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While their professional counterparts prepare to go to war to keep their share of billions of dollars of football revenues, student athletes count only a “free education” as their compensation for hours of practice, travel, and games that generate millions for universities.Part of the reason for inertia on the student-athletes part is the lack of a credible pay-for-play plan. It’s frequently discussed in theoretical terms, partially as a way to curb shady agent activity, but fails to crossover to practical applicability.
John Infante of the NCAA Bylaw Blog notes that most proposals centre on one of two principals, each with a fatal flaw:
- Small thousand-dollar stipends help athletes cover living costs, but considering the size of agent handouts, would do little to prevent their persistence.
- Contracts that resemble those of professional supports would draw athletes away from agents, but would completely transform the NCAA and likely would be unaffordable for most schools and sports.
But unlike your typical whiny blogger, Infante is nice enough to provide a viable solution, inspired by minor league baseball:
- In addition to covering the same education costs currently accounted for by student-athlete scholarships, the NCAA permits signing bonuses of up to $25,000 annually for a four-year career.
Infante tailors this plan specifically to football, but why not apply it to all sports across the board? The plan ensures that non-elite student-athletes still get the same benefits they’re currently receiving, and creates a market for the rare gamebreaking recruit.
If a school doesn’t find it financially feasible to pay for an athlete, it doesn’t have to. It just has to resort to inking players that don’t command a bonus. Though the main benefactors would be men’s football and basketball athletes, the plan complies with Title IX because the bonus is available to any athlete regardless of gender. The amount a student-athlete gets paid is simply a function of his or her market value.
Granted, a lack of parity is a potential concern under this plan, but college sports already draw intrigue despite consisting of “haves” and “have nots”
Big schools already have a recruiting edge thanks to their legendary traditions, fantastic facilities, and oversized athletic budgets. The signing bonuses would certainly represent a far more direct way of enticing the best players; but small schools have long proven capable of building competitive football programs against-all-odds, and there’s no reason to think they can’t adjust in other sports, too.
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