Editorial: College athletes are pros
As the idea of college athletes getting paychecks on top of their scholarships gets kicked around in California and now in Pennsylvania, the attention tends to focus on the stars and the National College Athletic Association.
The NCAA, after all, makes the rules. The sports oversight organization that calls all the shots, it is simultaneously the team owner, a player and a referee in this game.
It also controls the box office, picking up tons of money marketing the sports that student athletes play. In March 2018, the NCAA’s reported earnings topped $1 billion. Not bad for a non-profit organization, but then most charities don’t have broadcast deals for football and basketball in markets from sea to shining sea.
At the same time, the NCAA says the kids playing the games that earn that money can’t get more than those scholarships, despite the fact that some superstars are pulling in the fans. And those students — especially the ones in non-marquee sports — have to fulfill class and training obligations that can prevent them from taking on a job to make ends meet. That’s ridiculous considering they already have what could be a well-paying job.
So the fact that some students would like a cut of that isn’t surprising. California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law Monday that would let student athletes earn money, make deals and hire agents. Pennsylvania state Reps. Dan Miller, D-Mt. Lebanon, and Ed Gainey, D-Lincoln-Lemington, say they plan to introduce a similar proposal.
That will no doubt be good for the students who can make the deals, but is it best for student athletes as a group?
Maybe instead of more money going into more pockets in college sports, we need more people remembering the student half of student athletics. Far more student athletes leave school without a pro career on the horizon than those who sign NFL or NBA contracts.
Students need to be protected from exploitation, whether by schools or the NCAA, and focus should remain on having marketable skills that don’t involve running fast or catching a ball. And if there is a shortfall between what a scholarship covers and a student’s living expenses, well, maybe that $1 billion NCAA revenue could help bridge the gap.