Plantation living

I don’t agree entirely with his math, but Jay Paterno makes a valid argument that student-athletes on full scholarship have a better deal than many are willing to acknowledge when he says,

… An opportunity to attend some of the top universities in the country and graduate with no student loans to pay off looks good when you consider the average college student in this country starts off with $24,000 in debt the day they graduate.

We haven’t even begun to discuss the hundreds of thousands of extra earnings you can realize over your lifetime with a college degree that you wouldn’t make without one.


Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness

37 responses to “Plantation living

  1. baltimore dawg

    it’s a more-than-valid argument that almost always gets lost in discussions of how student-athletes are “exploited.” i think many in the general student population should like to be exploited that way. on the other hand, let’s not forget that the only reason we’re even talking about increased compensation for student-athletes is so that the power conferences can consolidate their strength against the argument that they should be sharing their resources with their poor country cousins.

  2. Dave

    We have this ingrained expectation that special athletes and people on TV should get more-more-more.

    People root for the University. If AJ Green or Julio Jones had gone to Marshall, not one Georgia or Alabama fan would have gone with them. I’m not diminishing their contributions, but the idea that they fill the stadiums is just laughable. They keep the coach from getting fired. Well, most of them (sorry, OSU fans).

  3. Silver Creek Doug

    I would add one other little known benefit to being a scholarship athlete at a D1 state school.

    You probably won’t have to look too hard for a job once you graduate if you don’t turn professional in your sport. Here in GA, I know you pretty much were guaranteed a sales job at Georgia Crown Liquor Distributing (isn’t that Don Leebern’s company?) if you were a scholarship football player. I have to believe the other schools in the SEC have similar jobs programs.

  4. HK

    Lets not forget the boost in the quality of education and the value of the degree these kids get by being talented athletes. Its no secret that a lot of these football players wouldn’t have been able to get into the schools they play for simply on academic merit, much less on scholarship.

    • HK

      As in its not just a free education, its free and likely better than anything they could have paid for themselves.

      • Stoopnagle

        …or rather “known how to pay for themselves.”

        Anybody can get in somewhere and if you can’t pay, all you have to do is fill out a FAFSA for the Pell and loans.

        • Scott W.

          Your explanation glosses over the situation just like Jay’s. Getting it is the easy part, paying it back is where the difficulty lies.

          • Stoopnagle

            Yes, paying loans back does seem to be the hard part (sadly, from personal experience). And given the state of jobs, loan debt seems a bigger risk now than ever before. Hence the popping up of nay-sayers like the PayPal guy (who, BTW, went to Stanford and has advanced degrees…)

            But I do not feel like I’m glossing over anything. *Knowing* that getting it isn’t that difficult is, actually, a major barrier for many qualified persons. A lot of people simply don’t know how to access financial aid: perhaps their school has over-worked counselors or none at all and/or their parents did not go to college. . . there are lots of reasons.

            (This is how for-profit “higher education” keeps going: in many instances, it preys upon people who don’t know what to do by providing them with “superior customer service” in the pursuit of fin. aid. That, however, is beside the point.)

            That college graduates experience higher lifetime earnings and higher probabilities of employment is well documented. As long as one persists to graduation, the opportunities to earn enough to pay it back are pretty good. And even if one carries that debt a long time, the other non-monetary benefits of education are arguably worth it (better health, higher levels of civic engagement, lower levels of poverty and crime, etc.) for the individual and the rest of us.

            And, if we assume that the people in question are of modest means but adequate preparation/ability (i.e., the odds of getting a degree are good), then the debt load may not be that high depending on where they go. The key point HK makes is “quality.” The person in question might not be admitted to a “better” school without the athletic ability or may not be willing to pay the higher price of attendance… but that’s a sticky argument that we’d have to meet and share beers over.

            Of course, they could just fall back on the alternative which is not going to college at all and forgoing the opportunity cost of those few years of earnings (if they can find a job) and correspondingly, the higher lifetime earnings. That’s probably a bad bet.

            • Stoopnagle

              Crap. I didn’t realize I wrote that much. Sorry.

              • Scott W.

                What you have said proves Mr Paterno’s point, which I took as being, the playing college football and all the corollary experiences brought by it is a form of payment. Broadening someones world-view is a part of that. While it is true that there are ways to get into and pay for college outside of football that may seem unattainable to the kid who has never left Bainbridge, GA or Port Allegany, PA. Maybe our civic duty as UGA grads is to begin a foundation that gets students to college regardless of how fast their 40 time is.

            • Baron de Coubertin

              +1 to you and (everyone really) for keeping focus on the value of the college degree and not falling for the specious arguments that got Fred Davison fired.

  5. Gravidy

    The only fault I see in his math is that it doesn’t go far enough. I wish he had assigned a dollar value to all of the tutoring, facilities access, medical care, etc. so he could have come up with a much larger (and more realistic) hourly wage for the “job” these guys do. This column should be required reading for high school athletes all over the country. If I were a high school coach, I’d require my players to read it, and then I’d give them a quiz on it. Here’s a big +1 to Jay Paterno for punching a sizeable hole in the rhetoric regarding the plight or the poor, poor, pitiful student athlete.

    • fuelk2

      Let’s also assign a value to being given access to elite training for a very lucrative career in the NFL. The guys who are really leveraged into cash for the University (thru jersey sales, etc.) are given the opportunity to perfect their craft, free of charge, in order to make millions in the NFL.

      I’d like to compare that to the cost of the trainers they work with in the spring prior to being drafted. I’ll bet it’s pretty expensive.

      I’m sorry, college football players don’t have it all that bad.

    • Stoopnagle

      You and fuelk2 are on the right track here. There’s more than the scholly involved in the program/school’s investment in the athlete. Very good points here.

  6. Go Dawgs!

    It’s true that the opportunities you’re given are more valuable than $300 per game. The problem, though, is that you don’t realize the value of an opportunity until you get older.

    • Stoopnagle

      Yes, but isn’t that practically universal?

      • The ATH

        +1 – Pell Grant and student loans work for them too.

        I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: go talk to someone that has played D-1 football and ask them if new tattoos, clothes, video games, etc. don’t turn up come Pell distribution time.

        This line abt not being able to take out your girl, or keep up w/ the frat boys is B.S. Life’s not fair. Take out a loan, or manage your money responsibly like the rest of us.

  7. SC Dawg

    The scholarships athletes receive are no doubt extremely valuable. The problem, which most people in the media are completely side-stepping because they don’t like the answer, is access. When you’re 18, grew up in a slum, have a family who’s starving, and have the ability to make money, you want to find a way to get that money. The solution to this problem is a minor league for the NFL. Nobody wants to do it because they know college football will most likely become a shadow of itself. The kids who are able to live on the scholarship will come to college and others won’t. Similar situation as the one you’d be in if you had a baby your senior year of high school: I don’t have time to development and educate myself, I have to get a job now.

  8. H-Town Dawg

    Anyone who actually has to pay for a college education, along with everything that goes with that, knows how valuable an athletic scholarship can be. The idea that these athletes are being “exploited” is ridiculous, period. The “full ride” IS their compensation and it is generous. “Their” jersies have little or no real value UNTIL they take that scholarship and begin to enjoy the benefits of demonstrating their talent by playing for a major college program, with all the TV exposure, etc. Does the school make money off a player’s “brand?” Sure…but there wouldn’t be a “brand” at all without the school providing the opportunity to BUILD that brand. How many players are actually prepared for the NFL prior to accepting a scholarship and playing college ball? The idea that a free education and the opportunity to develop the body and the skills for future employment in the NFL doesn’t count as compensation is mind-boggling.

    • Stoopnagle

      That’s something of a chicken-egg argument, isn’t it? I mean, you’re correct that the institution or program provides the platform, but that platform is dependent upon the athlete, isn’t it?

      Georgia was mediocre in the worst way last year and we had zero night games, very little positive national attention… by all accounts the Georgia “brand” suffered because, in part, Georgia didn’t have the athletes to win. If the program continues on it’s current trajectory, those athletes won’t be benefiting as much from being attached to the brand. But if the quality of athlete improves, the winning returns, the brand becomes more recognizable, and there’s more TV time…

      This is the argument administrations have with faculty (especially in the sciences) over grant funds…

      • H-Town Dawg

        It’s debatable as to whether UGA’s lack of success was due to the lack of athletes or the lack of good coaching. But that’s really beside the point. If UGA’s brand is flagging the marquee athlete is free to accept a scholarship from another school. The fact remains that the football player coming out of high school needs the platform that some university provides, whether it’s UGA or some other school.

        • Stoopnagle

          Agreed, that’s why I said “in part.”

          I agree, but the platform is built over a long period of time and on the prior success of the program which is undeniably built, in part, on the athletes who made the plays. It’s just like a successful business requires start-up capital AND productive labor. You can’t be successful without both.

  9. Stoopnagle

    The crux of the problem which a few of the commentariat have touched on is that there’s a proportion of the athletes in revenue sports who do not have the academic background which would lead them to be successful student-athletes. In these cases, there *is* a measure of exploitation. It doesn’t help that these athletes often come from groups which higher education has not traditionally served well.

    There are tremendous benefits assigned to being an athlete at a Georgia or a Minnesota or a Arizona State. All of which have been pointed out. The main one we gravitate towards is the opportunity to access a quality education and/or degree. What happens when an athlete, promoted through the K-12 system based on his value to the football team and not on his demonstrated learning, arrives on a campus with competitive admissions without the skills to compete in the classroom?

    Many institutions/programs will devote a lot of resources to that athlete to help him be successful (witness the Rankin Smith Center and the professional staff of advisors, tutors, and academic coordinators who spend countless hours with these young people). But those same resources “funnel” those with marginal academic preparation into certain majors and courses with certain instructors to maximize the probability of achieving eligibility. And in too many cases, that’s the goal: just keep them eligible. In those cases, the opportunity is diminished and exploitation is, in fact, part of what’s going on.

    I don’t have raw statistics, but I think we can all agree that for every Aaron White there are multiple cases of ill-prepared and hopeless academic casualties.

    Again, I don’t agree that athletes should be paid. They shouldn’t. Period. But I don’t think we should pretend there isn’t some unfairness in the program – athlete relationship.

  10. W Cobb Dawg

    No doubt the kids are given a great opportunity compared to the general population. But Paterno’s saying the people at the bottom of the pyramid should be happy with a slice of bread, while the folks at the top of the pyramid get the whole damn bakery. Would Paterno be arguing this way if the tables were turned and he was the poor minority kid?

    • Baron de Coubertin


      Totally disagree with Paterno. All of his listed points/benefits to the student athletes have actually been reforms instituted in response to previous abuses, cheating, scandals and bad PR.

      If anything, these University’s have as much if not more to gain by providing these benefits to the athletes, because they have mostly been adopted to keep them eligible. When they are eligible, they can continue to help make $$ for the athletic department.

      TPTB can still exploit the athlete & provide benefits that appease the athlete while also positioning the University as this altruistic entity.

      I have said here before and I say it again. The concept of amateurism is a fundamentally flawed. It was imported from the British School System and the rebirth of the Olympic movement. It was designed by the rich elite class to keep those of a lower social station out of elite competition. The NCAA and its members can dress it up all they want but it is still fundamentally flawed.

      Even the IOC has abandoned the concept of amateurism. It is time for the NCAA to do the same. It will not eliminate cheating or rule-breaking when it comes to attracting student athletes or PED’s, etc. but it will eliminate this arcane notion amateurism.

  11. Cojones

    Those disagreeing with Paterno have specious arguments built upon “feelgood” for their perception of exploitation. Just because College Football has become outrageously popular (because its based on passion for play, not money) is no reason to invent a problem because Universities are making money. Some aholes at ESPN have started this natl debate in order to get ink, not out of some heart-wrinching, hand-rubbing conscience epiphony on player welfare.

    Go back a little bit in memory to the death of the SF49er player attributed to an undetected heart thickening that had been present for some time. Natl news outlets jumped onto the care and medical needs uniquely inherent with football players. They interviewed all NFL teams to determine how this could have been detected and found that a costly workup with X-rays and state of the art medical sleuthing costing many bucks/player was the only way to find this anomaly. Not one pro team had such an evaluation in place. They then asked the less advantaged D-1 college teams if anyone had any such expensive proactive medical testing in place. None did. Except for the University of Georgia. They interviewed Courson , Richt and the AD and found that all athletes at Georgia were given the preemptive medical tests. It was an expense-contracted test that lessened the costs with the accrued value of impacting two lives, neither matching the conditions that caused the NFL player’s death, but if left untended could result in problems to the athlete later. Neither were football players.

    I can’t tell you the immense pride that was felt for my University and our athletes. Please pardon me while I don’t weep at the charges that my University is exploiting our players. These and other ongoing benefits given our football players and all athletes are not mentioned by ESPN in stories of the poor exploited college player. They are too nuanced even for some accountants to grasp. My understanding at the time of the report (about 6-7 yrs ago) was that all schools would begin to initiate this costly program even though it impacted a low number of detected abnormalities. ESPN is just trying to open up a can of worms that they don’t have to problem solve and are dumping the scratchy subject with no solution in our laps. I agree wholeheartedly with those who remind you on here that scholarship athletes have a much rosier university financial life when compared to the rest of the student body.

    This college pay-for-play scheme is oderous as to it’s intent and will reduce the passion for the game. Already a coach is gleaning recruitment fodder by suggesting that coaches give players pocketmoney. Don’t buy it.

    • Baron de Coubertin

      Tell me where I am wrong – every single one of Paterno’s “additional” benefits that he cited have been a reaction to abuses in the college athletics and fundamentally are designed to protect the institution by maintaining the appearance that the athlete is a student first and an athlete second.

      The 20 hour rule was put in place in response to media reports about athletes being steered/ordered into majors and classes that they did not always want to take in order to allow maximum practice time. Ask ESPN analyst Robert Smith about it. Prior to this rule, athletes often put more time on the practice field than in the classroom. Even with the rule in place, it is dubious to see if the 20 hour rule is followed (see RichRod & Michigan.)

      The APR was put into place due to reports of star athletes being on campus for 4-5 years, completing their eligibility, and having the academic status of sophmore. Only when it was determined that this practice threatened the academic integrity of entire institutions did NCAA members decide that it was a good idea to make the rule and beef up tutoring. Prior to then, tutoring was designed to keep them seasonally eligible.

      Also this is laughable:

      “I am going to ask you to work no more than 20 hours a week for 21 weeks – with at least one mandatory day off every week. For another 23 weeks you’ll work no more than eight hours a week. You’ll get eight weeks off. (These are all NCAA-mandated time limits).”

      I would like for Paterno to show me the % of non-athletic scholarships that require the recipient to “work”at all yet alone for 43 weeks out of the year.

      Paterno forgets to mention that in these precious off hours – that it is so generous for the athlete to have – the institution is going place limitations on the athlete’s ability to earn other outside income. There are income restrictions and restrictions on who can employ them. Their own likeness from ages 17-22/23 is no longer their property anymore but belongs to the institution apparently for as long as the University/NCAA can make a $ off of it.

      I would love to know how often Paterno as the QB coach encourages his players to “watch” film (not counted as part of their work time) or encourages them to pursue other outside interests?

      The scholarship system may look like a good deal to the rest of America but that does not mean that the institutions are not manipulating it to their advantage.

  12. mp

    If the NCAA allowed kids to be paid, would the market dictate that their compensation be more than just a free education (plus all the other things listed fuelk2 listed above – tutors, expert training by coaches, etc). For the highly recruited kids, the answer would be yes.

    The debate should never have been framed as to whether or not an education is inherently valuable (or exactly how valuable it is), but rather, is the education the only compensation a student athletes should be allowed to earn.

    • There’s nothing – nothing! – stopping the “market” from birthing a competitor to college athletics, one that would pay its players. That no such thing has occurred should tell you that student-athletes don’t operate in a free market. Thus, it’s pointless to speculate as if they might.

      • Title IX and NCAA reforms have made the problems worse. If scholarship athletes are going to have limitations placed upon them that do not exist for other scholarship recipients, shouldn’t there be some trade-off?

      • mp

        Obviously there’s nothing legally stopping the NFL or another 3rd party from creating a competing league. But that’s not the point I was making. There is a willingness to pay the players for their skills beyond the value of the education, or else why would boosters be willing to buy cars and give cash to incentivize attendance? The NCAA is in its rights to restrict these payments, and there’s not a lot prospective players can do.

        If you would like speculation, it comes from the question of how long would it take for the member institutions to eliminate the payment prohibition in the face of a league that was luring away it’s best talent?

      • Monday Night Frotteur

        Irrelevant. Nobody can deny that colleges agree to cap salaries without a CBA (that’s essentially the entire point of the NCAA). That agreement in restraint trade prevents the revenue athletes from obtaining a reasonable portion of the revenue they generate. High barriers to entry (I think they’re a lot higher than you assert) for a competing league wouldn’t make a legitimate agreement bad, and low barriers to entry for a competing league wouldn’t make an impermissible restraint acceptable.

  13. Blah blah blah.

    None of this changes the hundreds of millions of dollars being made off them, and more importantly, off their likeness.

  14. Monday Night Frotteur

    Capitalists wouldn’t normally second guess the value of a service that has a market value (for most athletes going to state schools, something less than $25,000/year). And one of the massive beneficiaries of an illegal agreement in restraint of trade wouldn’t normally be cited as a bully sources for arguments in favor of said agreement (nice onion headline: “Football coach with million dollar salary opposes paying players more”) .

    As an aside, most universities would run their football programs at substantial losses if they (and their boosters) paid their players; the schools perceive a massive promotional benefit from men’s basketball and football.