Kids, you never had it so good.

This Doug Gottlieb piece on Manziel and why student-athletes should appreciate what they’ve been given is making the rounds and getting plenty of favorable nods.  Me, I’m kinda shaking my head over it.  I don’t doubt the sincerity behind what was written (and it sounds like Gottlieb’s got some personal demons he’s still trying to exorcise, which may explain some of that), but it’s hard to swallow this as some sort of fair deal:

OK, here’s the part of your rights you sign away when you accept the athletic scholarship, which remember, entitles you to all of the above. If you’re a star, we are going to sell you. We’ll use your likeness in promotional materials, we’ll use your talents to help sell season tickets and merchandise, and we’ll sell you to recruit more athletes, and more students, to come to our campus. If you’ve made it big, we’ll continue to do that after you leave.

Terms are thrown around like ‘exploitation’ and ‘indentured servitude,’ neither of which reflect the reality of what takes place, which is the marketing of a young men’s athletic skills in exchange for training, promotion, competition and evaluation in their chosen sport, in addition to the best education the athlete chooses to receive from a university. You want exploitation? Try high-achieving students who earned their way into school, perform at high levels academically, graduate and achieve in the workforce, then are asked to join the alumni association and donate money in addition to whatever student loans they’re attempting to repay. In this way, schools exploit all their students. If anything, athletes get off easy, as athletes can exploit (the action of benefitting from resources) schools, more often than vice versa.

First off,  ‘exploitation’ and ‘indentured servitude’ are not equivalent terms and to suggest they are undermines the argument.  Nobody is putting a gun to the head of a kid and parent and forcing them to sign an agreement with a school. But exploitation?  That’s a different story.  A story that starts with teenagers who are not permitted to seek representation and professional advice before entering into the most significant contractual relationship of their lives.  Teenagers, moreover, who, because of the reality of the sports world, typically don’t have any other alternatives to marketing their skills than inside the NCAA system.

And that whole first paragraph is bullshit in the sense that it’s being pitched as part of the deal.  Kids aren’t told, “hey, we’re going to market you so we can get some of our money back.”  They’re told they’re being held to some arcane notion of amateurism that is supposed to keep college athletics pure and holy.  Except for coaches, I guess.

Yes, you may also help the head coach of the program you signed on with make millions of dollars. But let’s not lose sight of this: show me a coach making millions of dollars, and I’ll show you someone who worked for years, usually decades, for that privilege. Coaches all have their degrees, and have worked their way up through the ranks of the profession just like hard-working people do in every profession. They have earned the right to be fully-vested partners in the firm. They have hired you, essentially, as an intern who gets paid in college credits and other amazing, non-monetary benefits as an important part of a lucrative business. They do not owe you a piece of their salary.

Nor do they owe you any sympathy if you decide you no longer want to play for their program and wish to go somewhere else.  Or if they decide they’d rather coach some other place where the grass is greener.

And that’s the whole problem here.  Schools can jump conferences for money. Conferences can change configurations for money.  Coaches can leave for money, or leverage their positions for money.  None of that makes anyone even blink anymore.  But a kid – even one as obnoxious as Manziel is portrayed to be – asks $25 for an autograph or gets $1000 for a signed jersey and he’s a spoiled, ungrateful asshole who, as Gottlieb puts it, “put the rest of his teammates, his coaches, his family and everyone who ever believed in him at risk”.  Sorry, but that ain’t fair.  Even if he is asked to join the alumni association one day.


Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness

10 responses to “Kids, you never had it so good.

  1. DawgPhan

    seems like most of the hand wringing could be solved on the school’s side just offering some classes, seminars, trainings, or whatever on the rights that a student athlete does and doesn’t have prior to signing up for a scholarship.

    Players dont have to play college ball, but they should know what they are getting into when they do.


  2. Monday Night Frotteur

    1) Gottlieb asserts that a major part of the value players receive in exchange for their services is admission into universities that they wouldn’t be admitted to based on their academic credentials. First of all, those kids are very unlikely to be able to utilize the value of the educational product. Second, that shows what a farce “student athlete” faux amateurism is and just how little in common revenue athletes have with the student body in general.

    2) Gottlieb doesn’t understand economics. Even if you think that the GIA scholarship is valuable, players who would receive more in a free market without the artificial restraint (i.e. the rule limiting compensation to GIA scholarships and boycotting programs who violate that rule) are being exploited. Period, end of story.

    3) If Gottlieb believes that a GIA scholarship is the entire extent of players’ market value, then there’s no need to ban extra compensation. We can infer exploitation from the existence of the rule itself.

    4) What in the name of Herschel does he mean with this?

    You want exploitation? Try high-achieving students who earned their way into school, perform at high levels academically, graduate and achieve in the workforce, then are asked to join the alumni association and donate money in addition to whatever student loans they’re attempting to repay. In this way, schools exploit all their students.

    That’s not exploitation. That’s not anything.


    • Cosmic Dawg

      Great post. The simple fact that the govt grants certain advantages / monopolies to pro sports and universities excludes players from taking their talents to competing leagues, as a starter. Where there are rules and laws, there is constraint of a desired behavior of some kind, you have to think…


  3. South FL Dawg

    Do people that write this stuff even know how much money is coming from college sports these days? Now let’s see, who would I rather get a bigger slice, Mark Emmert or the athletes? Gordon Gee and Michael Adams or the athletes? Damon Evans, Greg McGarity and company or the athletes? It isn’t just coaches; everybody has a hand out while the athletes are held to a version of amateurism that ironically isn’t even consistent with olympic (read “non-revenue”) sports. If it wasn’t for the double standard, the hypocrisy, and the arrogance, it would be hard to tell some people are human. But I don’t want to get started, ha.


  4. fatman48

    About Manziel, I am not a veterinarian, but I do know a horse’s ASS when I see one. The NCAA and college’s are using the “Do as I say,Not as I do” philosophy to rake in millions of dollars from student-athletes, even the NCAA was selling autographed Johnny Manziel jersey’s at web store, makes you wonder about that half game suspenion and we’ll drop the investigation. I’m just sayin’ …


  5. Scorpio Jones, III

    So….like, my new hat, the one that beat Carolina and made a mockery out of Hypeman Clowney, that new hat, with its G….that hat is a means of exploitation?

    Of course it is, is exploitation not at the very heart and soul of the new TV world of college football?…of course it is. And its always been at the heart of the matter, there’s just more money involved.

    It amuses me to read about the exploitation of athletes…hell I and my whole family has been exploited by UGA for decades…because we let them.

    At one point somebody in the Butts-Mehre building offered me a new hat…I didn’t take it because I didn’t trust it…came from the exploiters and all.

    Hell they don’t need to make an effort to exploit me…I flop over on my tired old back and give it up.


  6. 69Dawg

    The biggest hypocrisy in all of this is the schools. These bastions of higher education that don’t just take advantage of the student athletes but take advantage of the graduate students and others. The NCAA is just a tool for the college presidents to try and get some unified control over their work force. The problem is the members all try to take advantage of their own organization to get a greater amount of money. If a school wants to be free of this system just drop to Div III. No scholarships and not many rules because there is no need. The big conferences should just vote to either leave the NCAA all together or demand a separate division that is not subject to the veto of 75 have not’s. If the NCAA doesn’t agree just ask them how many people are going to tune in to March Madness if there are no big boy teams in the tourney. Threaten the NCAA were their money comes from and they will roll over like the 25 cent whore they are.


  7. James

    Thanks Senator.

    The “get our money back” part is actually way insaner than it even sounds. They set outrageous coaching and admin salaries within the department precisely because they are making so much in profit of this “bargain” that they are running out of places to stuff it. It’s pretty rich stuff to turn around and call that the actual burden of operation.

    It doesn’t cost $325k a year for a football trainer, that’s just what Alabama pays theirs because they can. Michigan’s didn’t have to pay their softball coach $200k a year because the professional women’s softball leagues bid up the price. Mark Emmert doesn’t make $1.7m a year because the NFL offered him $1.6m, and it’s unclear why he makes 70% more than the person who had the role in 2009….except it’s actually pretty obvious.


    • Patrick

      True…but most of those very high-paid positions go to…wait for it…former college athletes.
      People like Damon Evans, Bryan McClendon, Tony Ball, Mike Bobo, and Mark Richt have gotten very rich because they played college football and paid attention while they were there.

      A rising tide lifts all boats.

      The athletes should stop complaining, pay attention, enjoy the rising tide, and then go make $150k coaching running backs at Southern Miss….or $100k on local radio….or any of the gazillion other positions available in this country’s sports landscape.