I’ve changed my mind about paying college athletes.
Not a lot, but pay them.
Let me start with personal experience. My own son, Kirk, played college basketball and got a full ride. From it spawned my book, HoopDaddy (hoopdaddy.net), about fathers, sons and basketball. But even a full scholarship at Berry College, an NAIA school, didn’t come close to covering Kirk’s expenses. Luckily his family could afford a few thousand dollars a semester for the basics, like extra food, entertainment, small purchases now and then.
But back to the issue at hand, which is paying NCAA athletes, specifically football and basketball players.
The arguments against are generally two fold, which is first that you’re opening a can of worms you simply don’t want to open, that if you pay one you have to pay all. The other argument is that athletes who get a full ride are fairly compensated with a paid education and all that goes with it.
The NCAA world is slowly evolving into five so-called BCS conferences at the top in the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac 12. From those five leagues comes nearly every Division I champion in every sport. Occasionally there are exceptions, but normally in a sport that hardly anyone else cares about and certainly not in football or basketball.
All that being said, those schools can afford to pay all their athletes cash that goes above and beyond their scholarships. They will deny that they can, but if every school in every one of those five conferences pays their athletes, and for argument’s sake let’s say $500 per semester, no one will want to become the school that doesn’t pony up. Just imagine the recruiting pitch: You don’t want to go to State U. They don’t don’t pay.
And this is not just for football and basketball players. Golfers, swimmers, tennis players, softball players, track athletes.
Can’t afford it? Then you can’t be in that top echelon. Which is why, inevitably, those five conferences will break away and form their own version of a new-and-improved NCAA. Not this year or next, but eventually. And they’re control the football playoff system and all that goes with it. I will admit I have no answer about the NCAA basketball tournament and how those five major conferences handle it, especially now that the Big East has fallen apart and those non-football-playing schools have their own league.
But the others, the Nicholls States and Wyomings and UC Santa Barbaras and Rhode Islands? They can choose to pay or not, give the full allotment of scholarships and compete at the level in which they are most comfortable.
Regardless, sooner or later, college athletes who compete at the highest levels are going to be paid. And I’m all for it.