No, You Still Can't Pay College Football Players

Oklahoma Sooners College Football

Photo: Wikimedia/Julie Lazalier Harvey

Once again, a member of the media (in this case, Tracee Hamilton of the Washington Post) is calling for college football players to be paid, but once again that call fails to answer any of the problems inherent in a pay-for-play world.The most important: Where’s all that money going to come from?

Less than 60% of Division I football programs made a profit last year. When you factor in the other sports that football revenues support, only 14 of the 120 schools come out in the black. The rest must rely on funds from their university — tax dollars and student fees — to break even.

Fans look around the college football landscape and see millions of dollars changing hands and wonder why the players don’t see any of that money. (They do, of course, just not in paychecks.) That’s a perfectly natural reaction, but one that fails to recognise that the majority of people involved in the sport are not raking in the big bucks and there simply isn’t enough money to support all of them.

Hamilton is right that the NCAA is undermanned and outgunned when it comes to enforcement. The conferences have solidified their power behind the BCS cartel, where television contracts rule the day. Yes, there are a handful of people at the top taking home huge paychecks and abusing their privilege as stewards of the sport. It’s a frustrating situation for people who love amateur sports.

But the solution is not to turn the game over to those people completely and professionalize college football

Hamilton just wants to see players get something, “even if it’s $200 a month.” But how that would prevent the abuses of boosters and agents who pay players under the table? A stipend doesn’t make things more equitable, it merely raises the cost of “buying” better players.?

It would also raise the cost of doing business, forcing many non-BCS schools to drop football entirely. (And leaving the big boys with no one to pound for easy non-conference paydays.)

The NCAA and BCS do have significant structural problems that need to be addressed, but paying players would only make those problems worse. It would mean surrendering to those who are only in it for the money.

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