According to a report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, between 70 and 80 percent of college students are active in the labor market. Roughly 40 percent of undergraduates work at least 30 hours a week, while 25 percent of all students enrolled on a full-time basis also work full time. Some of those employees—a cohort that once included yours truly, who worked at the Georgetown bookstore—even get paid for campus jobs.
The NCAA’s member schools don’t prohibit any of those students from making money. Because that would be utterly ridiculous. Why, Grenardo asks, are athletes treated differently? Because they’re especially good at catching footballs?
During the O’Bannon trial, Stanford University athletic director and amateurism advocate Bernard Muir was questioned by players’ attorney Renae Steiner about computer-science students at his school earning income from software they developed in class, a pretty fair analogue for playing revenue sports. It did not go well:
Steiner: “Are you aware that some of those students at Stanford were making $3,000 a day on their apps?”
Muir: “[I] was not aware of that.”
Steiner: “And they were making more than the professor teaching them in that class?”
Muir: “Okay. I will take your word for it.”
Steiner: “Okay. Do you know if those students are no longer integrated into the academic community at Stanford?”
Muir: “I would assume that they are.”
“It’s crazy, the idea that if we put $20,000, $30,000, $40,000 into the pockets of these athletes who don’t have a lot of money, who knows what they will do with it,” Grenardo says. “Even at my law school, some of my students have better cars than me. Nobody says about kids who are affluent, ‘Oh my God, we need to rein this in.'”
Last year, Emmert took his employer’s logic to its dopiest possible conclusion and claimed that paying college athletes would make them no longer students at all, presumably because simultaneously (a) playing campus sports, (b) being paid for playing that sport, and (c) being a college student would require a heretofore unknown quantum state.
Push come to shove, and even the NCAA isn’t buying what Emmert’s shoveling.
Does the college sports establishment even believe its own malarkey? Not entirely. University of Notre Dame president John Jenkins told the New York Times that permitting player pay would be an “Armageddon” that “does some violence to [the] educational relationship” between athletes and their schools—but school athletic director Jack Swarbrick told VICE Sports at a campus sports reform meeting in Washington, D.C., that he doesn’t think there’s a link between amateurism and education. The NCAA touted education as its raison d’être in the O’Bannon case, but responded to McCants and Ramsay’s lawsuit over the North Carolina scandal by arguing in federal court that it has no legal duty to make sure said education is actually delivered.
“This is the underlying lie of the NCAA,” says Michael Hausfeld, the Washington, D.C.-based antitrust attorney who headed the O’Bannon case and is also the lead litigator on McCants and Ramsay’s suit. “Up until we filed the North Carolina case, you had the NCAA saying they are there for the welfare of athletes as students. Now they say they have nothing to do with that. You can’t be more of a hypocrite.”