’s ridiculous how much he’s paid. It’s even more ridiculous how much people like Mel Tucker are getting paid who ain’t won nothing. Is Sam about to join that list? Probably. Spend the money to pay the athletes instead of $9.5 million for a coach or $55 million for a football center with a Putt-Putt course and a fire pit (Clemson). Ole Miss is trying to raise a billion plus for facilities, including tearing down the west side of the stadium and starting over. Maybe they still redo the stadium, but you could pay 400-ish scholarship athletes (yes, Title IX is a consideration) and have plenty left over out of $1B.
According to HY’s last letter from the AD on the website, there are about 465 athletes at UA, which includes scholarship athletes and walk-ons.
Per our latest filing with the feds, we spent $12.2 million on athletic scholarships in 2019-20. To pay all 465 athletes $50,000 a year on top of that would cost another $23M. Given an athletic budget that will be over $150 million when the new TV deal kicks in, there is money that could be reassigned to cover that. Yes, I’m aware that you’re probably not going to pay a reserve on the volleyball team the same as you pay KJ Jefferson, but this gets some figures on the table. And they might not pay walk-ons in any sport until they earn a scholarship, which would cut the cost even further.
If I’m not mistaken, about 10-15 schools are in the black every year. This model won’t work. NIL is the only way for kids to get paid outside EVERYTHING else they get while on scholarship. Sorry, but these kids are not victims.
A big factor in the discussion of paying college athletes vs. paying pro athletes is that the pro players have player’s associations (unions) who negotiate salary floors/caps, free agent/draft rules with their leagues. This helps keep the leagues out of antitrust trouble from various frames of reference. For the NCAA to operate that way, a player’s association/union may have to be set up for college athletes to negotiate with the NCAA. Of course, the NCAA, having significant interface with educational institutions, also has Title IX to consider. Title IX would add a unique flavor to the relationship not seen at the pro level…