Destroying Some People by Paying College Athletes

Destroying Some People

Reggie Bush says paying college athletes will result in destroying some people screams the rather misleading headline. The idea that athletes will soon be paid for their name, image, and likeness (NIL) is the basis for the article. While Bush’s statement is accurate, the gist of his point is about how young athletes coming into large amounts of money will attract those who hope to steal it.

The point here is the headline is completely misrepresenting what Bush is saying. The inference from the headline is Bush is against paying young college athletes based on the idea it will be destroying some people. In reality he is simply stating a fact. If young athletes, or any person, comes into a fairly large amount of money and they don’t have a solid financial background, unsavory people will attempt to steal that money and it has the potential to be damaging.

Now, I’d like to get a little deeper into an analysis of this simple fact. Many people, not Bush to be clear, will use this premise to argue against young athletes receiving money for their NIL. We are protecting this poor, helpless athlete from the terrible dangers of having her or his money stolen and life destroyed. Who is the we? That is the important question for me. The answer is simple enough, we isn’t the one being paid, it’s someone else on their self-righteous pedestal. That is really all you need to know.

The person to be paid needs to be protected by not paying them. We’ll take care of you because there is danger in being wealthy. You’re just not old enough, wise enough, careful enough, wary enough so we’ll watch out for you. This is the paternalistic nonsense that both politicians and those who want to control our lives spout almost continuously. We know what is better for you than you do yourself.

The danger lies in the fact they are sometimes quite correct. This destroying some people by the sudden accumulation of wealth is no idle fantasy. It happens. There are several options here and if you read Bush’s comments in full, he goes into them with great clarity.

His main suggestion is that young athletes be given a solid financial foundation from which they will be able to properly manage their newfound wealth. This is, without question, the best course of action. Another option is to simply give them the money and some percentage will fall victim to rogues. The final option is to tell them they just are not capable of managing the money and therefore you are doing them a favor by prohibiting them from having it.

When you examine these three options with a clear mind, it is obvious the third choice, withholding the money, is far and away the must unethical and disgusting. The terrible part is this is exactly what we’ve been doing for the last who knows how many years. Even worse, I’m sure you can find any number of people who will still argue it right now and they’ll think Bush was doing the same. He wasn’t.

Let people make their own mistakes while giving them as many tools as you can to make good decisions. This is the only correct answer.

Tom Liberman

NCAA Provides Riches for Almost Everyone

Pay to PlayMy blog yesterday was about how much money those associated with the NCAA earn. Almost everyone associated with the NCAA, that is. The employees of the NCAA make a good deal of money with the president getting about a $1.6 million annual salary. The University Presidents are basically fund-raisers and sports teams are their main sales pitch.

Game-day announcers make very nice money. Coaches make big money. Assistant coaches make good money. Sports radio personalities make money. Stadium owners make money on ticket sales. Broadcasters earn money in advertising revenue. Advertisers earn money in increased sales. Sports paraphernalia stores sell jerseys. Video game manufacturers make money. Stadium vendors earn money. Construction companies build stadiums and make money. Referees make money. I’m sure you can think of a few more people who benefit either directly or peripherally from college sports.

The people who don’t make money are the student-athletes. They get a scholarship. The perceived value of the scholarship is the cost of a year’s education but this is also false. The scholarships don’t cost the university anything, they gain the university millions of dollars. The money the athletes generate pays for the scholarships many times over. The cost non-athletes pay in tuition is higher in part to cover the scholarship of athletes. Still, there is value in a college education for an athlete although many of them would have gone to college anyway if the athletic scholarship was not available.

There are many reasonable arguments why opening college athletes to direct pay in the form of professional sports is not the best idea. The open competition would create an unsavory atmosphere. College coaches would be bidding for the services of their players and something akin to a draft would be required eventually. That or splitting college athletics into pay and no-pay divisions. The student-athletes would be just athletes with no pretense at going to school. Without  scholarships the athletes for sports other than basketball and football would vanish.

There are a number of proposed methods of paying the players for their services and avoiding these dangers. A system like minor league baseball is one idea. A lump sum payment at the start of their college career is another idea.

I think something akin to a 401(k) is the best solution. Money is put into a fund for each year the student stays in the system. This money is untouchable until the student finishes their eligibility or leaves school. Students in the sports that generate the most money, men’s football and men’s basketball, would be slotted for higher payments while less financially lucrative sports would get smaller amounts or simply the scholarship they currently receive.

The money allotted could be drawn from both the money raised by the school and by the NCAA as a whole. Television contracts, jersey endorsements, ticket sales, etc. I think it would be best if the money was the same for all schools in the same division and sport. Thus Division I men’s basketball players would be slotted a certain amount. This avoids an imbalance where higher paying schools attract better recruits.

A percentage of this money from the NCAA and the schools would be lumped into a fund and divided by the number of players in that sport, with Division I men basketball and football players getting the lion’s share. As an example, there are 13 men on each of the 340 Division I basketball schools giving us a total of 4,420 players. Let’s say we put away $50 million for the players. That’s about $11,000 or so for each player for each year in the league. It’s not a massive amount but it’s not horrible and it’s better than nothing. Personally I think the $50 million is a very low figure.

I think it likely that we would have to redefine the Divisions based on revenue raised. Something akin to the European soccer relegation rules where if a team doesn’t make enough in television revenue and ticket sales they are reduced to the next lowest division. Schools that had no interest in participating in such a scheme, such as the Ivy League, could opt-out in a non-payment division.

It’s not a perfect scheme and there are pitfalls that I’m sure my readers can find but I think it is far more equitable than the current shameful system.

What do you think? Comment away!

Tom Liberman
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