Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Markets in Everything? Pay College Athletes

Michael Rosenberg at Sports Illustrated has a sensible and simple solution to NCAA corruption - Let College Athletes Get Paid:

"Every Saturday in the fall, we pack college stadiums, raise the American flag, stand quietly as a marching band plays The Star-Spangled Banner, and cheer for a sport that prohibits capitalism.

College athletes cannot be paid. Every American knows this. The concept is as entrenched in our bloodstreams as cholesterol. We have accepted it for so long, and gone along with the NCAA's definition of right and wrong for so many years, that we don't even remember the reasons anymore.

They can't be paid because they can't be paid, because they just can't, because it's not allowed, because if it were allowed, then they could be paid. And they can't. Because it's not allowed. Got it?

Some day, we will look back on this era of college sports the way we look back on Prohibition. We'll see that there were some good intentions behind it, along with some misguided fears. The problem with amateurism in college sports is the same problem the nation had with Prohibition: It is impossible to enforce.

The simple fact is that college athletes want to get paid (who wouldn't?) and there are literally thousands of people out there who would like to pay them. Why are we stopping this? What is the big deal? What do you think would happen if your starting quarterback was allowed to take $100,000 from somebody who enjoyed watching him play? Would the Earth crash into the sun?

Should college athletes be paid? That's not really the question. No, the question is this: Should college athletes be a allowed to be paid? Should they be allowed to take money for doing something perfectly legal? Of course they should. In America in 2011, why are we even debating this?"


At 7/26/2011 5:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've got an even better solution for these athletes: don't go to college. If someone were to start alternative minor leagues and pay these kids to play in them, the athletes and audience would migrate there overnight. The fact that nobody does this just goes to show they'd rather whine about the NCAA than do anything about it. Of course, the fact that the NCAA is running such a big sports business and paying the actual employees almost nothing is a huge joke, yet another reason why all colleges need to be destroyed.

At 7/26/2011 5:39 PM, Blogger Benjamin Cole said...

"yet another reason why all colleges need to be destroyed."

And after that, let's set fire to the libraries!

At 7/26/2011 5:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good idea, let's bomb the hospitals next. :) Just as the music and newspaper businesses have been slowly collapsing for the last decade or two, that's what will happen to education and medicine in the coming years, as they are fundamentally information businesses. The newly competitive market that's emerging online will be so much better than what came before, people will wonder how anyone could have ever defended Obamacare and the crap that came before.

At 7/26/2011 6:17 PM, Blogger Benjamin Cole said...


Enjoy your post, but not sure about hospitals. I had surgery in Thailand--not sure I could have cut it out myself.

Newspapers? They are dead. And now that your local government has no watchdog--and you don't have time to watch city council meetings, pull city files etc--your local government is going to be more corrupt than ever.

As for college athletes, I am okay with it, as much as I care. At worst, these guys have a chance at an education, if they take that chance. At best they get rich in the NBA, NFL etc. No boo-hoo from me on their score. And they score a lot, if you get my drift. For them I should feel sorry?

At 7/26/2011 6:24 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Like all unsolved problems, this just isn't that simple.

Such a small fraction of these kids will be pro athletes, the education (if taken and not cheated through) is quite a large paycheck.
The minor league system would be a disaster for those who get hurt or don't have what it takes (probably a disaster for many who do have "it").

Who do you pay and who do you not? Profitable sports only? Does Texas pay more than Alcorn State (I know they do now, I'm talking in theory)? Women's hoops may be profitable in a handful of schools but not many....nobody would go to the other schools if hey didn't pay.
That would be the same if paying was merely "allowed"...do the boosters at UT have deeper pockets than those at BSU...yep. Scholarships would cease to be the check in on-field parity. The same big schools would have the best money can buy every year, and I don't think the schools want the same fiscal responsibility of pro scouts.

Just a small allowance for every single athlete? Not going to solve the problem for big football and hoops stars....they're still going to be swayed and the corruption is still there.

I think they should be paid, I just don't think they can be, unless there's a way for pro leagues (not teams or agents) to 'sponsor' individuals and leave the school and team out of it. Doubt that would go over well in an increasingly jealous locker room though.

At 7/26/2011 6:30 PM, Blogger Benjamin Cole said...

OT, and from the WSJ. So sad--another right-wing myth gets shattered.

Some days it does not pay to get out of bed.

Wall Street Journal

DALLAS—As Texas Gov. Rick Perry ponders a bid for the Republican presidential nomination, Texans weighing his economic legacy are debating the role played by a long boom in government jobs—and the possible bust ahead.
Texas has enjoyed the most robust economy in the U.S. during Mr. Perry's decade as governor, which is one reason his potential candidacy is attracting national attention. The Lone Star State gained more than a million jobs since the end of 2000, while the U.S. has lost almost 1.5 million, according data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

About 300,000 of the new Texas jobs were in government. Well over half of them, fueled by the surging population, were at public schools. Employment in the state's public sector has jumped 19% since 2000, compared with a 9% rise in the private sector."

Probably, Texas was just getting federal steroids from the Bushies, and some oil money.

No wonder they want Rick "Huffington" Perry in the White House. They want that federal lard to keep flowing!

At 7/26/2011 7:50 PM, Blogger Buddy R Pacifico said...

Look for a scathing Don Boudreaux letter to the editor at Sports Illustrated condeming Russ Roberts. Clearly Mr. Roberts is advocating rent seeking and crony capitalism actions by student atheletes.

At 7/26/2011 7:56 PM, Blogger Benjamin Cole said...

Just to show I am not biased, there is terrific news on TX manufacturing...

"Industrial Construction In Texas Total $31.4 Billion

Builder News Staff | July 25th, 2011

From July 2011 to July 2012, industrial firms in Texas are planning to begin construction on $31.4 billion worth of projects. Almost 700 projects are scheduled to begin construction during this period. This represents about 25% of the total amount of projects under development in the state, according to Industrial Info's North American Industrial Project Database.

The top 10 Texas counties for industrial projects during this period are Harris, Ector, Brazoria, Jefferson, Nueces, San Patricio, Chambers, Bell, Lee and Lynn. These 10 counties account for more than $19 billion of the state total during the next 12 months...."

The only caveat is that it is not clear if this is simple warehouses, or manufacturing space....

At 7/27/2011 12:00 AM, Blogger Robotech said...

Just look at college sports as another form of unpaid internship. That seems to be the standard for some professions.

At 7/27/2011 1:38 PM, Blogger Bloggin' Brewskie said...

Anyone's who attended a major university knows big-time sport programs is a machine, and there's really not much one can do to stop "envelope deals." (Although a national championship can be denied!) With the money in question, the fact athletes aren't allowed to have jobs, there's no question they should be paid. Here's the kicker...

Depending on how much an athlete's paid - we'll say $75,000 a season - I, if I was still a student, would probably be a little pissed at someone who's studying, getting a free education w/out student loans, and getting paid a little less than a starting salary for a Master's in Engineering.

But the veins of powerhouse sports programs bulge with money, so the "corruption" might as well become legit.

At 7/27/2011 2:22 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Mr. Brewskie,

If you have a legit method of compensating these kids (and I do believe they deserve something since they can't have jobs) I'd love to hear it.

The only thing I can think of is to have the pro sports leagues sponsor them, but that money has to be paid back to some level. If you're a 'tweener or probably not going to go pro (or may not be able to afford to repay), take only what you need and pay it back through X hours volunteering in their various charities for a specified time.

I think you would be kissing Cinderella goodbye in the Big Dance if this happened though.

At 7/27/2011 2:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mike, like most "unsolved" problems, the problem here is ignorance, not complexity. These kids in major college sports are already pro athletes, when you look at the millions that the major programs rake in. The value of the education is practically nil in comparison, particularly when you consider that most big-time athletes are just pushed through their classes. And the current college system isn't a disaster for those who get hurt? As for saying it's a disaster for those who don't have what it takes, plus those who do, that statement makes no sense.

Your big problem is that you're still thinking in terms of how colleges can keep the sports but change the pay, whereas what is much more likely is that new minor leagues will be created and destroy college sports, because new leagues can now reach their customer online. This is exactly what happened to newspapers with classified advertising, the same will inevitably happen to the colleges. The funniest part is that they're too dumb to realize it, just like the newspapers. :)

At 7/27/2011 5:32 PM, Blogger Mike said...


Perhaps the problem is ignorance, but if you're looking at Cam Newton as representative of all college athletics, the ignorance isn't mine.
It is true that the scholarship of one athlete looks like nothing compared to what some sports bring some schools, kinda like how most people's paychecks are tiny compared to the money their company makes.
Think about the thousands of kids (in small schools or small sports) that are there, only due to their scholarship and have no reality in pro sports.

Yes, I agree, that would all be destroyed under a new minor league system...and, yes, I think that would be a shame. All those millions brought in fund many opportunities for kids in activities you don't happen to care about.

If you know any former college athletes, I'm sure they'll disagree with your value of their education to them.....what I was saying about the "disaster", is those who don't make it, now have no college opportunity (since those good enough to be drafted into a minor league would surely be on full, or partial, scholarship somewhere)....and I said, "for many of those who do have it"...what I meant by that will be pretty clear on NFL cut-down day in a month. Good enough for minor league, good enough to be picked pro....just never could get over the hump and are now stuck.

As far as kids getting hurt, they're damn lucky if they're on scholarship because they keep it...the big timers usually have insurance. The former wouldn't happen in a minor league.

I know that you're right about some athletes who get pushed and helped through...and I really do hate to say this, but I honestly believe - with all the problems and faults - status quo may be best for number of quality outcomes. For every dirty, big-time jock you see, there are others on the very same team that go to school and actually study and graduate on their own.

If you think this isn't a complicated issue, that's your opinion and I disagree.

At 7/27/2011 5:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mike, you are making some pretty weak arguments, pretty much following the line of the NCAA. Cam Newton is representative of a lot of athletes in major sports, which is the only thing we're talking about. I could care less about the lacrosse teams or whoever, obviously nobody's going to start a minor league for women's volleyball. Saying that big-time athletes getting paid very little is similar to the low pay of some company secretary is a ridiculous argument: crowds aren't shelling out millions to watch that secretary do her job. Yes, there are a lot of kids in minor sports, so what? So the kids in major sports being enslaved to a university makes sense because we're redistributing that money to scholarships for wrestlers? Wow, talk about socialism at work.

The fact is that a basketball player at a major Division I school brings in a ton of money for his skills, yet he sees almost none of that, which you try to justify because some of it goes for scholarships for minor sports. I guarantee you most of that money isn't going to other scholarships but to salaries and other perks for the big-time coaches and sports administrators. I bet a lot more former college athletes in a major sport will agree with me that the degree was fairly useless to them. Those who don't make it to the pros out of a minor league can then pay for a college degree, if they want, out of the hundreds of thousands of dollars that would be their cut of the millions now going to athletic departments instead. Add it up and they come out way ahead in a minor league. It is precisely those who are good enough to play at the college level but who won't make it in the pros who will benefit the most from a minor league that pays them. Minor leaguers can get insurance too, plus they're getting paid much more, so they're way ahead.

At 7/27/2011 5:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What you don't seem to appreciate is that we already have a minor league, the NCAA, it's just one where the major sport athletes get paid almost nothing but coaches and others take all the money instead. In such a screwed-up situation, it's inevitable that someone comes along, now that there's new tech like the internet, and starts minor leagues which you can watch online. The only reason it hasn't been done already is that the people in sports are pretty dumb.

The real question for you is: why do you care? You're making weak arguments, so you must have some connection to this broken system. I have no connection to it, other than simply finding it ridiculous that these athletes are being so blatantly exploited by the colleges, who hold themselves up as institutions of learning and ethics but are anything but.

At 7/27/2011 7:14 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...


I was enjoying reading your comment, and it seemed to make good sense until I reached the word "exploited", then I had to pause to consider how someone voluntarily attending school, and voluntarily playing a sport with a prior understanding they wouldn't be paid, was being exploited.

Is that really what you meant to write?

Mind you, I don't have a strong opinion either for or against paying college athletes, I just didn't understand how they are being exploited.

At 7/27/2011 7:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ron, simple, they're young kids who don't often know that what they're signing away is worth much more than what they're getting back, nor do they have much of a choice. For some background, here's a good interview with Sonny Vaccaro, a former shoe agent who's now suing the NCAA with former college athletes. Here's the money quote:

"arguably one of the top 10 kids in America that year was a kid that I knew very well. ... He was in the locker room, so I go down to the locker room. As God is my judge, I looked at him, and he was crying, a big hunk of a young man. I said, "What is wrong?" He said to me, "Mr. Vaccaro," he said, "'Mr. Dubois,'" who was our academic adviser at the time, "just told me I had a third-grade reading level. I'm going to be a senior next year. How could I only be reading at third grade?" And he was accepted into these universities already. He was mad because it was a trick. It was a fraud; it was a farce. He understood it, this kid who was misled academically all the way through high school, this fraud about the high schools getting you ready.

Unfortunately, there's been many of those kids, but never one so poignant and so articulate. And the kid went to a major school and played and eventually quit and went pro. I think it was two years. But he said: "How could they have let me be this? How could I only be reading [at] the third grade?" True story."

Now I suppose you could argue that the colleges have built a sports business with certain rules and if the kids don't like it they can go elsewhere, which is actually what I'm arguing, that someone should just start a competing minor league. But let's not lose sight of the fact that the colleges are in fact exploiting those kids today, by making millions off of them while giving them almost nothing.

At 7/28/2011 1:31 PM, Blogger Mike said...

The arguments I'm making may be weak to you, but I believe it's because you aren't considering all the factors...and aren't taking all the actual numbers into consideration. You do realize that you can be part of an NFL team and still make less than 90k a year right? The NFL....big boy on the block....makes more than anybody, pays around 90k for their practice squad players. Wow....don't spend it all in one place. Those are ELITE athletes...try playing a pickup game with any of them and they'll make you look like a fool.

I have close friends who played major sports at major schools....the two that I'm closest with both played football at major conference schools. Both went on scholarship, neither made it to the pros...one because of injury (probably), one wanted to be a lawyer.
Both would be f'd if they hadn't gotten their scholarships.

Also, I don't recall comparing a secretary's pay to the income of Microsoft....If you work for a big company, you can make a massive paycheck that is still dwarfed by the company profit.

I understand that you don't care about the rest of the kids who would lose their scholarships in minor sports and activities....that's fine, I don't agree. Nor do I agree that a minor league would shower riches upon anybody...I also know a few former minor leaguers (baseball) and I can tell you, they make squat.

I also understand that the Cam Newtons of the world make you crazy... with that, I do agree although, I don't believe they are anywhere near the majority. I would probably be less argumentative on this topic if I could see some facts that dispute the numbers the colleges give regarding sports income and what they do with it. I believe, like you, that their numbers are suspicious, but I can't find any credible info to dispute them.

When I was 'enslaved' during my internship, working 2 jobs and going to school, it was hard to watch everybody pull up in their BMWs, but without that moment of slavery, I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing...you think Danny Woodhead would have made the minor league you're proposing?
Tyler Thigpen? I could go on....

As I said, and as you ignored, I don't like the system, but I think finding and equal number of good outcomes will be more difficult than you think. Unless your point is that you don't care about the number of good outcomes....in which case, that's a matter of opinion and, again, I just disagree.

At 7/28/2011 3:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mike, what an NFL practice squad player makes is irrelevant, we're talking about what a starter at Kentucky basketball would make if he could play for a minor league team instead. UK brings in millions every year, I guarantee they'd have to pay a starter a mid to high six figure yearly income to play for them in an open market, as opposed to now when he gets almost nothing and can go undrafted by the pros. Of course some bench player, like the NFL practice squad guys, isn't going to make much. We both know most kids don't make it to the pros, what I find strange is your wish that they get paid in college tuition worth about $100k over four years, instead of $2 million in cash. If you have that money, you could easily pay a college degree if you wanted to, though I would advise against wasting your money on a degree. :)

Yes, if you work for Microsoft, you might still make much less than their overall profit, but not if you're Bill Gates and are the one who's responsible for all the money flowing in in the first place, just as the big-time athletes are the ones putting asses in seats. I actually think the minor sports would be better off without scholarships, as I consider college largely a waste of time and money, a scam. Yes, baseball minor leaguers, with the hundreds of teams out there and diminishing interest in baseball every year, might make squat. That indicates nothing for basketball or football, which we already know bring in hundreds of millions for their minor leagues, college football and basketball.

At 7/28/2011 4:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I honestly don't know what you're talking about with Cam Newton. I used to be a big sports fan but now I don't watch anything, except occasionally checking in on the NBA. What college numbers regarding sports income are you referring to? Nobody was paying $30 to sit in 15,0000 seat arenas to see you do your internship, so to compare your unpaid internship to big-time college sports is just silly. Considering Woodhead is playing well in the NFL, he very likely would have done well in a minor league, assuming he was also good at college-age, since most would be younger players they're trying to develop.

I think creating a better system than what we have now is easy, it only isn't done because the people in sports are too dumb to realize the giant opportunity the internet has opened up for them, where they don't have to sign TV deals anymore but can get online distribution easily. Ultimately, this issue is tough to care about, as these athletes get a lot of adulation and some money under the table anyway. But for me, it's more of an issue of yet another way that the colleges rip off their customers, in this case stealing millions from the athletes.

At 7/28/2011 4:32 PM, Blogger Mike said...


What a professional athlete (NFL p.s.) makes is completely relevant to what a minor leaguer would and does make. You're telling me that the fringe guy's payroll has nothing to do with what most minor leaguers would make?? Apples to apples...unless you're a high-round, you make nothing in minor league baseball...never have, even when MLB was THE game....with all the money the MLB has, you're going to tell me that some magical new league would suddenly find that a profitable venture? I think you're wrong.

What would the handful of two-million-dollar/year starting point guards be worth (and you'll have to think in reality) without the fan base of that particular school? Not much until they got to the pros. You're only thinking of the value of specific players based on their situation within the institution...but you're discounting the value of the institution itself. Who do you think these boosters are? Joe Blow fans? NO! They're (insert school) fans.

What I find strange is how you cherry pick my comments. I never said they SHOULD be paid $100k over 4 years in scholarship, what I said is that it's not 'nothing'....and to many, it's huge. Just because you believe a degree holds no value, many disagree.

Um, and I hate to break it to you but none of these players in any pro league are the "Bill Gates" of their teams....now you're saying the players are the owners because they produce the product. Bill gates wouldn't have much without all the people under him.

BTW, People did pay millions to the company that I interned with and I got nothing...except experience and an eventual job. If you don't see the comparison, I can't help.

Oh, and Cam Newton was this year's #1 pick in the NFL and maybe the dirtiest (payment-wise) story in years.

At 7/28/2011 6:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mike, the practice-squad guy is not very relevant because you're comparing a scrub at one level to a starter at another level, and starters always make much more. We don't have to guess how much a minor league that paid college stars like Austin Rivers would make, we know it already from how much the colleges rake in: it's in the millions. Yes, maybe a lot of it would go to the future pros anyway, but that still would mean the other mid-level starters would get a lot more than they're getting now. MLB "was" the game back when athletes made squat, so that's irrelevant. Like I said before, nobody gives a shit about baseball. :)

I didn't say the guard would make $2 million/year, I clearly said mid-six figures/year, which comes out to $2 million over four years. You're right that colleges have an advantage, in that they brainwash their students to support their teams, but even if you shave 30-40% off the top to account for that, you're left with many millions. You honestly think that if I paid Austin Rivers and John Wall, back when he was in college, to play in a minor league, the league wouldn't rake in millions? If anything, the colleges are shit businessmen generally and are probably leaving lots of money on the table. Yeah, you say they "should" be paid more, but then you say there's no way to do it so the current system is best. I do think the education is worthless, but I didn't use that for the comparison: I used the market value of $100k, which other kids pay.

At 7/28/2011 6:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The point isn't that the kids are the "owners" but that like Bill Gates, they're the main show. Gates wouldn't have much without people under him? What does that have to do with anything? They wouldn't have shit if an entrepreneur like him hadn't been smart enough to start a company, which is why he gets paid a shitload more than them. Similarly, nobody working in or with the college minor leagues would have jack if it weren't for the athletes, yet somehow the players get stiffed. Wow, I can't believe you're continuing with that dumb internship argument. There is no comparison because you were not a vital cog at your company, unlike the big-time athletes. I'm well aware of who Cam Newton is and that he had some payment stuff go down with his father, I just didn't care enough to find out what the big deal was, why it would "make you crazy." In fact, if you have a fundamentally unfair system like the NCAA, I have no problem with people like the Newtons breaking the rules to actually get what they're worth.

You are making some awfully dumb arguments, over and over again, despite my showing you how they're dumb. Either you're not that bright or you have some financial stake in the collegiate system, likely both, so you will continue making ridiculous arguments past the point of logical comprehension. I honestly don't care enough to keep batting these dumb arguments down though, so I'm out.

At 7/28/2011 6:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you have a legit method of compensating these kids I'd love to hear it.

Legit? That's a loaded word. Friends, pro scouts, corporate sponsors, who cares? None of them hurt the integrity of the game. Let the money flow. Are you going to throw the game for Tide? I don't think so.

Gambling is the only industry that hurts integrity, and it's impossible to police. The only thing mandatory amateurism did is hurt the athletes, it didn't stop gambling.

If the other students are envious, let them be envious. Envy says something about the onlooker, not the athlete.

At 7/28/2011 9:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If athletes get paid, I drop my four season tickets I've held for 37 years to Tennessee games. I've held my nose at overpaid coaches. But that's the straw.

Is free housing, books, tuition, medical care, food not enough?

At 7/29/2011 1:17 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Actually, Spree,

I was trying to leave personal insults out of this , but *shocker*... I'd say you're making some incredibly stupid comments and intentionally twisting my words..

To sum up all I've said:
This is a bad system that would be complicated to fix.

You don't believe that to be accurate, so, you're an idiot.

If you're a superstar basketball player, you can already go to a minor league. If you're worth paying 6 figures, the NBA will sign you at 19...or you can play in the ABA....or you can play in Europe. Why do most of these kids not do that? For some reason, they find value to be on the big screen of college sports. You seem to think that has zero value. The players disagree through their actions.

You have no clue as to what I did as an intern, but since you're so sure it was no big deal, I'll tell you. I was an intern for a morning radio show in Kansas City. I was 1/4 of the on air show for 1 year, eventually becoming a paid part of the show. So, again, you're wrong. I was an integral part of the company, in the most expensive daypart for advertisers, and important enough to grab a paycheck out of it. Maybe your internship was making copies, mine was to be in front of hundreds of thousands of people and to put on a show. Careful with those assumptions....

You think a guy like Woodhead or Thigpen would make one of a dozen minor league teams when he couldn't make a Div 1 (even with their huge rosters) school? Retarded.
Bottom line, nobody cares about these kids unless they're part of 'their' team. A minor league will have limited interest and, therefore, extremely limited pay. The schools hold all the cards. The schools and a good chunk of the fans want the system as it is. So, if you believe this isn't a matter of complexity (my original statement) you're making an awfully stupid argument.

Since you're the genius and know how easy it would be to secure a billion dollars or so to get a league and broadcast partner on the web together, go get 'em, tiger!

Just because the black market is usually a signal that something is horribly wrong, it doesn't necessarily mean that it isn't the easiest way to secure a livable outcome. The blue chips are getting paid, the scrubs are getting an education, other kids benefit from all of this and it's kept under the table so the 'purity' is maintained for the fans and institutions....I'm all for a fix, but yours won't work.

Should they get paid? Sure. Is it complicated? Absolutely. Your disagreement with that makes you look silly, not me.


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