Time to give the players something for their services
College athletics should have seen this coming.
All the telltale signs were there. It has been building for years and there was plenty of opportunities to stop it before we reached this point.
What am I talking about?
I am talking about the scandal that is facing college basketball right now. Players and coaches getting paid under the table. It has been a problem for decades, but I am convinced that it could have been headed off at the pass years ago by just figuring out a way to get these players some compensation for their play.
Before you all start screaming about the fact that they get a free college scholarship, do not waste your time on me. The reality of the situation is there is no such thing as a free meal.
These kids bust their butts to earn those scholarships by giving up a vast majority of their childhoods.
Some do it because it is the only way they can afford to go to college, while others are trying to get to the professional level and earn that big paycheck so they can change their family’s lives.
It is anything but a perfect system and I understand that, but there must be a way to help out these kids, many of whom come from disadvantaged homes and need to reach for the brass ring just to survive.
My eyes are wide open and I know many of you will poo poo that last statement because you believe if they would stay in school for four years and actually complete their degrees, then their financial future would be set as well.
But would it really?
How many stories have we heard about non-athletes who went to school for four or more years, got themselves into thousands of dollars in debt only to work at a job that has nothing to do with the courses they studied in school and the path they intended to take?
More than I want to count.
So, let us take a closer look at the student-athlete.
They spend hours and hours trying to become the best possible player they can be. For some, that means getting up at the crack of dawn to go condition or a practice before they even think about attending class.
Then it is off to class for at least some part of the day before going back to either a practice, conditioning of meetings for the particular sport they are competing in.
That does not even account for the time they must make up in classes when they are off to road games.
I do not feel bad for the student-athlete because of those situations. That is the path they chose for themselves. Here is why I feel bad for them and I want the system to change.
Because of the amount of time spent going to class, practices and games, it leaves little time for anything else — including a job.
So, most of these kids are left with little to no money to do the things that regular college students do — go to movies, concerts, dinners with friends.
That is hardly fair.
The college experience should involve all that. These kids should be able to get a job so they can make a little money to get something to eat that is better than the cafeteria food on campus or go out and enjoy a rare night off with friends at a movie.
There are a lot of ideas as to how we can fix this situation. Unfortunately, none of them have been tried and now we are left with a huge mess in college basketball.
I have read a few other columnists who all agree it is time to start helping these kids out with a little scratch so that they can actually enjoy the college experience instead of looking at it as a job.
Some I like, but the one I like the least is that players should be paid according to their worth.
Sorry, but with that approach, the athletes can no longer be considered amateurs. I am not even sure if they would remain amateurs in my plan, which would be to give them some a set amount each month to use on things like food and entertainment.
To pay certain players more than others is ridiculous at its core.
Pay each player a set amount based on whatever analytic you want, such as length of season.
The amount would be the same for schools like Notre Dame and Michigan State and at Western Michigan or Central Florida.
The amounts could differ based on the division the schools play in because let’s face it, Division 1 schools have a lot more money than NAIA institutions.
Something needs to be done and it needs to be done soon, because we all know that basketball is just the tip of the iceberg. There is more lurking below the surface and it is only a matter of time before it rears its ugly head.
Scott Novak is sports editor for Leader Publications. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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