Tuesday, October 4, 2022

The Socialist’s Journal: Paying College Athletes

Brookins Head Shot

*With the NCAA Men’s Division I College Basketball Tournament in full swing, it is a good time to dust off my proposal (initially from 2011) for correcting the injustice of how some players will generate millions of dollars but cannot partake in the profits. The solution I propose corrects the situation without adding expenses for the schools and without equating future professional athletes with walk-on student athletes participating in Division III lacrosse.

I have argued in the past that big time collegiate athletes (primarily football and men’s basketball players) should be paid for their services. Yet even as I held this position I could not formulate a sustainable method of paying them.

And while the logistics of paying college athletes may have been tricky, the principle was solid and worth pursuing. The solution has now presented itself.

Some of the objections to paying college athletes are 1. The players are already being compensated in the form of their athletic scholarship. 2. Paying college football players would mean paying college bowlers. 3. All college athletes receive the same athletic scholarship so wouldn’t they all receive the same pay? 4. Using the revenue from football and basketball to pay the players would decrease the funds for other intercollegiate sports. My solution works around all of these issues.

Ironically enough, the most recent Ohio State improper benefits scandal revealed this resolution to me even as commentators across the country were condemning the players that were involved. Let players retain the use of their identity for profit making enterprises.

College athletics are using the players as a form of unpaid labor. For the majority of the athletes on any campus this is a great deal. But for some athletes this situation is terribly unfair. College football and basketball players are generating the billions of dollars that allow for the other sports to operate. By allowing the most prestigious collegiate athletes to use their names and likenesses they are able to benefit from their popularity while at the same time taking nothing away from their school’s or the NCAA’s profit margin.

At Ohio State the players would have maintained total eligibility for trading autographed memorabilia for tattoos. Technically it was their gear, and their autographs. The NCAA could allow for these transactions to take place. The beauty of such a setup is that all players, male or female, would be able to make money or trade goods and services off of their name. In other words the opportunity is open to basketball players going to the NBA as well as golfers destined to be local club pros.

If the NCAA adopted these guidelines for allowing players to make extra money, the universities would still profit from the ticket sales, parking, and any officially licensed merchandise (jerseys and video games). That is they would still be getting a return on their investment of the athletic scholarship. Furthermore they would be able to keep their revenue and therefore keep offering the other varsity sports that depend on that revenue.

If the NCAA adopted these guidelines only the most popular players would realistically have a chance to take advantage of the rule change. In other words there would be no worry about the inequality of pay for the volleyball players compared to the football players, or the inequality of the pay of the male basketball players compared to the female players. Essentially everyone is able to do what they will to make their name and likeness profitable.

In the United States socialism consistently gets equated with communism. But in fact the two philosophies have important differences. Communism is a system that advocates that all resources be pooled together. Socialism is a system that encourages individuality and profit, but does not allow them to dominate decision making.

The NCAA currently operates in a system that is extremely similar to communism and the most talented people are being exploited. If they were professionals with their wages being artificially held down, people would be aghast.

Allowing players to seek the best deals and then use whatever money they make to pay for college would be close to unrestrained capitalism. When such a solution is suggested most people find it distasteful. The solution for college football splits the difference much like socialism is a happy medium between capitalism and communism.

Under these rules the NCAA would be forfeiting nothing; there is no risk. So what reason will they give to justify their ongoing greed?

Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War.  His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at trevormbrookins@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.





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