John Steigerwald: Scholarships, education should be payment enough
Two down, 48 to go.
California’s state government decided on Monday that it would be a good idea to stick its nose into a mutual agreement between college athletes and the NCAA.
You know, the one in which people between the ages of 18 and 22, in many cases with the full support of their parents, sign up to play a sport in college in return for $30,000 to $50,000 or more worth of higher learning.
It’s called the Fair Pay to Play Act, and it would outlaw the NCAA’s rules preventing players from earning money for their image and likeness.
On Tuesday, two Pennsylvania state representatives said they would be introducing a bill by the same name for Pennsylvania.
You’re supposed to feel sorry for kids who earn tens of thousands of dollars a year worth of tuition, room and board for playing major college football or basketball because of all the money they’re not allowed to make?
Democratic State Rep. Dan Miller agreed with California when he told KDKA-TV, “Athletes are forced to give up their rights and economic freedom while the colleges make hundreds of millions of dollars off their talent and likeness. This bill would help to balance the scales by allowing them to sign endorsements, earn compensation and hire agents to represent their interests in exchange for the work they do and the benefit provided to the college.”
Forget the state governments. Get the feds involved. That sounds a lot like slavery.
Have you ever heard of anybody being forced to play any sport for any college?
Here’s what Democratic State Rep. Ed Gainey said, “Our student-athletes give their blood, sweat and tears to a sport they love, while colleges, universities and corporations reap the financial benefits of their work. The chances of a professional contract and thus a payout for all of their hard work and pain are tiny, and we owe it to them to level the playing field.”
Actually, the chances of most college football and basketball players turning pro are minuscule. That’s why it’s a pretty good deal for them to be able to get a college degree worth a quarter of a million dollars. It might help them get a job totally unrelated to their athletic abilities.
The NCAA, of course, deserves no sympathy because major college football and basketball have turned into cesspools of academic fraud and corruption in the last 40 or 50 years, but how do the NFL and NBA get off so easy in the debate over whether college players should be paid?
Sidney Crosby got paid when he was 19 because the NHL, unlike the NFL and the NBA, doesn’t have a rule to prevent 19-year olds from playing.
The NCAA’s response to the California law was that it, “Agrees changes are needed to continue to support student- athletes, but improvement needs to happen on a national level through the NCAA rules making process.”
Anybody who actually knows anything about major college football and basketball knows it has to be controlled on a national level in order to maintain some level of competitive balance.
Now UCLA, Stanford and USC can tell recruits they’ll have the pick of any car they want just for showing up at the dealership and signing a few autographs, or cutting a commercial showing them driving their favorite car.
It will be a mess.
As Mike Decourcy of sportingnews.com pointed out, the NCAA already has a plan to begin paying athletes a “full cost of attendance” stipend worth roughly $3,000-$6,000 per year, but is waiting for pending litigation before putting it in place.
It may surprise a lot of people to hear that college football existed before the NFL and, while there has always been cheating in the competition for players, it was supposed to be real college students playing football. And the scholarship was well worth the work.
Now, too many kids — many of them nowhere near qualified to do college work — are exploited by coaches and athletic directors feeding their fantasies about playing in the NFL, when their chances are slim and none.
If government wants to get involved, it should be the federal government reevaluating the benefits of allowing the NFL and NBA to operate as monopolies that refuse to develop their own farm systems like Major League Baseball and the NHL.
Or, if kids want to be paid for their athletic ability without having to sit in a classroom, maybe they should use their athletic ability to play baseball or hockey.
John Steigerwald is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.