Taylor Branch and John Lombardi debated the NCAA’s amateurism standard and it was kind of a mess.
I confess that I find Branch, just like I do anybody who likens the elite college athlete’s situation to that of plantation life, a little overwrought on the subject. But this analogy he strikes falls flat.
“Students have no stake in their own enterprise, they have no voice, they can’t vote,” he told the crowd of a few dozen people gathered in a conference room a mile or so from the White House. More importantly, he argued, elite players deserve to be compensated for their 40 to 60 hours a week of unpaid labor.
“Imagine telling a student they couldn’t start a small business to pay their way through college. Or they can’t start Facebook,” he said. “We would never dream of applying the same rules to those students.”
College football amateurism isn’t about kids being prevented from becoming entrepreneurs – at least not in the context of what Branch is talking about, which is being compensated for their labors. Now if he were applying this to the NCAA’s refusal to let student-athletes profit from the use of their names while allowing schools to do just that, he’d have something.
Lombardi was hardly better, even though he was attempting to make a point I agree with.
Lombardi doesn’t entirely tow the NCAA line. For example, he thinks athletes should be allowed to go pro whenever they want. “Why restrict it, why slow it down?” he asked. “Why is it our business to interfere in that business? Explore and go out and be the best you can be.”
True, athletes should be allowed to turn pro at their own choosing, but that’s not the NCAA’s fault, as Lombardi seems to recognize on second thought.
“I’d be all for making a minor league in football and sending [athletes] all over there, but football’s not interested in that,” he said.
I assume when he says “football” he means the NFL. And he’s right, of course. The pros have it good – no development costs, no marketing costs and seemingly no blame for the consequences of restricting player access. Would that the Taylor Branches of the world yelled about that now and then.
But it would also be nice if the John Lombardis would qualify comments like “It’s true it’s a big struggle to maintain amateurism because everybody wants to make a buck off these big-time student-athletes…” by noting that the only ones expressly forbidden from acting upon that are the big-time student athletes themselves, pursuant to NCAA guidelines.
22 responses to ““Most students in my classes would love to have that deal.””
You don’t “tow” lines, you “toe” lines.
And equally confused: “road to hoe” it’s “row to hoe”. You would think Southerners would always get that right.
“More importantly, he argued, elite players deserve to be compensated for their 40 to 60 hours a week of unpaid labor. ” So it’s like that? And the less
than elite players not so much. Is he just out of touch with what college can be or has it been so long he has forgotten? My eldest as an undergrad was lucky enough to land a research gig at the vet school. He found himself being mentored by a great professor and garnered a stipend to boot. When the stipend ran out there was still more work to complete so he volunteered and is still there. He puts in about 35 hours a week. Lab experiments often run into the weekends. When I asked him if he wasn’t burning the candle at both ends and not getting paid he responded with ” If the med school deal doesn’t pan out this go around at least I’ve got something I’m familiar with moving toward grad school.” Good strategy. Ya think he might have pieced it together while engaging in all that unpaid labor. Is it a stretch to look at his professor as a “coach” engaging in “player development” and that this players goal is med school (NFL) and if he doesn’t get there he isn’t leaving the “program” unprepared.
I have always felt it is logical to equate required time for football practice,games, meetings, and some prep time to the efforts of those who work in the cafeteria, library, and administration buildings. Pay them the minimum wage as their efforts add to the success of the university. I wouldn’t buy the 40-60 hours a week number, and I would limit it to scholarship athletes in revenue generating sports only.
I think they are limited to 20 hours a week.
Fair enough, pay at that scale for 20 hours is enough for gas money, pizza, movies, etc. and I think that is far enough to take it. I don’t believe in players getting royalties for jerseys, or a share of the “gate”. Since many don’t have spending money, and they don’t have time for another PT job, recognizing their efforts as a job seems only fair.
Correction….NFL doesn’t restrict the access. The NFL and the NFLPA collectively restrict access. If the NFL unilaterally restricted access, they would be in violation of anti-trust law….
Funny that despite the grumblings about age requirements, once college athletes become professional athletes, they aren’t that concerned about opening the door to younger players.
Unions collectively bargain workplace conditions of employment all the time in this country and those tend to fall under the statutory or non-statutory exemption to antitrust law….which is why the O’Bannon case is so fascinating. You have pretty clear unilateral conditions being placed upon college athletes…there are counterarguments there for the NCAA, but they seem to get tougher and tougher the more the NCAA proftis.
The O’Bannon case has a chance to completely change college athletics…be careful what you wish for if you are a fan.
I know I sound like a broken record on this subject, but the NCAA is the only major athletic institution that still clings to the elitist notion of amateurism. Everyone else that competes on a world-class level, including the Olympics, have abandoned it. The foundation principle of amateurism is flawed in an era where the demands and risk placed on the athletes to prepare themselves for competition far outweigh the benefits/rewards that they receive.
That’s true, but the “flaw” is a “feature” for greedy athletic directors.
Most of the arcane rules are designed to punish the student-athlete for the actions of boosters. If a star athlete opens a legitimate business selling widgets, how can the NCAA prevent boosters from buying millions if at Oklahoma, while they may only buy dozens if at Texas State? It’s sad that if you perceive the S-A’s are being victimized, it’s mostly due to the (potential and real) actions of the adults surrounding them. All in the name of winning vicariously through the efforts of these kids. I don’t necessarily defend the NCAA, but I surely have no idea of how this can be managed fairly.
No that is not true. The student athlete has the opportunity to accept what the booster is providing or not. So don’t blame the booster. I will agree that the booster contributes to the problem but the student is ultimately responsible for his actions since he is the one under the rules.
It amazes me that people talk about the student athlete like they get no perks. I wish I got swag when I went to bowl game, I am usually out $500.00 to $1000.00. I wish I got to live in the student athlete dorms and have their living arrangements. I used to just live in a 3 bedroom house, shared with 4 other students. That house should have been condemned. I wish I got the meals they got. I usually at Ramen two to three times a day. I wish I got the attention of a mentor/coach to help me through life. But no all I got was an adviser that had no desire to do anything other than let me me know I was not taking enough credits. I wish I had a tutor for my classes. I wish I had access to a physical trainer that would push me and train me on how to work out properly. I wish that I had access to the media, ex-players, a camaraderie that would help me when I was down on my luck. The wish list can continue if you like.
Please don’t play the victim card when talking about Student-Athletes. Every student other than those with affluence, whether by themselves or parents, struggle with money, time, and the right thing to do. The student athlete has been given a chance at a future in once capacity or another with beaucomp benefits. They are not victims. We are all governed by rules and some may be more strict than others but that is life. Fairness is not built into the system; either you make or you don’t.
I get that people are trying to change the rules but what is the motivation for doing so. Is it to make money? Is it to make the playing field level? Is it for the improvement of the student-athlete in being a student and athlete? I am not so sure that it is not just all about the money. It seems that most of these arguments are based upon the idea that because there is a cookie jar then the student-athlete needs to get his hand in there too.
“It seems that most of these arguments are based upon the idea that because there is a cookie jar then the student-athlete needs to get his hand in there too.”
No…the argument is that the student athlete are the ones baking the cookies.
It’s like the story of the little Red Hen except instead of telling the lazy pig, goose, and fox to shove off, the Red Hen has contracted away all of her rights to eat the bread she made and she has to watch them pig out on the bread she made.
By the way, no one is saying they don’t get perks…but when you follow that up with “I pay $1000 to watch them play”, you completely undercut your whining about fairness. That’s the point…no one is paying you $1,000 to watch you eat raman noodles.
I think it is pretty cut and dried…athletic departments have used the tier 1 sports to fund a lot of good things for many, many, many student athletes. While not being fair to the tier 1 student athlete, most have been able to justify it because of the benefits to other students and the university’s mission. However…free market forces have steadily revealed that there is lots of $$ to be made. Lots. And the altruistic argument for supporting other student athletes and the university goes away when the majority of the money being made is going to 3rd parties like the NCAA, EA Sports, etc. etc. It’s like a charity that spends little of its money on charitable work.
I do enjoy what you write and you write so much better than I so pardon my attempts at writing here. One element you neglect is the infrastructure in place and who funded it. In your analogy have you given consideration to UGA’s support with regard to the seed, the fields that grew that grain, the water, fertilizer, ovens electricity….. you see where I am going? in the “The Little Red Hen finds a grain of wheat, and asks for help from the other farmyard animals to plant it. However, no animal will volunteer to help her.
At each further stage (harvest, threshing, milling the wheat into flour, and baking the flour into bread), the hen again asks for help from the other animals, but again she gets no assistance.” That’s what the University does….. all that work. Thats before the players use the UGa ovens and electricity and produce some bread. INFRASTRUCTURE costs money. ROI.
I wonder if in ancient Rome there were similar debates about how the gladiators in the Coliseum were being treated? “They get free food and a roof over their head, and if they managed to kill that lion they get to go free! Wish I were so lucky!”
“Don’t blame a booster” for knowingly and purposefully violating the rules? Surely you don’t mean that unless it applies to Auburn.
Now, I’m not sure why you personalized your experience at college in this discussion. You wished for a lot of things in your college experience similar to a S-A. Scholarships, grants-in-aid, internships, etc were all available to you if you put in the effort. Student housing, meal plans, guidance, tutoring, facilities to train the mind and body are all available at UGA. You had nothing to “wish” for…it was all there. And if you scrapped every last dime, worked summers, studied hard but just couldn’t get better than passing grades to earn a “free ride”, then good for you too for persevering. You made a choice to attend UGA when less expensive options were available to you.
None of which has anything to do with the schools, conferences, and NCAA making millions in a new era of marketing rights based on the individual performance and likenesses of certain athletes and not permitting those same athletes to do the same thing. If the bookstore can make millions selling #8 jerseys, then AJ MAYBE should be able to sell his bowl jersey for $1000 and not be suspended 4 games.
Wishful, I don’t think anyone is saying the athletes on scholarship are to be pitied. My feelings is they are required to spend so much time on “their job” that there is no way they have the opportunity to earn spending money like other students do, including academic scholarship students. With many coming from a background where spending money cannot be provided, we are setting them up to hang around with people who are from their old background, also lacking money, and the potential to do the wrong thing. They just cannot be like the other people in their new environment and that invites trouble.
Since there is positive cash flow to the school from their efforts, why not treat it like a PT job and share a little of the profits, even to the small level I suggested: minimum wage for the 20 hours others can receive. It won’t stop all the problems, but it may reduce them enough to make things better.
Go back read about the concept of amateurism, where it started and the roots behind the movement. Then take a gander at all of the sporting organizations that have abandoned the pretense of amateurism at the highest level.
Go read about Billy Gillespie and Texas Tech basketball. Google Rich Rodriguez and his time at WVU and Michigan. Remember Steve Spurrier and Doug Johnson? As the flow of money has increased in college sports, coaches (and to a certain extent fans) expect more commitment from their athletes. They have to devote more time to work out on their own, organize their own off-season practices, watch film, etc.
Given the time commitment, media scrutiny and higher risk of catastrophic injury than the average student, the reward of the scholarship is probably a good deal but it is not a market level deal and certainly pales in comparison to the amount of money flowing into the NCAA, it member institutions, coaches, media, sponsors and licensees.
When EA Sports starts making an NCAA Biology 2013 video game which features the likenesses of all of the Biology students at Division 1-A schools and it requires the students to relinquish any of their economic rights to their likeness forever while the game goes on to make millions of dollars for EA, the NCAA, and the schools, perhaps you will feel differently?
According to Obama he cannot start his own business………… the government does that.
Major graduate research universities cannot operate without graduate students – who, pound for pound, work longer hours for far less compensation than the athletes. And anyone who has ever looked at research revenue relative to athletic revenue, at least at the AAU institutions, understands just how significant the research dollars are compared to athletic dollars. Even the non-research institutions rely on graduate students to do professor-level instruction at minimum wage in order to make ends meet.
But no one roots for grad students, and their heterogeneous ethnic diversity makes slavery and plantation metaphors ring hollow.
I think football players get one hell of a deal – assuming the school delivers on its promise to educate, which is another (albeit related) argument.
I worked as a Grad Assistant and you know what I received in addition to tuition relief? An actual paycheck. Yes grad assistants work long hours for very little pay on per hour basis and in theory they give up some of their intellectual property rights for the research they produce, but most grad assistants are paid unlike collegiate athletes.
Oh yeah, grad assistants do not have to deal with being 18-22 year olds who live a fishbowl lifestyle where every action, mistake, or misstep can garner commentary from print reporters and columnists, tv and radio hosts, bloggers and message board commenters. Grad assistants do not have to worry that any extra income they may earn for selling their own possessions or accepting the generosity of a free meal or gift from someone might result in an investigation of their personal finances by governing body that can determine that the extra benefit will prevent them from doing research for a few weeks.
The fact of the matter is the AMATEUR system is antiquated. It is elitist. It was rooted in a racist/socio-economic class system of the Victorian Age and the NCAA is the only high-level major sporting organization in the world who requires amateurism in order to compete. Most of the NCAA scandals over the last 100-120 years have in some way been related to the concept of amateurism.
Will paying athletes end the corruption? No, there is too much money involved, but with a wage scale/bonuses etc in place – you would eliminate a great deal of the under the table stuff.