As a college football writer, I have the luxury of ignoring as much about the NFL lockout as I can. That said, it’s next to impossible to ignore it completely. Instead of ‘Sal Paolantonio is live at Eagles camp,’ we’re getting ‘Sal Paolantonio is live at wherever the latest round of disappointing negotiations is taking place.’
Yesterday I came across a headline regarding cost-cutting measures taken by some NFL teams—they’re reducing payroll of employees or sending their employees home without pay for chunks at a time. And this time it isn’t the millionaire employees being locked out.
You always hear it: This is a business, this is a business, this is a business, this is a business… At what point did ‘this is a business’ excuse punishing people who not only grease the wheels of the enormous NFL machine, but who also have nothing to do with the $9 billion squabble between the owners and players? Maybe that $9 billion could be put to better use?
The lockout has overshadowed, to a degree of course, an important issue facing college football: whether student-athletes should be provided what would amount to a cost-of-living adjustment. Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany brought up the idea for discussion in which student-athletes would be provided an additional $3,000 a year. By doing simple math, I was able to figure out that comes to an $8.22 a day. The issue is big news in the college football world, but has not been given the amount of national exposure it deserves.
Some take issue with the boost in laundry/food/movie/beer/spending money, saying it would create an unfair recruiting advantage for the Big Ten and other larger conferences able to afford the added stipend by enticing high school athletes to sign with schools in the conference in response to the extra eight bucks a day.
To an extent it would, which is why the NCAA should become involved and require any additional rewards given to players in one conference be given to players in other conferences. That leaves us with the problem of paying for these increases for players in smaller conferences like the WAC, Sun Belt, etc. Of course, there’s this little thing called the BCS that helps the richer conferences stay the richer conferences, so perhaps it comes back to installing a fair postseason system that rewards teams and conferences based on merit, not pedigree. That way, conferences would have an opportunity to increase revenue to pay their student athletes the extra $8 a day.
Recruiting advantages are built-in for the teams with a more impressive pedigree. Would you rather become the next in the line of USC quarterbacks, or play quarterback for FAU? It’s up to the coaching staff to sell their program to recruits, but the one thing that often tilts the tables enough so the little guy can’t get a morsel to eat is money.
To a degree, the issue of paying college athletes stems from the scandals currently affecting the game. By now sports fans are aware of the five Ohio State players (Terrelle Pryor, Dan Herron, Mike Adams, DeVier Posey and Solomon Thomas) busted for selling or trading memorabilia for discounts on tattoos, and their coach who was busted for covering it up/not reporting what he knew to the university. I doubt an extra eight bucks a day would stop the problem completely, but at least it’s a jumping off point to acknowledge the issue. Besides, college football and basketball players are kind of important to the big-money industry that college athletics has become; it’s only fair they’re compensated a little bit.
Former Buckeyes wide receiver Ray Small dropped another bomb on the issue when he told the student newspaper, The Lantern, that he sold Big Ten rings and other memorabilia for cash while a student at Ohio State. He also indicated that he received deals on cars during his time at OSU. The car issue was enough of a concern to warrant an internal investigation by the school into two area dealerships. Small’s comments may change the course of the investigation. He said the money he received from selling memorabilia helped him cover his cost of living expenses as a student.
It’s not hard to figure out why the idea of a year without the NFL would overshadow fairness in college football (paying athletes, recruiting advantages, the postseason). We can see how the former issue affects us directly, while it’s more difficult to see how the latter issue would affect a game that many of us love so much. I’m not convinced that the NFL is invincible, though, and any work stoppage that extends into the season would cause harm to the sport; maybe not to the extent it hurt baseball, basketball or hockey, but to some extent nonetheless.
The two worlds of college and professional football come together once a year at the NFL Draft, but the two are linked further this year as college football could reap the benefits of an NFL lockout if it continues into the season. Maybe instead of “WE WANT FOOT-BALL!” fans at the this year’s NFL Draft should have chanted “COLL-EGE FOOT-BALL!”Maybe the prospect of losing even a dollar of would-be NFL money to college football would light a fire under somebody’s ass.