“I personally think that it’s the greatest injustice in American sports.”

ESPN boldly goes where… well, yeah, others have gone before, presenting the side of Andrew Schwarz, a Bay Area antitrust economist who strongly feels that it’s time to pay college players.  And he’s got some jazzed up financial statistics to back his position up.

  • The NCAA should count institutional payments to athletic departments as revenue, because some athletic departments give money back to their schools and because such payments to athletic departments should be seen as marketing fees, “given that sports teams provide enormous publicity for universities”.
  • And I love this:  “Tuition, the largest chunk of any athletic scholarship, carries no real hard cost, as it’s just a seat in a classroom (though it could count as an opportunity cost, if it’s true that seat would have been taken by a non-athlete paying full tuition).”

So when they do the revised math, Schwarz and ESPN come up with a whopping 81 schools which didn’t lose money on athletics in 2008-9, with that number growing to 99 for the next financial year.

But even with those numbers, of course, there’s still a huge difference between the schools at the top and the schools at the bottom.  Which leads to this “it’s so easy” dismissal by Schwartz.

… The idea of being able to offer a blue-chip recruit a scholarship, plus some, terrifies Ross Bjork, athletic director at Western Kentucky University. “That could be a scary day because then you’d get into the have-and-have-not discussion, where our budget is $20 million and their budget is $100 million. They can pay their athletes more.”

Karl Benson, commissioner of the Western Athletic Conference, invoked the possibility of implications from Title IX. “The day that the NCAA permits pay-for-play, if it’s done for only a certain class of student-athlete — football and men’s basketball — there will be lawsuits that follow from other sports. The gender equity issues would be massive unless you paid every student-athlete, regardless of sport or gender, the same amount.”

Schwarz dismissed those fears as unfounded, noting that Title IX, a federal law designed to promote equitable educational opportunities, does not require that schools spend equally on men and women. Texas spent $8.7 million on men’s basketball last year, $4.3 million on women’s basketball, a gender disparity reflected in overall spending for the athletic department, too. Yet, Texas stays out of Title IX hot water because half of its athletes, like half of its campus undergraduates, are women.

As for Bjork’s expressed concern, Schwarz said the glamour schools get the best talent today, even without the ability to offer more than an athletic scholarship.

“Right now, we see big programs beating up on small programs for the first few weeks of college football season, so we already have that,” he said. “It is just that the people on the big team would have, I don’t know, $40,000 a year in their pocket and the people on the small teams might just be getting a scholarship. But it wouldn’t change the allocation of talent much at all when it is all done. There might be a little bit of shifting in conferences…

“A little bit”?  Right.  Besides that, if you think coaches like Nick Saban are ruthless about culling the herd now, wait ’til you see what they do when they’ve got kids who aren’t contributing but are getting paid forty grand a year to take up a roster spot.  And there’s nothing said in the article about how schools would make up the shortfall which their non-revenue programs would face when the moneys which were previously spent on them are re-routed to pay players’ salaries in revenue sports.

But no matter.  In the end, Schwartz does a little John Lennon-esque dreaming.

“Imagine a world in which paying the athletes wasn’t a problem, wasn’t an infraction, and what those [NCAA] enforcement people were doing was actually making sure the people in sports programs were students,” he said. “With one cross-out of one NCAA bylaw, you could free up a lot of resources and get rid of a lot of bureaucracy. You could let the market prevail and find ways to really achieve the ideal of the student-athlete.”

I’m sure that would make Cecil Newton happy.  And the NFL.

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22 Comments

Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness

22 responses to ““I personally think that it’s the greatest injustice in American sports.”

  1. crapsandwich

    Absolute Fantasy, maybe he copped something else from Lennon.

  2. Bad M

    Seriously, what problem will this solve? There are inequities, sure. But this won’t solve anything without bringing up a whole host of other problems. Unless they just become a pro league. You think giving out a few hundred will stop cheaters from giving out a few thousand?

  3. Hogbody Spradlin

    When did Andrew Schwarz move to San Francisco? 67?

  4. Scott W.

    Tuition carries no real hard cost, really? So basically whatever institution these athletes attend should be marketing and supporting those athletes as their primary function, if only something like that existed.

  5. TennesseeDawg

    Not to mention if you pay football players then every other sport will want to get paid to all in the name of “fairness”. I don’t think Western Kentucky has to worry to much about competing for blue chippers, most blue chippers couldn’t tell you where Western Kentucky is even located.

  6. baltimore dawg

    completely bogus “accounting” in every way. i’m even dumber than i was before for even having clicked on the link. the ncaa separated “allocated revenue” because even the expression itself is absurd. i believe bernie madoff did quite well on the allocated revenue side, too.

  7. heyberto

    I’m all for giving players some ‘walking around money’. What the limit on that should be, i’m not sure… certainly nothing like $40,000. Money to go to the movies, go on a date, etc.

    • Macallanlover

      Agree, these players are working “part time jobs” just like those who work in the library, cafeteria, assist profs, etc. Even if you argue with that, you have to agree fulfilling the reponsibilities of maintaining their scholarship prevents them from getting a cash-compensated job. They should have a chance to earn spending money like other students do.

      I realize that schools cannot pay every athlete $100 per week, but if you limited it to sports which generate profits it would work. Is that politically correct, and equal for all sports/schools? Hell no, but guess what? Life works that way, and a little dose of reality wouldn’t be a bad educational lesson. Survival of the fittest, let those who cannot stand on their own play Harvard/Yale type football. We don’t have to have big time college football at hundreds of schools, God knows we have more games on TV than we can watch already. Let the smaller schools cheer for the big state university schools that can afford a program. I don’t particularly want GT nerds sitting in the stands in Athens, but no reason they can’t get together in their parent’s basement and watch UGA crush someone on Saturdays.

  8. Since athletes do perform a great service to their athletic departments, I think they should be given some stipend based on their actual attendance in practice, meetings and actual playing in games. Therefore, it becomes an incentive if they perform well and play more time in games. If they are sick or get injured while playing or in practice they get no pay however. There are enough coaches and assistants to monitor this. Though luck if you are in a sport that play shorter but good luck if the sport play longer and more frequent. Required presence alone and travel time will not be paid.

  9. Required presence refers to being in practice or game site but no actual participation.

  10. Go Dawgs!

    I do see the argument they make, and I sympathize. But saying that these guys aren’t being compensated at schools like Georgia or Alabama or any other big-time program is ignorant. They are getting free tuition (which is certainly an opportunity cost for the athletic department, they pay tuitition to the school itself for that seat in the classroom), they get free room and board. I’m not for the schools paying players because of the inequities it would create between, say, SEC schools and the Boise States or Alabama-Birminghams of the world.

    Now, what I would be 100% for would be de-regulating the NCAA rulebook. There are so many things in there which prohibit athletes from making money from summer jobs, part-time work, etc. which are completely archaic. Those are certainly things which can be abused by boosters, but there have to be some common sense ways for guys who truly need to make a little extra money to do so. And guys should get a cut of things like jersey sales if a school capitalizes on their image. But that’s where it would stop. I’m a Georgia fan, and UGA would do more than alright in the world of paying for athletes, but I’m just not a fan of what it would do to college athletics.

    • Don’t blame the NCAA rule book for players not having summer jobs. Chalk that one up to “voluntary” work outs and summer school.

      • Go Dawgs!

        Yeah, I understand that part, too.

        I obviously haven’t read the NCAA rulebook lately, but am I wrong in thinking that the bits about employment are pretty convoluted?

  11. The stipend amount should be small enough that even smaller schools can afford. Hopefully this gives some athletes some reason not to rob convenience stores, or beat up their girl friends for money, and pay for their licenses and traffic tickets, but not big enough to drown themselves in some pubs.

  12. Dog in Fla

    “You could let the market prevail and find ways to really achieve the ideal of the student-athlete.”

    The consequence of which would be fewer home invasion robberies by players.

  13. 69Dawg

    A good first step would be to take off the restriction on agents. These guys are in it to make money, they are not going to “loan” money to guys they don’t think are worth it. This takes care of the his so poor he needs the money thing. Why is the NCAA so afraid of agents in the first place? Do they think it will lead to a union or something? They do understand that there is a difference between agents and boosters.

    • Macallanlover

      I don’t think every poor athlete would qualify for an agent’s attention, or be a good risk for a “loan advance”. Some players definitely grow into the high potential for NFL role during their time in college, but others fall out for various reasons, including injury. I am against the liberalization of rules against agents, but that is just my opinion. Too many predators for an unsophisticated 18+ year old athlete to deal with, the contracts they sign could really take advantage of them for years to come.

  14. Cojones

    heyberto- “walking around money”? What have the alums been greasin’ their palms with for years, chopped liver?

    If you want some of these guys to have a better social life, greet them as they leave the locker room after games and pick a few (not the stars-they get plenty) and pass a $20 or$50 on’em. After they spend that on wine and women they won’t have any left over that they would just waste. You could then go to a rival’s locker room and pass a dime bag on’em. Then drop a quarter on’em before their bus pulls out.

  15. That’s a textbook example of overstating one’s case.

    If you want a way to give valuable players money, then give them a percentage of their jersey sales, payment deferred until their eligibility expires or they leave school. On the topic of jerseys: AJ Green selling his game jersey and getting suspended while Washington sells Jake Locker’s game jersey for lots of money without giving him anything at no penalty is ridiculous Therefore, I propose that players should be able to sell their own merchandise through the university, if they’re willing to wait until they leave school to get that money.

  16. David

    That flippant dismissal of the Title IX concern is ludicrous.

    “Hi, I’m Andrew Schwarz, and in order for you to buy my argument I’m going to ask you to summarily disregard 2 dozen years of ultra-inflammatory gender politics.”

    There’s a big difference between funneling money to a men’s vs. a women’s program, and actually putting dollars in the hands of the athletes. But, I’m sure that countless drooling women’s rights lawyers would be happy to help the NCAA with that distinction should they follow this guy’s asinine advice.

  17. Malcolm Kass

    Couple of this.

    One, this Andrew Schwartz character is not an economist. Just looked him up on Linkedin

    http://www.linkedin.com/in/andyschwarz

    He is someone with a business school PhD who, SURPRISE, happens to work for law firms dealing with antitrust cases. He is looking to make $$$ off of this. Besides, being an economist is very, very different than business school work. No economist would give the frenchman’s wave to tuition costs. And Title 9 would be a serious problem.

    What I don’t get is why do people have trouble just understanding that the NCAA is simply dealing with uncertainty. Can a school demand repayment of the scholarship if the player doesn’t meet ability expectations? No. The NCAA takes on the risk for a risk averse agents, and the scholarship, room and board, clothing, coaching, etc. are compensation for that. (having said that, I do believe scholarships should be for 4 years, but the point remains) Sure, some players will end up driving the money wheel, but the NCAA doesn’t know which one, so they take on the risk by offering scholarships to numerous players. These schools sure as hell are not profiting on all players.

    • What I don’t get is why all these people who whine about indentured servitude don’t turn their anger towards the real guilty party in this, the NFL. These kids don’t have another option besides NCAA football because it suits the pros for it to be that way.