I have to argue passionately and vigorously that paying college athletes would stop all the nonsense that is engulfing the college game. Tuition, room, board and books were compensation but not enough, especially for football and basketball student/athletes.
I’ve heard the arguments that if football and basketball players got paid, then every student/athlete should get paid. But to that retort I have to note that volleyball, baseball, softball, field hockey and swimming, just to name a few, do not bring in millions of dollars to their universities.
The main tenant in capitalism is that effort extended equates to dollars earned. Again after covering the Final Four in New Orleans, I saw firsthand the unbelievable amount of money changing hands and the noteworthy television presence that meant mega- dollars at an ungodly level.
What captured my attention in New Orleans was that for once a college coach spoke out about the players that are the linchpin behind one of America’s greatest sporting events – the Final Four.
Who in the heck has ever given the players the credit for this giant festive of basketball, university and civic pride? No one! The event has evolved to the point that the talking television heads on every channel and throughout the country are making millions off the presentation of the sport and the value of the basketball players that make it happen.
The Football Championship Series (FCS) is on the same level as the Final Four with its otherworldly payouts to teams and conferences that make it to the title games.
For once a big time, NCAA title winning coach, Kentucky’s John Calipari, has come forward about basketball and football student/athletes.
“One, we need to get the NCAA in the room, and say you give these kids the stipends they deserve,” Calipari said. “Two, the insurance that they have to pay for themselves, which can be upwards of $15,000 or $20,000 per year, they should be loaned the money, and then they have to repay it when they come out. The NCAA should pay that to encourage them to stay.
“The third thing is families, the NBA, and the NCAA should get together and have a loan program for those families. We’re only talking 30 kids (if you add football maybe another 100). We’re not talking 500 players. We’re talking 30 kids that would be eligible for that insurance. They should be able to have a loan. To what level, I don’t know.
“The last thing is the NBA. Billy Hunter (of the NBA Players Association) and I have talked about these. One, if a young man stays more than two years, his contract, his rookie contract, should be shorter. And if a young man graduates, his pay scale should be higher when he comes in.
“Now we encourage these young people. It’s about them. We tell them they should stay because of the integrity of our school. Unless you’re Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, you guys leave and go change the world. But you guys, you stay in school because it’s the integrity. It doesn’t make sense to me.
“My thing is these kids are chasing their dreams just like tennis players and golfers and geniuses and computer geeks and all the others. They’re chasing their dreams the same way. And what we’ve got to do is come together and say, how do we do right by these young people? How do we make sure?
“I think there’s some things we can do, and hopefully people will come together and say these are simple things that would encourage young people to stay in school.
“Let me say this. It’s like last year, Brandon Knight. Knight was a 4.0 student and had 60 college credits after one year. He transferred in 23 honors courses and he left with 60 college credits. That’s two years of work in one year. But he was the seventh pick of the NBA Draft. How could you tell him to stay? And Detroit, the Pistons, they love him. They want him to be what their whole organization is about.”
Amen, Coach Calipari! An honest and truthful coach for a change!
Leland Stein can be reached at email@example.com or at Twitter @lelandsteinIII.