that he paid college football players has once again led to a call for the NCAA to allow schools to pay the players that are helping to generate so much revenue.
There is only one small problem. Even if the NCAA did want to allow payments for players, it will never happen. It can’t happen. Two issues stand in the way:
The biggest problem is Title IX. The US Department of Education, who enforces Title IX compliance, has made it clear that all student-athletes must have equal opportunities, perks, and compensation. Even if schools wanted to pay their football and men’s basketball athletes, they have neither the money nor the desire to pay the ladies on the Field Hockey team or the gymnastics team or the swim team.
In theory, one could try to challenge Title IX in this instance by claiming that the money is not “a perk,” but rather it is just the money produced by the players themselves. In that case, the female athletes would be free to keep any money they generate through competition (wink, wink).
But even if by some miracle, that were to actually happen, the ruling would just create an even bigger problem for the NCAA.
COMPETITIVE IMBALANCE OF THE WORST KIND
Of the nearly 250 Division I-A and Division I-AA football programs (I loathe the FBS and FCS designations) how many actually have athletic programs that generate large revenue streams? Most of the schools in the BCS conferences? Possibly. Does Northwestern make a ton of money off their football team? Maybe. What about schools from non-BCS conferences? What about Akron or Florida Atlantic or Arkansas State? Are those teams going to be able to pay their players? And if they can’t pay their players, how many good players can they recruit?
Sure, the big BCS schools are already getting all of the top high school football players. But schools like Boise State thrive off the next wave of talent. That group of players that will choose Boise State over USC because they have a better chance of getting playing time or because of the scholarship limits instituted by the NCAA for competitive balance. What you will get is a situation where the NCAA would be sanctioning yet another competitive advantage for the big schools and it would mark the end of upstart programs like Boise State.
And really, who wants to live in a world where Notre Dame can once again hog all the top players and compete for national titles every year?
But more importantly, with so much money on the line with the BCS and the bowl games, no court system is ever going to allow a system in which a few select schools have access to the big prizes. Major League Baseball has an anti-trust exemption. Congress is never going to give one to the NCAA.
Of course, not doing anything won’t solve the problem. But the NCAA is going to have to be more creative than just “pay the players.” They can start by allowing them to have jobs during the school year. That, or make sure all kids that need money are adopted by the Tuohys.
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