I was going to make this the subject of an Envy and Jealousy post, but it’s so damned good on the merits that it deserves to be taken for what it says even more than how it’s written.
Start with this:
Apologists for the NCAA cartel tend to assume that they’re advocating for athletes being treated like other students. But this is completely untrue. What they’re defending is in fact a set of unique and extraordinary burdens being placed on athletes. Virtually no other students are banned from receiving compensation from voluntary third parties, and this is because it won’t make a lick of sense. Why on earth shouldn’t a music student be able to take a paying gig or a journalism student sell a story? Similarly, we don’t claim that scholarship students working as RAs or in the bookstore can’t be compensated, or that staff and faculty who get tuition vouchers for family members don’t need to be additionally compensated for their work. These rules aren’t about ensuring that athletes are “really” students or whatever; they’re about attempting to preserve competitive balance. And this isn’t a good reason to allow athletes to be exploited, even before we get to the fact that the NCAA doesn’t have anything remotely resembling competitive balance even with these rules.
If anything, the NCAA’s amateurism protocol exacerbates that. The money that rolls in to the P5 schools is spent on coaches and facilities in a way that mid-major schools can’t match. If the money flow were spent directly on student-athlete compensation, at least some mid-major programs might stand a better chance of attracting good athletes – no, they couldn’t match the depth of an SEC program, for instance, but they could offer a viable option for kids who might otherwise be facing a more marginal career at an SEC program.
And that’s why Dennis Dodd’s cheerleading for the schools’ pending burst of generosity (“The average oboe player on a music scholarship doesn’t have a $60,000 insurance premium available through the NCAA Student Assistance Fund. Jameis Winston did.”) misses the mark. That oboe player isn’t prevented from getting paid by third parties. Winston was. And like it or not, what Winston could have gotten for himself in an open marketplace exceeds that $60,000 premium payment by a helluva lot.
Then there’s this rebuttal to Morgan Burke’s “What’s changed?” bullshit:
Finally, defenses of the NCAA tend to be rife with a rhetorical technique we’ve discussed recently: someone with an indefensible position changing the subject to an allegedly superior alternative that isn’t actually on offer. The obvious problem for NCAA apologists that Paul’s post raises is why athletes should be forbidden cash compensation — not only by universities but by third parties — because of the Noble Ideals of Amateurism and the Sanctity of the Groves of Academe while everybody else involved with the NCAA is allowed to fill up wheelbarrows full of cash and deposit them in university-provided cars and drive off to get a university-provided oil change. One answer is to say that all of the other NCAA-related profit-taking should be stopped. The obvious problem is that it’s not going to be, and in the meantime we have to treat athletes based on the system as it is. If coaches start getting paid like associate professors of English and the NCAA gives its games to networks for free while banning advertising and ticket prices are capped at $10, we can talk about whether scholarships are adequate compensation. (We still don’t need to talk about bans on third party compensation, because these are just terrible policy under any possible system of college athletics.) Until then, players should not be forbidden from getting any compensation they’re able to negotiate.
Of course, first they have to be allowed to negotiate, but put that aside. The players are treated like amateurs, but they’re the only parties in the game that are. And with each passing day, it’s harder and harder to see the justification for that.
Not that the schools won’t try. As Burke himself can attest, letting the players have more of the revenue stream they help generate is something of a zero-sum game. And schools would rather not slice that pie up any more than they have to.
UPDATE: Andy Schwarz has a little more on the Purdue “expense” transfer.