There are debates… and then there is this one.
The age old question of whether collegiate athletes should be receiving money for their services or not.
Johnny Manziel has been in the news yet again for acting out, but this time it is involving an actual NCAA violation. He allegedly got paid almost 8 grand to sign 100 pieces of memorabilia for a broker. What is worse is that he was dumb enough to do it in front of a recording camera, but that’s not the point. If Johnny Football was able to generate $7,500 by signing 100 items, that means that each item was hypothetically sold for $750…
That raises the bigger question… If you were in his position, wouldn’t you want to see some of that money that other people are making off of your signature?
Rules are rules and these athletes are obligated to follow them. I believe that just because you can do something and get away with it doesn’t mean that you should be doing that. It is high risk, high reward for any athlete and right now the former Heisman trophy winner is paying the price. I’m not saying that what Manziel did was right, but it definitely raises the question of what is fair and what is not.
What is Fair…
Let’s focus on the revenue-generating sports such as basketball and football. Nobody really cares whether or not a girls softball player is getting paid for her autographs or not (no offense ladies, its just how it is).
Many athletes that go to college to play are being blessed with the opportunity of getting an education for little to nothing. While millions of students across the country are battling the burden of crazy student loans, they are getting the chance to get a college education for free or for a cheaper cost. They don’t have to work 30 hours a week on top of taking classes. They have to go to practice and play a game that they love. That is fair.
They are given the opportunity to play a sport for four more years (at least) at a highly competitive level. That opportunity gives them a chance to prove their worth and get evaluated by professional teams. If they are good enough to make it to the next level, it will be because they played in college and got the exposure. That’s fair.
They are given the opportunity to be at a university with thousands of other kids their age to have fun with. Many of them are given a way out of their neighborhood, which in many cases is a blessing. That’s fair.
In order to have these opportunities, they have to follow a long set of rules given to them by the NCAA. Many of us would cut off our right leg in order to be blessed with these things. We might cut off both of our legs if all we had to do was follow a set of rules. But what happens if that is just not enough?
What is Not Fair…
There are hundreds of thousands collegiate athletes. Out of those there are thousands of Division I athletes that play in revenue-generating sports. Out of those athletes are guys who will never be known to the public eye… and then there are the athletes that everybody in America knows of.
So to answer my question above, those are the guys are not receiving enough…
Let me give you this scenario. I want you to think about yourself as a college student (if you aren’t already), and you have the opportunity to make an extra buck or two by signing some things and selling them to people. You don’t even have to buy the things that you are going to sign. All you have to do is put your signature on a piece of clothing or a piece of paper and give it to somebody to sell for you. They then will give you most of the money for it and you go on your way. Does that sound appealing?
What about this one. Your university bookstore comes to you and asks that they put your face and your name on a t-shirt so that they can sell it. They make thousands of dollars, maybe millions, off of your face and name but you don’t see a dime of that. Would you be upset?
Or how about this one. A university tells you that they want you to come to their school. In this exchange, you are given a free education and a place to live. But, that university wants you to come to their school because you are worth millions of dollars to them every weekend. They make their millions and you make ~$100,000 in education money. Do you like that outcome?
The answers to all of these questions are obvious. If I knew that my worth, at this very moment, tremendously exceeded what I was being given, I would feel under-appreciated. If you have a full-time job and you are making your company tons of money but are only making an entry-level salary, aren’t you going to ask for a raise? Of course you are, because you deserve it. You put the work in to make yourself better at what you do and in return you want to be paid for it.
As Jalen Rose said in the “Fab Five” documentary, they would walk down the streets and see their jerseys hanging in the windows of shops. They would see their high, black socks, their all black shoes and their baggy shorts hanging in the window. They started a trend and other people were making money off of it. Not them. They felt like that was not fair… and it wasn’t!
There needs to be something done about collegiate athletes getting paid to play a sport at school. If you are on the swim team and the university is making nothing off of you, of course you don’t need to be getting paid. A scholarship in that scenario is well worth you are providing the university. But, if your school, or a certain business, is making money off of your abilities and your name, then you should be receiving a piece of the action.
I don’t know what the solution is to this problem, but what I do know is that many of these athletes deserve more than what they are receiving. I don’t fault Johnny Football for trying to make some extra money on the side by doing an absolute minimum amount of work. He is literally on Sportscenter every day. Everybody in the world knows about him, so I don’t blame him for feeling undervalued. It’s the way anybody would feel. That temptation is there, and it takes a very special human being to resist it.
My hope is that the NCAA starts to realize what the circumstances are. This has been the case for years and something needs to be done. Whether athletes start seeing a portion of the profits, or they receive extra money for getting their degree, there has to be a solution that will minimize the temptation for more.
If nothing is done, star athletes will continue to to feel unappreciated and will continue to break the rules.