It’s time to start paying college sports players.
Watching the ‘Fab Five’ documentary and lots of college basketball this weekend has only confirmed my belief. People may think that the professional sports leagues like the NFL, NBA, and the MLB make a killing. It’s true. They do. Buy many college sports programs also bring in millions of dollars (h/t The Sports Economist). There were ten universities who collected more than $100 million in sports revenue, led by the University of Texas with just over $143 million. Fifty six universities earn sports revenue over $50 million.
Yet what do the student athletes get? A scholarship to college? Yes. Buy for the elite athletes, this doesn’t even come close to the money they bring in to the university. It is a travesty that many athletes from poor households help raise millions of dollars for their universities, but do not see a penny of it themselves.
But isn’t this amateur athletics? Maybe for the players, but for the university its a profession. College sports television rights sell for millions of dollars. The universities build multi-million dollar stadiums for these programs. If the universities decided to build minimal stadiums and reduced ticket prices to just cover bare bones operating costs, than I’d buy the amateur label. This isn’t what is happening.
Wouldn’t paying money corrupt high school athletes with offers of money to attend universities? Maybe, but this already happens. Further, I would predict that this would happen less often than it does now. Taking a few thousand dollars under the table to attend one school over another is attractive when college players aren’t earning a wage. But universities can pay players, than more high school students would be willing to forego cash up front to allow them to choose the highest paying university where they can “take there services.”
I also am upset that people who break the recruiting rules are demonized. This is the system that was set up by the NCAA and coaches have every incentive to have boosters pay players under the table.
A better option would be to simply pay players their market value. This would be more transparent. It would concentrate talent at the best universities even more than already occurs. Some athletes could even be athletes exclusively, while others could remain student athletes. Many elite soccer players in Europe being playing professionally at age 20 or younger.
Transparency. Compensating workers for their fair market value. Paying college players isn’t a crazy idea; it’s the right one.