Posted: 2:29 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013
Whatever changes are coming to college sports, there are two things which probably won’t happen: 1) athletes will not be paid, and 2) the power conferences will not split off.
As we’ve said before, there are some really tough issues if you are going to do pay players, not least of all Title IX: if you pay football players, you have to play field hockey players, too. You’ll hear people like Steve Spurrier advocate for football and basketball players being paid, but that won’t fly.
Lawsuits would, though.
Still, money is flowing through those two college sports like floods through Colorado this week and both landscapes have been significantly changed.
There are some potential wildcards, though.
The Ed O’ Bannon lawsuit has not been resolved, and that will be a major hit for the NCAA, because O’Bannon et. al. are highly likely to win.
Then there’s the chance, unlikely in our opinion, but still possible, that players could organize. What would happen if instead of being classified as athletes, football and basketball players were classified as employees, with scholarships as a benefit of said employment? That might change the Title IX calculus, for better or worse.
There is one notion which needs to be corrected, though, and that’s that athletes cannot go pro out of high school (revenue athletes, that is).
This assumes that professional sports are limited to the NFL and the NBA, and there’s no question that’s where kids want to get. But it’s not the only way to be compensated.
Arena football accepts players at 18, and the CFL at 19. The NBA requires players to be one year out of high school, or 19.
This leaves open multiple leagues in the U.S., including the NBA’s NBDL, and any number of leagues around the world.
A 17-year-old might not be thrilled about playing in Poland or Japan, but it’s a transitional job, assuming he’s good enough for the NBA.
Alternatively, he could go to college for 1-4 years, possibly get a degree, get trained by a highly skilled coach, sculpted by a highly trained weight coach, get targeted nutrition, be alpha males on campus and enjoy all the pleasures that entails, and, should they choose to graduate, enter their working life with no debt and a free education.
Relatively few college athletes come from wealthy families like Johnny Manziel, whose family is very well off indeed. Quite to the contrary: most are poor, often from inferior schools, not to mention sometimes lacking basics like proper nutrition.
Manziel can sneer at NCAA pretensions. His family can send a limo and bring him home to powwow with high powered attorneys who can gleefully give the NCAA the bird.
Most of his fellows cannot, and when you’ve never had money, you don’t sneer when someone hands a wad to you. It’s totally rational economic behavior to take money when you’ve never had it, and the delayed gratification of an education struggles to compete with King Cash.
That said, as long as the NCAA is talking about reform, they should perhaps emphasize the long odds of making millions and the (at times) longer odds of hanging on to them. A liberal arts education is incredibly valuable, but a minor in financial sanity, or perhaps just financial counselors for potential young millionaires, is the sort of thing the NCAA could reasonably do. Rather than compromising the supposed mission, it would augment it.
Along these lines, as we have previously suggested, the NCAA should tie compensation to academic performance. Each athlete could be given a relatively modest annuity when they enter school. Excellent academic performance can augment it, and when the player graduates, he or she can either apply it to graduate school or use it for whatever he’d like.
The annuity could be given by the individual schools and would be tied to the school, which would encourage players to think twice before moving.
That might not affect the decisions of someone like, say, Kyrie Irving. But it might help someone like Matt Stainbrook, who left Western Michigan for Xavier. He could still leave, but Western Michigan could keep the annuity.
Incidentally, Stainbrook, who played in Cameron a couple of years ago, was a bit of a sensation: quite stout for a basketball player, he had long hair, tied back, and rather flamboyant eyewear. At Xavier, where his brother is a freshman by the way, he’s lost 40 lbs., gotten a sane haircut and appears to have taken up contacts as well.
Regardless of his ludicrous look, and at around 300 lbs., Stainbrook scored 18 points and pulled down eight boards.
He nearly outscored Duke’s troika of Mason & Miles Plumlee and Ryan Kelly, who combined for 19 points, and matched Mason Plumlee and Kelly on the boards.
Miles Plumlee was a different story, grabbing 15 boards.
Still, keep this in mind: Stainbrook was effective even though he was grossly overweight. He’s not anymore. When he returns to the court next year, he’s going to be a load.