California’s new law that enables college athletes to become professional enough to make money off their athletic performance while still playing as amateurs accomplishes a couple of things that have been in the works for a while. First, it allows us to address what collegiate athletics has become for many and second it provides a potential catalyst to reform a badly broken system. It’s one in which I think both sides are to blame. The colleges/NCAA and the players.
In case you haven’t been paying attention, college athletics, especially in D1 football and basketball programs, is the epitome of posturing. Does anyone honestly believe that the NCAA and division one schools are as interested in the education and intellectual development of student-athletes as they are making money? The average salary of a division one college coach is $1.7 million for football and $1.6 million for men’s basketball. The average salary for a college professor at these schools is $97,000. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with it given that it’s based on market conditions. Just don’t treat me like I’m stupid. That especially goes for players who were never considered for admission into schools based on academic/civic performance but are recruited by these schools because of their athletic skills.
Are there legitimate student-athletes who take their education as seriously as athletics? Without a doubt. Are there large numbers of high-profile athletes that couldn’t give a rat’s rear end about the education and do the bare minimum necessary to remain eligible to play? Unless you’re new here you know the answer. Every scholarship athlete is compensated. The average annual value of a scholarship for all student-athletes is $18,500. The average annual value for a division one college football player is $42,000.
Now, that’s pretty darn good for an 18-year-old kid playing amateur athletics. In fact, 99% of grade school athletes would love the opportunity to have a scholarship that also allows them to continue to play sports.
The biggest shame in collegiate athletics today arguably isn’t the greed and intellectual dishonesty of the NCAA or athletic departments at many colleges. It also isn’t a lack of appreciation for the value of the scholarships and educational opportunities afforded to many athletes. It’s what this corrupted system prevents from happening. Would-be student-athletes being denied scholarship opportunities and the ability to play collegiate sports that are occupied by the players recruited to play sports who wouldn’t meet the academic standards required of the school.
When it comes to abuse within athletics the biggest losers are never the names you know. They’re the people you’ve never heard of who never received opportunities despite doing it the right way. This is a different version of a similar thing to what happened to a generation of baseball players in the 90’s and early 2000’s during baseball’s PED heyday. The real tragedy wasn’t Barry Bonds stealing Hank Aaron’s home run title or Big Mac and Sosa making a mockery out of Maris’s single-season mark. It was the toll it took on hundreds of thousands of kids who felt they had to do PED’s as early as middle school to be able to get noticed and the hundreds of thousands of kids who choose not to cheat who were denied opportunities they may have otherwise received.
Now, should Florida join California in allowing collegiate athletes to become compensated? I say yes.
Florida is one of seven additional states currently considering the prospect of traveling down the same path as California. I’d like to see it happen in the hopes of ending the charade that is college athletics for most of the D1 men’s football and basketball programs. My hope is that eventually, we’ll have “minor league” equivalents for all major sports, that would put an end to the NFL and NBA’s manipulated use of college programs as their defacto minor leagues. Doing so would also force colleges to actually care about student-athletes rather than pretending.
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