The Pay For Play Debate Seems Unending

Unknown The question of whether college athletes should be paid for their on the field exploits has been argued for many years. With the recent investigations into Texas A & M quarterback Johnny Manziel, the Oklahoma State University football program, and the recent admission, by Houston Texans and former University of Tennessee running back Arian Foster, that he received extra payments for food and rent while playing at Tennessee, the debate has reemerged.  

“I don’t know if this will throw us [Tennessee] into a NCAA investigation — my senior year, I was getting money on the side,: said Foster. I really didn’t have any money. I had to either pay rent or buy some food. I remember the feeling of like, ‘Man, be careful.’ But there’s nothing wrong with it. An you’re not going to convince me that there is something wrong with it.”

Those in favor of paying college athletes generally point to the amount of revenue the athletes generate for their universities. The argument has merit, but the logistical nightmare of figuring out how a payment scale would be structured seems to be a sizeable obstacle. There are 120 schools who participate in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), with discernible levels of talent.   Determining what to pay one player in comparison to another would be a dangerously subjective process.  Is the quarterback, arguably the player with the most impact on the outcome of the game, the highest paid player on the team? It has been reported that the vast majority of FBS schools’ athletic departments do not turn a profit. Is it practical to require every school in the FBS to pay their players? If the players become employees of the university, collective bargaining, and other union practices become an issue. If the players are not happy with what they are being paid, college football could face player holdouts and work stoppages similar to the National Football League and other professional leagues. images From a legal perspective, there is no doubt that attorneys throughout the nation would benefit from a flood of legal inquiries and litigation regarding contract disputes as well as endorsement deals. But would paying players create more problems than it solves? Anyone who has gone to college without the benefit of an athletic scholarship knows the value (at least monetary) of that education. Not every player, even the elite, succeeds at the next level. These athletes are being given a certified back-up plan free of charge. They are given free room and board and a meal plan. Those who are complaining that they cannot pay their rent or afford groceries are individuals who have chosen to live in on or off campus apartments. A student-athlete can live a more than comfortable life on scholarship at these schools.   Courts have historically pleaded for judicial efficiency hoping to avoid frivolous lawsuits and an overcrowding of dockets. Issues listed above, and a myriad of others, would no doubt entice clever attorneys to craft allegations and claims related to paying college athletes that would substantially impair that sought efficiency. It would help if the athletes themselves recognized the value in the education they are being given, but that is another subject for another day. Some would say, just leave it the way it is. Those who deserved to get paid to play will eventually get their day in the NFL, and those who do not (the vast majority), will wish they had taken advantage of a free diploma.