6/11 Roundtable - Should Players Be Paid?
Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford
Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford
Posted Jun 11, 2009

Should college football players be paid? It's the Thursday topic in the CFN Daily Roundtable Discussion.

CFN Daily Roundtables

June 11

Should College Football Players Be Paid?

Over the next several weeks, as part of the CFN 2009 Preview, we'll examine some of the key questions going into the year with a daily discussion of the big topics.

Past Roundtables
June 11 Should college football players be paid?
June 10 Is the recruiting hype too much?
June 9 If you were starting an NFL team ...
June 8 Where would you take over as head coach?
June 5 Who does the least with the most?
June 4 Who does the most with the least?
June 3 The star players of September
June 2 The star teams of September
June 1 The coach you'd want for one game
May 28 Should the Big Ten expand, and if so, then what team should be added?
May 27 Should the Pac 10 expand? If so, then what two teams should be added?
May 26 Chizik, Kiffin or Mullen?
May 25 Heisman race sleepers 
May 22 2009's most interesting teams

May 21 Is Tebow the best QB ever?
May 20 When should preseason polls come out?
May 19 Does 2008 Utah have a beef?
May 18 No BCS, No Weis?

Pete Fiutak, CFN

Yes, I'm part of the problem. You can check me out at twitter.com/CFN_Fiu and find out future roundtable topics and other random musings.

Q: Should college football players be paid?

Do the coaches get paid? How about the announcers? The team doctors? The guy who sells hotdogs? The guy who sells the No. 15 jerseys? And please don't start writing your e-mail with the childish scholarship/stipend argument. The scholarships don't scratch the surface when it comes to what the marquee players are worth or the revenue the players generate for the schools.

There's a certain practical aspect to this question which is that they can't be paid. I'm all for equality, women's rights, blah, blah, blah, but Title IX sort of screws up the economics of college athletics. The reality is that universities don't need a women's golf team or a men's crew team, but if you start paying football players, who do serve a relatively useful function as a public relations arm of a school, you have to pay everyone and there's not enough money to make that happen. Making the situation even tougher to put a practical handle on is how you'd pay the football players.

Should Tebow get paid the same as a backup punter who might get to make one kick on Senior Day? How much would Sam Bradford be worth compared to the starting quarterback at Utah State? Fortunately, there's a very easy way to make it all work out where everyone wins.

As I've written many times before, let the players have agents, be able to do endorsement deals, and be able to get cars, gifts, money, or whatever boosters want to give them. If you think this is wrong in any way, then ask yourself why it's fine for a coach to get all those things and for players not to.

How would this affect the college football world? It would give everyone a reasonable shot to be good, because a school with a rich alumni base could find a way to make their team a power. Imagine what the Oklahoma State Cowboys, presented by T. Boone Pickens, or the Oregon Ducks, presented by Phil Knight, would be able to do if the players were getting dough from some goofy booster. And as I've also written many times before, there's nothing wrong with that other than what the NCAA thinks is right or wrong.

If you want college football to be an amateur sport, then let's make it one. Tickets for games are free, the coaches don't get paid, and bake sales are held to afford equipment and bus trips to go on road trips. But, of course, college football is a multi-billion dollar industry that obviously isn't going away any time soon so something has to be done.

No, the schools and universities shouldn't pay players, unless they want to. If some school wants to build up the national profile of the university and designates $1 million to go out and bring in the best players they can afford, then what's wrong with that? If Colt McCoy can do a Gatorade ad, what's wrong with that? If a player wants to get royalties for having his likeness being used to sell video games (which is finally, finally being challenged in court thanks to former Nebraska QB Sam Keller), then what's wrong with that?

For those of you who want to go on thinking the players get properly compensated by getting a full ride scholarship, one, you're wrong, it's not comparable relative to the money they generate, two, you don't know the dollars involved, and three, I'm for getting rid of them. Dump the athletic scholarships for all sports because they're not necessary if the players are able to use the free market system, you know, the American way, to make what they're worth. A player like Tebow would be able to make 20 times what a scholarship would be worth, while the third team offensive guard would be a real, live student-athlete. Of course, that would make too much sense and the NCAA certainly wouldn't want that.

Richard Cirminiello, CFN

Q: Should college football players be paid?

Absolutely, positively not.

I’ve never bought the argument that college athletes should be paid in the form of a salary or stipend, and I doubt I ever will. First off, student-athletes are amateurs, which, by its very definition, clashes with the concept of pay-for-play. It’s a model that’s worked for both sides for over a century, and will continue to work long after we’re gone.

To the proponents of paying student-athletes, don’t you believe they’re being compensated handsomely already? Have you checked the cost of a four-year education at a major institution lately? Compensation comes in many different forms, and getting free access to that diploma is the most valuable thing you can present to an 18-year-old. How about the meals that are paid? The trips? The transportation and lodging to special events, like media days? The access to first-class training and facilities? The apparel? It all adds up to a major windfall for the athlete that could reach $40-50,000 a year if mom and dad were dipping into their savings accounts. I certainly don’t begrudge the kids any of that, but now we want to tack a salary on top of that?

I’m all for capitalism and getting yours, but the current system benefits everyone, from the fans and the coaches to the players and their parents. And who picks up the tab for that additional university expense when 85 scholarship athletes begin getting paid each month? You bet, it’s the rest of us, with our mediocre children, who’ll be facing even more obscene tuition hikes

Matthew Zemek, CFN

Q: Should college football players be paid?

Of course, the howls of protest will emerge from certain well-meaning and understandably agitated corners: "What about female athletes? What about all student-athletes in smaller (non-revenue-producing) sports?" Those questions can't and shouldn't be repressed or shouted down; they're simply not the most salient queries that can be made.
In an ideal world, a truly just world, college sports would not be encased in a multi-billion-dollar "athletic industrial complex," with nuclear arms races for cash, facilities and recruits. Far too much money is devoted to collegiate sports at a time when large dollars--either spent on tickets or donated to programs (two processes/directions that are increasingly being blurred, as athletic programs employ ever more creative ways to generate fresh revenue streams)--could go to African poverty relief and enable skin-and-bones two-year-olds to actually have a chance at a half-decent life, instead of dying before their third birthday in the barrenness of a Sudan, a Liberia, or a Sierra Leone.
However, the sad but sobering fact of the matter is that college sports are a business, and won't cease to be anytime soon. Therefore, this being a "business" and not some innocent pursuit of leisurely extracurricular pleasure or "wholesome Saturday fun for the whole family," there is an urgent issue of socioeconomic justice that has to be tended to. Simply stated, that issue concerns the need to avoid building this billion-dollar sports empire on the backs of highly-sought football (and, while we're at it, basketball) players who disproportionately represent a low-to-moderate income African-American demographic.

Jon Miller, Publisher, HawkeyeNation.com

Q: Should college football players be paid?

This is a question on par with ‘should Pete Rose be in the Hall of Fame?’ or ‘Should there be a college football playoff?’;  you are guaranteed to get a wide variety of opinions and it’s always a guarantee to be a hot topic.

I recently interviewed 10 year NFL veteran receiver and return man Tim Dwight, and I asked him this question in the face of Sam Keller’s lawsuit against EA Sports and the NCAA.  The gist of Dwight’s answer was that no, they receive a full ride scholarship to play football and there are other benefits that go along with that.  I have always felt the same way.  I am 38 and only just recently finished paying off my college loans.  If I didn’t have those loans to pay off, I would have certainly begun my professional years of working with zero debt.  The compounding interest on my life savings would have started to tick a long time ago and I would be able to retire years, perhaps even a decade earlier, if my college had been paid for. 

Plus, many of the kids that play big time college football will have advantages in the work force once their careers are over.  Former athletes have a long shelf life at football and basketball crazy schools.  Tyler Hansbrough might never make it big in the NBA, but the guy will be a millionaire if he just works professionally in the state of North Carolina, at whatever it is he wants to do.  So while I have issues with some of the ways the players are marketed where the NCAA profits greatly, I don’t think the players should be paid

Hunter Ansley, Publisher, DraftZoo.com

Q: Should college football players be paid?

A: Paid is a tricky word.  Should the players be compensated in some way for all that they do for their universities?  Yes.  Should there be some sort of stipend system designed to make up for the fact that they have no time for a personal job despite earning billions for their school?  Yes.

But an actual salary system?  No way.

College football is the greatest sport in the world because the athletes aren’t paid, at least not officially.  I don’t buy that paying them would cut down on under-the-table green handshakes.  It would probably just make it worse.  Think about it, if the kids are getting paid already then what booster wouldn’t feel a little more comfortable paying a Christmas bonus to the star QB?

Then there’s the fact that bigger schools with bigger endowments would end up buying better players at a greater rate than they are now.  If paying these kids suddenly became kosher an insane number of honest alums would step forward wielding their platinum cards with their wallets open.  College football is at least pure on the surface for now.  Paying the athletes a salary would do nothing more than ruin the game and create 18 year old free agents.