Over the weekend, a number of college football players wrote the letters “APU” on their athletic gear in protest of the NCAA. The “All Players United” movement figures to grow each and every week until the NCAA starts paying players cash or outlaws such writing on athletic gear (and the latter will likely come much sooner than the former).
The movement also mentions such things as concussions and NCAA reform, but you can be sure the main goal is get some cash flowing in the athletes’ direction. And with players now protesting and thousands of media members now barking that the NCAA must be toppled and players must be paid, I’ve become convinced.
Pay the players.
Sure, no one from Jay Bilas to your local paper’s columnist has come up with an idea for an incorruptible system that could replace the NCAA should it be toppled like a dictator’s statue. No one has explained which athletes would be paid or how lawsuits from those unpaid would be defeated. No one has explained how paying players will cut down on cheating (as if making some is better than making more). And no one has stated exactly how much those players who would be paid, uh, would be paid. (Steve Spurrier’s idea to pay 75 guys out of each coaches’ wallet sounds good at a Media Days presser — and it’s easy for a guy making $3 million to push for that — but that will never come to pass under any circumstance and Spurrier damn well knows it.)
Despite all that, I’ll go ahead and join the chorus of complainers: Pay the players!
But I do have one requirement. With great cash, will come great responsibility. Yes, I say just throw open the coffers and give the players their booty.
Since there is no other semi-pro or minor league system in place for pre-NFL’ers, these paid players must still go to college to play ball. That much is obvious. That’s why they would be getting paid, right?. Well, since they would be paid, they should also have to pay college tuition like everybody else out there. Out-of-state students crossing state borders should have to pony up a little more. Those who want to play for Vanderbilt or Duke, had better be making enough to cover the quarterly — or would it be “semesterly” — bills.
Some of you are probably already crying foul. It’s ridiculous to make players pay for their own school. “It wouldn’t be fair!”
So? I don’t think it’s fair that coal miners get black lung. Which is why I didn’t become a coal miner.
If kids don’t want to play college ball, they don’t have to. It’s not the US Army circa 1968. No one is drafting these kids and forcing them to play college ball. If it’s unfair, they don’t have to do it. They can get a real job like millions of Americans who would have loved to have gotten a free college education in exchange for playing football (or another sport). Or they could go to school on their own and prepare for a profession, having to pay off college loans for years like millions of American who would have loved to have gotten a free college education in exchange for playing football (or another sport).
But my tit-for-tat plan doesn’t just require athletes to pay for their own education. Oh, no. I also think that these “employees” should be treated just as professionals are treated. Get ejected for targeting a defenseless player above the shoulders? A $50,000 fine should be in order. If they fail a drug test, that’s another fine. If they write something on their uniform or wear their socks too high or too low, more fines… just as it is in the NFL and other professional leagues.
Wanna make money? Supa-dupa. But be ready for the responsibility that comes with that cash.
And speaking of responsibility, if college athletes are paid, they’re obviously going to have to pay taxes, too. That means the federal income tax as well as — in some states — a state income tax. Just how many 18-year-old freshmen do you think are ready for all that? How many will have the cash in hand when April 15th rolls around each year? But them’s the breaks. I can’t dodge the US tax code and players wouldn’t be able to duck it, either.
I know, I know. This is absurd. Athletes should be paid and they should also be protected from the real-world money problems that go along with making that aforementioned dinero.
Well, that’s your take. And Bilas’ take. And 90% of sports fans’ take.
My take is that until someone puts forward in detailed a system that would successfully work as a replacement for the NCAA, that would be above corruption and bureaucracy, and that would pay players… our fairy tale notion is every bit as realistic as those presented by folks like Spurrier and your favorite talk radio host.
If the players want money, give it to them. And then treat them as paid employees are typically treated.
Until someone shows me a better detailed plan — there’s that word again — I’m sticking with this one.