CounterPoint: NCAA Players Should Not Get Paid

Yesterday afternoon, a post went up by one of our writers about why NCAA athletes should get paid.  The angle she took, one that I can hardly disagree with, is that the NCAA is a flawed organization that profits off its players in a way that all but guarantees its board of directors a spot in hell.  Do I like the NCAA? Not really. I don’t think they do a good job of accommodating basic fan desires, like I don’t know, a college football playoff? Wait, they took care of that? Whatever it’s been over a decade since the BCS system was started and I still haven’t forgotten how miserable it was watching UConn in the Fiesta Bowl in 2011, or Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl in 2008 (Both lost by more than 20).

The NCAA has done plenty more than implement a really, really, I mean REALLY backwards system of postseason football, like that time they suspended two Indiana basketball players for a series of donations made before the players were even born. That’s right. Mark Adams, an AAU coach in Indianapolis, also runs a nonprofit organization  that helps aspiring athletes from foreign countries. His program supported Sudanese big man Peter Jurkin and Colombian forward Hanner Mosquera-Perea transition to the United States for high school basketball in hopes of achieving an athletic scholarship someday.

A year after the two had committed to play ball at now in-state Indiana University, it was found that between the years of 1986-1992 (seriously, I wasn’t kidding..before they were even born) made a series of donations that accumulated $185.  I wish I was kidding about that too, but no, the two players were suspended for nine games because completely unbeknownst to their pre-fetal selves their former high school coach gave enough donations to cover CEO Mark Emmert’s speeding ticket on his way to the Poinsettia Bowl…or the Idaho Potato Bowl….or the Little Caesars’ Pizza Bowl…or the other really poorly named bowl game he was going to.

But despite all that (mind you I only named two examples) I do agree with these people about one thing: college athletes should not get paid. In this progressive day and age, I’m probably the anomaly here.  Somewhere someone is reading this saying, they do the same things professionals do, and those guys make millions. My mid-article pit stop reaction is to point out there’s a reason there are no more than 32 teams in either of the Big Four leagues, and not everyone who played in college makes it big.

More than that, let’s be wary of the message we’re sending if we try and say that college athletes SHOULD get paid.

We’re saying that free room and board in the nicest dorms at school isn’t good enough. That being the big man on campus for four years isn’t good enough (or maybe just one year thanks to the equally dumb one-and-done rule that ruined college basketball). That having access to state-of-the-art facilities and athletic trainers isn’t good enough. That being given tutoring services tailored to each player’s needs isn’t good enough.  That getting to forgo tuition payment, and skip out on what could be a $20,000-$60,000 expense annually, ISN’T good enough.

Which one are we trying to convey? I hope it’s the message that puts academic integrity and the value of a college degree first. When we let these players get driven by the materials, the spotlight, and we feed their egos, things like Johnny Football happen.

I mean seriously, how ignorant do you have to be to think that you’d be able to get away with that ^? You play college football in Texas dude people in Maine have better common sense.

And sure, the NCAA makes a killing off of bowl games. What does that matter? Don’t forget that the schools see a big chunk of those payouts, and that the people buying the tickets are the ones rooting for their alma maters. Same thing goes for the jerseys they are selling. Besides, once a player graduates, if his jersey isn’t in the rafters no one is going to remember who wore number 8 on your 2009 edition of your favorite school’s away jersey. They’ll either associate it with whoever wears that number currently, or bypass it altogether.

The snake in the boot here, is that while I believe no form of formal compensation should be made by the NCAA to its players beyond a free education — try convincing my parents who sent me out of state for just two years that the guy who can dribble a basketball better than me deserves more than this — from now until the end of eternity there will be big-time boosters at big-time schools giving under the table deals to make the player in your favorite hoopmixtape go to their school.

And it’s a shame, because those scandals have had terrible implications on their universities.

One example led to the imprisonment of Nevin Shapiro, a University of Miami booster who between the years 2002-2010 is said to have provided impermissible benefits to a bevy of Hurricane football players, some of whom became NFL standouts: Jon Beason, Devin Hester, Sean Taylor, Vince Wilfork, Antrel Rolle, Willis McGahee to name a few. The school was handed a three year probationary period, docked three scholarships a year for the duration of said probation, and former coach Frank Haith was suspended five games.

College football fans in the South will never forget how the NCAA derailed the “Pony Express,” when Southern Methodist was given what’s called the “death penalty” and banned from play for the entire 1986 season. Their players had received thousands of dollars in a slush fund that was orchestrated in cohorts with the university and the Texas governor himself, and their program never came close to returning to the national stature that UT-Austin, Baylor, TCU and Texas A&M now enjoy.

And national fans will never forget how Reggie Bush electrified his way to the Heisman trophy, yet looking back will say that Vince Young got robbed all because Bush’ parents were caught receiving thousands of dollars by an agent. Coach Pete Carroll bolted for the NFL, and USC was slammed with a two year postseason ban and stripped of 30 scholarships.

However horrific and shameful those incidents may be, those are not the fault of the NCAA and the NCAA never looks bad when it brings the hammer down on schools for stunts like these. Now it’s easy to say they should nip that in the bud, but how would you like them to do so? Even if the NCAA mandated player compensation, I imagine it would be equal for each player on each team per sport and not merit-based, in which case you’d have an awfully hard time convincing me that those boosters still aren’t going to play a role in where these kids end up.

At that point we’ll have wasted our time trying to stop a problem that has no solution and paid players that are getting more than any 18 year old in the world deserves in the first place. I am not a fan of the NCAA and the way they run their show, but I am a large proponent of calling a full academic scholarship MORE than enough compensation for student-athletes who are given every scholastic advantage unavailable to the casual student from the moment they set foot on campus to the moment they get caught trading their memorabilia for tattoos.

John Mackey Award Watch List Released 2014: