Maybe the time has come

To give up on the illusion of amateur college athletes. That’s all it is. Probably has been all it was since they approved athletic scholarships almost 70 years ago (which happened because schools were blatantly ignoring the rules and giving them anyway).

We ask them to give up their lives for Old Alma Mater, whether that is in Fayetteville or Tuscaloosa or Durham or Tucson. They’re a student for 12-15 hours a week, roughly. The rest of the time, they’re athletes. Their diets, their schedules, their workouts, their sleeping habits, are determined by the needs of being an athlete, not by being a kinesiology major.

And for that, we give them tuition, fees, books, room and board and a “cost of attendance” stipend, and the COA stipend is very new. Yes, an education is worth something, and I’m not belittling that at all. But there is a gap here and the scumbags like Andy Miller are rushing in to fill it. You’re not going to stop the Andy Millers of the world, who don’t care if he gets Arizona on probation as long as he gets to make money off Arizona’s players.

The NCAA’s Mark Emmert released a statement the other day that there are systemic problems that must be fixed and fixed now. And he’s right. But then he said “people who engage in this kind of behavior” have to be removed from college sports. He’s wrong, because it can’t happen, and won’t happen. Andy Miller was funneling money to athletes because he believed, correctly, that this would lead to him making back his investment many times over. “This kind of behavior” is otherwise known as capitalism, which is kinda what America is built on. The solution is to dump the system that gives the Andy Millers so much influence over the athletes, financial and otherwise.

Every time this topic comes up, people decry that college athletes might actually get paid out in the open. Like there’s something morally wrong with giving a college basketball player a few bucks. But as Andy Staples pointed out this week in SI.com, if you take their argument and replace the word “athlete” with the word “plumber” or “website builder” or “singer”, you start to see how silly it is. A plumber has a skill that people are willing to pay for. So does a point guard or a wide receiver. And it’s ridiculous that the schools have come together – conspired – to fix the price for that skill at tuition, books, room and board. That’s what it is. An NCAA conspiracy, and the University of Arkansas is a full participant.

If nothing changes? Things will calm down for a while because of the FBI investigation, but the FBI won’t keep snooping forever, and things will be back (down) to the same normal level of sleaze in five years. And the NCAA may be forced to change the rules anyway by the Kessler lawsuit, just as the O’Bannon lawsuit is forcing a change in using the likenesses and images of college athletes in video games and on TV.

A lot of us have been watching the Olympics this month. At one time, Olympic amateurism rules were ridiculously tight. U.S. athletes got around it with college scholarships. Russian athletes got around it by joining the Red Army and pretending to be soldiers while they trained for hockey or basketball or the 200 meter dash. But now Olympic athletes are pros. Are the Games worse now than in the old days? I don’t think so. A great performance is still a great performance, and a great story is still a great story.

Apply the Olympic rules to college sports. The school can still give them tuition, books, room and board; it wouldn’t blow Hunter Yurachek’s budget out of the water. But let anyone else who wants to pay them, pay them. This avoids Title IX problems, because a woman golfer would have the same opportunity to make money as the men’s power forward or the quarterback. Whether anyone would offer that golfer money is beside the point. She would have the chance to find out what her skills are worth on that market. Maybe she makes a little from Titleist or Ping or Taylor Made to use their equipment. So? The Olympic skiers make sure you can see the logos on the bottom of their skis in the post-race interviews, and they get paid for that, and life goes on.

We’re not talking giant money either. Andy Miller was loaning kids amounts in the tens of thousands of dollars. Not insignificant to a 20-year-old kid (or for a lot of his elders), but nowhere near what an Aaron Rodgers or Chris Paul is making now as a pro after coming through the NCAA system (I specifically left out the first two athletes I thought of here, Clayton Kershaw and LeBron James, because neither one attended college).

What happens when an athlete (I dropped “student” from the term because that’s not what they are under your plan) decides the $30,000 they’re getting paid isn’t enough? Do they ask for more? Stop playing until they get it? Transfer somewhere that will pay it?

If they’re not performing as expected, does the school have he right to decrease the payments?

My opinion, there should be a semi-pro league where those that want the money can go to get paid sooner and skip college. I don’t understand how we tell an 18-year old they’re physically/mentally capable to be an adult for some things, but not the NFL or NBA. And let’s be honest,those are the two sports we’re really talking about here, not golf or baseball where a kid can go pro right out of high school if they want.

You obviously didn’t read what I wrote. Under this system, the schools would give the athletes what they always gave them. Tuition, books, room and board. But they would be able to make outside money as well. That’s the hypocrisy.

After I hit post I thought of one recent example we all remember. Alex Collins. Star athlete, star personality. I watched him work the line of students waiting to get into RRS when he came back to Fayetteville on the Seahawks’ open date his rookie year. You think he couldn’t have picked up some endorsement money in NWA? So why shouldn’t he? Why should we say no, because of some outdated notion that amateurism is pure and getting paid is dirty?

Then simply replace “school” with boosters, since I’m assuming that’s who you are saying would pick up the tab. If Alex Collins has a bad stretch of games, is his paycheck cut? If so, does he decide to transfer? Or, if he has a good run of games does he holdout for more money?

My point is why keep him in school at all if he wants to play football for money? Have a semi-pro league where he could go if he wanted. I don’t understand why the NCAA is bashed so much, but nobody comes down on the NFL (or maybe the NFL Players Association) as much for having the rule regarding when a player can begin an NFL career. I certainly think the NCAA does a lot wrong, but I don’t think they can be held fully responsible for a 19-year old not earning cash for playing a sport.

By the way, does it really make any difference whether a kid transfers because he’s not going to be the starting quarterback next year, or transfers because he thinks he’s not getting enough money? A transfer is a transfer.

I get that people hate change. Doesn’t matter whether the change is needed or not, they hate change. You like a system that has kids by the shorthairs for four or five years. I’m not quite sure why you like it, but you do. It’s not a good system. It’s hypocrisy, pretending that a school cares about the welfare of the athlete when what it really cares about is that it doesn’t have to pay Johnny Jumpshot to entertain you.

My simple answer to all of this is if I know I’m watching a bunch of well paid players or worse some who are some who are not I’d just assume watch pro ball.

Or another way to put it is if all the best players played in a development league and all the not worth paying players (only worth a scholarship etc…- a bill which some parents save up for for 18 years) and therefore the level of play would be worse, guess who I would watch? - My schools players every day of the week.

Why? Because I know they are there, hopefully, because they believe in the school or the coach or just want the college experience - including their hope to be a highly paid player someday…just like most of the other kids hope to do well professionally someday. If they were all non scholarship volunteer players I’d watch it before I’d watch the NBA.

I’ll make a hypothesis that the reason they could potentially get autograph money is because they play at the school on a team that I want to watch. The common thought is I want to watch because they are the best players and therefore contribute to the revenue generation and therefore should receive the spoils. Yes better players make better teams and more people want to watch, I get that. We also like to watch spectacular players. But if the playing field is level and I know they are still closer to college kids than decently paid professionals, I’ll watch and be fascinated by the most spectacular player on the court even if they could never play in the NBA. Everyone else can watch the developmental league…but I’ll bet they wouldn’t.

It’s not lost on me that some of them are getting attention and perks that even an academic scholarship recipient doesn’t get, but they’re not six figure a year recipients…unless you are getting a scholarship to duke, Stanford and other Ivy League level tuition schools.

Well call me naive but I’ll bet I’m not alone.

I’m with you on this one. I don’t watch the NBA now. I like watching and rooting for the players on my schools team.

I don’t understand how we can say the student-athletes are just here making the school money. A lot of these kids would not be able to afford a 4 year college and have all the additional assistance provided them all at no cost. It’s not cheap and it’s not like they don’t have a choice. They don’t have to go to college and they don’t have to play sports. And not all of them are Johnny Jumpshot… some of them rarely if ever play and only a very small percentage play pro sports. They all, however, have an opportunity to get a free (no money) education that can provide them an opportunity to be successful in life.

If we just do away with amateur sports altogether it’ll be a sad day in my opinion.

I think Swine might be on to something. Certainly, everyone of us know players are being paid to play. It’s a dirty business. Scandalous at best and illegal at worse. It is hypocritical to think that amateurism really exists. The playing field is not level, but it also won’t be level under Swine’s plan. The deeper pockets will always win a bidding war. The schools may be clear and clean, but the backroom deals will not be. They aren’t now, either.

I’ve quit watching pro sports. If we throw in the towel on the college game, then I’ll probably watch high school sports … until they start picketing to be paid.

Why care? I mean really.

I know it goes on. We can’t stop it. I’d rather be blissfully ignorant, be a Hog fan, cheer on the boys, and just let our marginal-to-crappy athletic program (that I still root for and follow religiously) reinforce the thought that we don’t cheat.

And if we do cheat, so what? It’s not like any of us can control it.

And the consequences of paying players aren’t that dire anyway. What’s the worst that happens: Kid gets an extra $20k to help around mom’s house? Not my money. Good for mom. Probation? Nah, not that bad since SMU’s demise.

Life is already complex enough to get all sanctimonious and worried about whether Duke is paying its basketball players, or LSU is paying its football players. News flash: they are, and so is Arkansas on some level, and everyone else.

Let’s worry about real issues, like why mentally distressed teens are able to get assault rifles and kill children. To me, that’s a hell of a lot more important and worth spending worry time on.

Again, who cares?

Is this what happens when one combines a cynic and happy hour?

Yeah, nice retort. You think you are clever but, believe me, it’s anything but that. Frankly, you could probably use a happy hour. In fact, to read any more of your astute posting, I may need one.