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Caulton Tudor

Player pay is coming, but it won't be a panacea

Posted September 25, 2013

Although there will be extensive legal obstacles to clear along the way, the day almost certainly is nearing when some college football and basketball players will be paid by their schools to play.

That’s pay apart from the full scholarship funds they already receive – totals that exceed $40,000 annually at some of those schools and more than $20,000 annually at the majority.

Player salaries will not be practiced in the Ivy League or at the current NCAA Division II and III levels, of course.

#MissionorMoney Poll Results

Do big-time college sports take advantage of athletes?
Yes. They are the talent and should be paid = 67%
No. They get an education = 13%
The current system is fair = 19%


How should college athletes be compensated?
Pay based on performance = 12%
Pay all athletes a stipend = 45%
Let them work or sell their image = 31%
Scholarships and financial aid only = 17%

Watch, interact: College $ports: #missionormoney
 

Those schools, which number into the hundreds, will continue to operate sports program much the same way everyone did until midway through the 1970s. Athletic scholarship help will be based entirely on need, the staffs will consist of modestly paid coaches, ticket prices will be nominal and television income virtually nonexistent.

Many of the advocates for paying players believe the practice will eliminate the illegal payment problem that has become a foul, smelly byproduct of the current culture.

Clearly, many football and basketball players are getting under-the-table cash from various sources at many schools.

'Pass The Hat' Culture

In one manner or another, bonus money has been a sports fixture since the 1920s. It’s rooted in the “pass the hat” tradition of semi-pro baseball competition that was common in small towns throughout the country during the ‘20s, ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s.

Game stars routinely were rewarded with bonus money (usually $10 or so) that was raised in the same fashion of church collection plates. In the stands, one fan would take off his hat, put in a dollar bill or some loose change and pass it through the stands. At game’s end, the star pitcher or hitter got the negligible windfall.

As football and basketball steadily gained popularity at the college level, the most aggressive and/or unscrupulous schools found a way to escalate the hat-passing practice to previously unimaginable heights.

Former Oklahoma football coach Bud Wilkinson called it feeding “The Monster.” And that was in the 1950s.

Later, another successful Sooner coach, Barry Switzer, was fond of saying that his primary job wasn’t to coach but to “keep feeding the monster Coach Wilkinson created.”

That food, of course, was recruiting and performance cash.

But legalizing player payments will not eliminate The Monster. Those who think otherwise either are doing so out of convenience and/or blind faith.

Here’s why: Let’s just say the NCAA (or whatever the governing body is named) passes a rule that allows for football and basketball players to be paid $500 monthly by schools that wish to join the new semi-pro division.

So what happens next? School A tells a player he’ll not only receive the $500 in legal money monthly but an additional $500 monthly under the table.

School B finds out what’s going on, then approaches the player with an offer of $1,000 monthly under the table plus the $500 salary.

School C ups the action to $1,500, and so on.

In other words, paying players is no more going to end that sort of cheating than the end of prohibition ended bootlegging or the sale of whisky to minors. 

I’m not saying that the idea of sharing the bounty with the players is a bad idea. It’s obviously the direction of the future.

The courts aren’t going to like the idea of putting some athletes on the payroll while denying equal payments to all. Maybe there’s a way for lawyers to get around that challenge. Maybe there’s even a way to pay the athletes proportionately.

After all, does the third-string Texas A&M quarterback deserve the same salary as Johnny Manziel? That’s a huge question/issue unto itself in and apart from the launching point of play pay.

But there is no way paying players will stop the flow of illegal cash from fans and coaches to players and parents.

It’s just not going to happen. There are too many hats out there.

120 Comments

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  • Objective Scientist Sep 26, 5:32 p.m.

    It seems more and more posters are taking a stand that I have taken... forever. That being that... View More

    — Posted by Objective Scientist

    That's an interesting way to approach the situation. As far as I know, only one school had... View More

    — Posted by acc_blood

    acc_blood... a question to you and to everyone. Is there any - ANY - justification for and/or defense of admitting an applicant as a student to a university who is clearly or very likely NOT capable of earning sufficient grades on a sufficient amount of academic work to earn a degree... and/or who truly does not want/is not motivated to be a STUDENT! If anyone would defend admitting such students... take a stab at that defense. I'd like to see it.

    That said... the great success stories of students who were "not qualified" but who somehow managed to be an "exception" and gain admission and "who were willing to put in the work" and now have a degree, etc." What about those? The key thing in your statement for me is the "willing to put in the work" part. I firmly agree that we do not want to eliminate all students who are short but close on meeting qualifications... because many of them indeed have the motivation and "willingness to work" that they can and are successful. I do not look to "target" those individuals for absolute NON-admission... rather the truly UNQUALIFIED. Michael McAdoo... recall him from the Butch Davis scandal? Recall the "paper" he had written that ultimately became public during his legal challenge in the court room? I'm very VERY familiar with and knowledgable about the level of academic performance required to succeed at UNC-CH... and IMO Michael McAdoo is the most obvious recent example of an athlete who would never have been admitted under any circumstances if he were not... an athlete. Those are the individuals I would target. I have no problem with giving someone "a chance", but... we can't give a chance to everyone no matter how deficient they may be academically! There are some individuals who - at the time of high school graduation - are no more qualified to enter an upper tier university than they are prepared to design and build a space craft to fly to and from Mars..

  • Objective Scientist Sep 26, 5:01 p.m.

    What I am finding absolutely amazing is people forgetting that these players have to qualify for... View More

    — Posted by tcoutouzis

    Wrong.

    Have you never heard of "academic exceptions"? Carolina has led the league for... View More

    — Posted by TruthBKnown Banned Again03

    TBK is absolutely correct on this! Many to most of the "star" football/basketball players - more at some schools, less at others - were likely admitted as an "exception". Most/all universities have "exception" admissions and "in theory" it could work for someone very talented in music or dramatic art... or any field but otherwise have low high school grades, SAT scores, etc. Most admissions "exceptions" are for athletes! "Blind admissions" as described by TBK... again "in theory" that would be the purest, unbiased, objective way of determining to whom admission is offered/granted! Is it actually determined that way? NO!!! Universities are hell-bent on having a diverse student body and faculty - and I, in no way, want that to be interpreted as diversity is "bad" or "not good"! Diversity is good and it enriches the educational experience for all students... but sometimes even a "good thing" can be taken too far. There should be some minimal standards that should be met regardless of an applicant's sex/gender, race, ethnicity, etc. But... diversity is a "whole 'nother issue" and takes us off the topic of this article. The deal with athletes seems to be ...if you are truly outstanding as an athlete in your sport - nothing, and I mean NOTHING - seems matter! Outstanding athlete... even if illiterate, you can "get in". There are documented cases of that! Most are not to that extreme, but many are admitted as STUDENTS - keep in mind there is no "admission as an athlete" - when the academic prowess and aptitude AND MOTIVATION to be a student - is simply NOT THERE!!!

  • acc_blood Sep 26, 4:02 p.m.

    It seems more and more posters are taking a stand that I have taken... forever. That being that... View More

    — Posted by Objective Scientist

    That's an interesting way to approach the situation. As far as I know, only one school had (they've since changed the policy) completely disallowed all academic exceptions for athletes - Maryland. And when they did, their football team plummeted. But if EVERYBODY were to change up, that would be interesting.

    To play a little devil's advocate, there have been great success stories of kids that didn't necessarily qualify, but were willing to put in the work - and now have a degree and a future outside of athletics. If we completely eliminate discretion to allow these young me (and women) into our schools, then we risk them becoming almost too much of an ivory tower.

    But, again, I like the way you think about this.

  • 4tarheels Sep 26, 3:35 p.m.

    ^the NFL and NBA could care less whether universities admit academically unqualified students. Some of those unqualified students may be future pro bowlers.

  • 4tarheels Sep 26, 3:32 p.m.

    It seems more and more posters are taking a stand that I have taken... forever. That being that... View More

    — Posted by Objective Scientist

    The money would dry up if the universities went in that direction, and so, here we are!

    — Posted by 4tarheels

    Via your... "and so, here we are!" do you suggest that universities keep admitting... View More

    — Posted by Objective Scientist

    I'm just telling you why your academic idea won't fly. Follow the money. There are too many people getting too much money from current college athletics. I'm not saying it's right for universities to be running minor league teams for the NFL but how do you stop it?

  • Objective Scientist Sep 26, 3:18 p.m.

    It seems more and more posters are taking a stand that I have taken... forever. That being that... View More

    — Posted by Objective Scientist

    The money would dry up if the universities went in that direction, and so, here we are!

    — Posted by 4tarheels

    Via your... "and so, here we are!" do you suggest that universities keep admitting applicants - and even more in the future - who are clearly not qualified academically and will struggle mightily with and/or fail in college level classes - simply because they can run, jump, shoot, catch, tackle, block, dribble, dunk, etc. better than most? It seems to me that all of this may "boil down" to a simple basic question: Should universities allow NON-STUDENTS to play on university athletic teams? There is no doubt in my mind that - for all practical purpose - we have that situation NOW! Can every football or basketball coach claim that "all of my players are registered for classes for the semester in which they play!" Absolutely! I don't doubt that, and don't doubt that it can be documented. However, being registered does not make anyone a student. To be a legitimate student you need to actually attend class... and willingly attend without the athletic program hiring someone to escort you to class each day! (THAT is done!) Additionally, legitimate students must pass a minimum number of course credit hours to remain eligible... and those hours should reflect reasonable progress toward a major. Other things could be added, but I believe those to be essential! How many of the "star" football and basketball players meet those criteria? Regarding the "money would dry up" - perhaps that would happen to some degree, but I believe there is currently an "excess" of money in collegiate athletics... even though many programs have "red ink" at the end of each year. Can we have competitive and entertaining football and basketball without admitting the "academically unqualified"? Absolutely we can!

  • TruthBKnown Banned Again03 Sep 26, 2:57 p.m.

    What I am finding absolutely amazing is people forgetting that these players have to qualify for... View More

    — Posted by tcoutouzis

    Wrong.

    Have you never heard of "academic exceptions"? Carolina has led the league for years in making exceptions for "special" athletes. Those athletes would not have otherwise been accepted into the university, but they're good with a basketball or a football, so they get in.

    I've thought for years that acceptance into a university ought to be blind. Name and race should not be on an application. Only academic achievements and grades. There should be no mention of the player being on a sports team. But I know this won't ever happen. Schools want certain quotas of different races to ensure a level of diversity on their campus.

  • 4tarheels Sep 26, 1:56 p.m.

    The universities don't need to pay a dime. Just make all the money that top athletes can... View More

    — Posted by 4tarheels

    Spoken like a true Walmart fan, who knows little about sports. ...Nevermind the fact that SEC... View More

    — Posted by chivegas

    You are living in denial, but this "wal-mart" fan as you describe me won't stoop to... View More

    — Posted by 4tarheels

    Denial of what? Over a hundred years of college sports where payers were "paid" with... View More

    — Posted by chivegas

    How many of those 100 years did the universities make millions upon millions of revenue dollars from basketball and football? How many of those 100 years did the coaches get paid multi-million dollar salaries? How many of those 100 years, were universities and the NCAA selling Heisman trophy winning jerseys over the internet? TV revenues have exploded for the universities, tv personalities like Dick Vitale and many others have gotten rich and made a career out of calling college basketball games.

    And who says anything has to be equitable? If agents and boosters are handing out money, it will go to the best players, not the average. And if these people are giving the money, why should we care? Why should we care if Johnny Manziel sells autographed footballs? It's no skin off the universities back.

  • tcoutouzis Sep 26, 1:52 p.m.

    If paying college athletes happens, then I will no longer watch college sports, nor will I support my universities athletic department.

  • tcoutouzis Sep 26, 1:49 p.m.

    What I am finding absolutely amazing is people forgetting that these players have to qualify for admission to a university by academics, not by stats with from their high school football team. If they don't meet the standard, then they don't get accepted. If they are admitted and fail to meet the academic standard then they are kicked out no matter how well they are performing athletically. This is why they are called "Student Athletes" and not "Athlete Students". To pay the players makes them Athletes first and students second. End of Story.

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