By Michael Felder
Steve Spurrier set off a mini rehashing of a debate that has raged in the college football world for a long, long time.
Spurrier trotted out a short proposal at the SEC Spring Meetings to attempt to pay their football players. This debate isn't new and it isn't going to be settled today. However, the idea that folks are opening a discussion, willing to start kicking ideas back and forth and slowly examining feasibility is sign that at least folks are thinking.
Especially with this coming just a week after Jim Delany called for the NCAA and conference commissioners to take steps to bridge the scholarship gap.
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It is a debate that has two distinct paths. The "yes, players should get paid" or the "no, players should not get paid" paths.
Each of these paths diverges into a few other issues. If you fall into the "no" category there are again, two more routes taken. When you're talking about why they shouldn't it becomes a question of "they already get a great deal" OR the whole idea of the romanticizing of the amateur nature of college athletics. Pretty simple stuff.
For those on the "players should get paid" side of the debate the water gets a little more murky. You end up dealing with an argument for paying them due to the revenue generated by their sport OR arguing for compensating them based upon the commitment they're giving to their university.
I think you all are pretty clear where I stand on the romanticizing of sports; I don't do it. It is a lot of hard work, sacrifice, health risk and while folks playing love the game the fact is there isn't really anything "romantic" about the work that goes into it. It is a beautiful game but isn't this utopia acting as the last bastion of purity.
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On the "they already get paid, they get a scholarship" front there are a lot people, even those in the business that feel the opposite way of Steve Spurrier and Jim Delany. More power to them. Hell there are even people who think that the athletes are purely lucky because, as so many people have said in open forum and directly to me, "I'd give anything to get a college scholarship!"
A lot of hard work goes into both earning a scholarship and keeping a scholarship. It isn't just a hand out and they damn sure don't come cheap when it comes to effort, stress, pain and what must be done to keep them. The school and each scholarship recipient are mutually benefiting from the exchange. One gets a body to grind and mold into a finely tuned athletic machine to do their bidding while the other gets the opportunity to get some free schooling.
Now on the players should be played side you're arguing revenue vs commitment. Revenue is a valid point because generally only football and basketball produce a profit. That's from television deals, ticket sales, jersey and apparel sales, bowl game payouts, NCAA tournament payouts and even the cash games for lower tiered schools. I get it, I see exactly where those folks are coming from.
I don't agree with that view.
Full disclosure, I'm a Title IX fan. I fully support it and even though there is plenty of bad with regard to schools gaming the system and cutting men's sports there far more good that has been done and continues to be done under Title IX. Probably makes me a weird dude. Especially in a world where so many folks point to Title IX as a scapegoat for stuff. Doesn't matter, I think it is the right thing and with that in mind I don't think the revenue approach works. Every team, men's and women's are legitimate compliments to the university community.
No that women's swimming and diving team isn't packing their natatorium every week for meets but those girls are out there doing community service, going to class and of course getting up at 5am for their first of many few thousand yards under water.
No the men's soccer team doesn't get the stadium rocking for their midweek game but those guys are out doing 1 v 1's in the heat the same time the football team is running conditioning over the summer.
An athletic department is a collective and while there is already a salary and staffing disparity in most given football's sheer numbers the literal singling out of one group over another just isn't something I can morally justify (see folks, apparently I do have some sort of a moral compass). My best friends in college that weren't my teammates were other athletes; baseball, swimming, soccer, basketball and lacrosse. They worked just as hard as us, hell some of them probably harder.
I know once you go pro the market dictates what folks get paid, hell in college the market dictates which leagues rake in the most cash but right now, in college, while we're dealing with these "student athletes" it has to be more than just football in the equation.
I'm all for paying players, just have to figure out how to make it work across the board because Spurrier's plan not only doesn't work for smaller schools that can't afford the $250,000+ 12 game total but it doesn't work for all of our athletes.
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