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Joe Ovies

Resistance to player pay shows lack of imagination

Posted July 18, 2014

"If you want to be a professional, be a professional," UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham said during a discussion of whether student-athletes should be compensated.

Athletic directors from North Carolina, Duke, NC State and NC Central participated in Capitol Broadcasting's inaugural "Fan Town Hall" on Thursday. The discussions ranged from academic compliance, Title IX, "Power Five" conference autonomy and financial compensation for student-athletes. It was the rhetoric over that last issue that truly peaked my interest.

Dr. Kevin White, athletic director for the Blue Devils, made it clear that straight up payment for student-athletes was not on his priority list. In White's view, incoming players are getting a great deal considering the financial commitment already in place thanks to the scholarship and support staff.

"$62,000 plus strength coach, academic advisement, travel, per unit, who knows what it is – a half a million dollars per student-athlete at a private [institution]," said White. "I mean it's a pretty sizable investment."

Bubba Cunningham, athletic director of the Tar Heels, was a little more blunt on why paying student-athletes was a non-starter issue.

"If you want to be a professional, be a professional," said Cunningham. "The option here? Room, board, books, tuition and fees. The cost of attendance, the opportunity fund. We have Pell Grants. and you're going to get a great education. That's what we offer and if there's something better then I would love to have you do it."

However, the options for those interested in succeeding in the revenue sports of football and basketball don't have legitimate alternatives to playing at the collegiate level. There is no minor league football system for players to join and work on their skills as they wait for the NFL entry limit to expire. And do we really expect 18 year olds to go head-to-head against adults in Arena League Football or the CFL? Same goes for expecting high schoolers to head overseas to play basketball before they're eligible for the NBA.

Debbie Yow, athletics director for the Wolfpack, at least acknowledged schools are making money off the likeness of players.

"We're making money off the jersey, and they're not getting any of the money," said Yow. "I would be okay about the option of their having an escrow account. Maybe it's something small – 2 or 3  percent of the net or gross costs of that jersey goes into that escrow account, and once they either leave school to go pro or graduate he gets that money."

Dr. Ingrid Wicker-McCree, athletics director for the Eagles, echoed those sentiments. However, she was concerned about fairness.

"I wouldn't want to see that student-athlete not be able to capitalize off of their talent but at the same time keeping in mind it's much larger than that," said Wicker-McCree. "It's a fairness and equity issue for me."

White took it a little further.

"If Johnny (Manziel) gets to make a lot of money off of his celebrity, does he give a little to the offensive line? Where does it stop?" asked White. "What is Johnny without the offensive line? I'm not sure."

Actually, we can be sure how this plays out. We see it every day in the real world. Peyton Manning gets more than his offensive line. So does Cam Newton. This is how capitalism works, and there's no reason why student-athletes can't be exposed to it.

"How do you think this is for team morale," pondered Yow. "So you going to be passing the ball to me the next game or not because you were counting on that money from your jersey sale. The retailers didn't pick you, in fact you're pretty certain in your mind that your coach was the difference maker. You knew he didn't like you, you knew he liked me better, that's what you thought."

Except these issues already exist within a team dynamic without the involvement of money. Coaches overcome internal team politics by building trust and setting up concrete consequences for those whose grudges adversely effect the room. Coaches already manage assistant coaches and coordinators, how would this be any different? Especially when you consider all these issues are sustainable in the pros.

At best, the cautionary tales posed by White and Yow come off as either distractions from the real issue or a sign they haven't come up with workable solutions. At worst, it shows the athletic departments simply want to preserve the bottom line.

32 Comments

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  • dbretz Jul 20, 2014

    I think the word you were looking for is piqued.

  • Dana McCall Jul 20, 2014

    Actually, support of player pay show "lack of imagination". Some people just don't understand the financial end of things.

  • jjackflash1966 Jul 18, 2014

    View quoted thread


    Otis, YOUR's is simply the dumbest, most ignorant post I've ever seen. Hate on, bro. It won't help you, one iota, which is why I want you to keep on hatin'.

  • Hal Price Jul 18, 2014

    The 4 baboons.

  • Hammerhead Jul 18, 2014

    View quoted thread



    They are compensated with what would be considered full time pay or more for their efforts.

  • uBnice Jul 18, 2014

    View quoted thread



    It is not free. Steve Logan even admits it is a full-time job. But you well know there is nothing free.

    Not everyone can be a D1 athlete. If they could they probably would. As much as we may think of the athletes as plentiful, they are not for this level of play.

  • vt94hokies Jul 18, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Solid one.

  • Objective Scientist Jul 18, 2014

    View quoted thread



    Michael McAdoo - most likely - could NOT have succeeded in any major on his own. He should never have been admitted as a student! All this talk about "opportunity"? The opportunity is focused 100% on ATHLETICS... not academics. Admit the kid - even if he is not even close to being academically equipped to succeed in the classroom - so that he can have the opportunity to play and partake of the "riches" of the NBA/NFL! The focus is NOT on the opportunity to obtain a degree or "get an education" - it is the opportunity to play ball at the next level!

  • roberttherugguy Jul 18, 2014

    500,000 per student, maybe at Duke Dr. White? And then there Is Ms. Yow "he" gets the money, so the women do not get paid? That will go over well.

  • otis4411 Jul 18, 2014

    Bubba has some nerve claiming they will get a great education at eweNc. Let's just state the facts here. Michael McAdoo lost his eligibility and also lost in court submitting plagiarized papers. (uncovered by packpride) eweNc released a statement saying they would still honor his scholarship so he could continue his education. When they said "continue" they meant it. They then stuck him back in those fake no show classes where he got no education. That is the Carolina Way and they have no shame talking about a great education.

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