Why Major Collegiate Athletes Should Be Paid

When some people read the title of this post, they will immediately disagree and cling to phrases such as “student-athlete”, “amateurism”, “free education” and other falsifying phrases the NCAA uses to justify the exploitation of college athletes. Are major college athletes truly student-athlete’s? How would paying athletes affect amateurism? What is the cost of that so called free education to the colleges and universities that provide it?
I always hear people say that athletes shouldn’t get paid because they get a “free education” and get to play a sport they love.  What does a “free education” mean exactly? As a former D1 athlete I will let the public in on a secret, its not free. Here is a list of things that come with this so called “free education”: 1) Waking up at 5:30 am to workout. 2) Having your class schedule dictated to you so that you never miss a practice. 3) Not being able to major in certain things because the core courses conflict with your practice or workout schedule. 4) Not being allowed to have a job, God forbid you want to take your significant other to dinner and a movie. 5) Not having the ability to do a summer internship because it conflicts with summer training and 7 on 7 drills. Wow, imagine that your son wants to do an internship because he is preparing for a future outside of football. Seems pretty fair doesn’t it? I think so, but coaches would disagree. If you are fortunate enough to get a D1 scholarship, make no mistake it a is a full-time job. There are no such thing as weekends or holidays. They don’t exist. People think working 40 hours a week at a 9a-5p job is hard, try being a D1 athlete in college. When something becomes a job, you can no longer claim it to be amateurism. If you fail a class, you can stay in school. If you skip practice for a few days, you will be kicked off the team. I don’t want to hear the student-athlete non sense. All the coaches care about is if you will be eligible to play in a bowl game or the sweet 16.
 I went to Boston College where the total tuition currently is $65,644. Do you know how much the actual cost of attendance is for a student-athlete on a full scholarship? It is less than $4,000 a year. Something doesn’t add up. There are 85 scholarship football players per D1 program.  That is about $340,000 per team. You mean to tell me that these schools are making millions and millions of dollars a year but it cost less than half a million dollars to provide scholarships for a whole D1 football team?
The NCAA earns about a billion dollars annually on what we like to call amateur athletics. They have multi-billion dollar agreements with major networks such as CBS and Turner Broadcasting. The individual conferences and schools have exclusive TV rights deals as well, earning universities millions and millions of dollars a year. That seems like a lot of money to go around, don’t you think? Where is all that money going? Why can’t the athletes get a piece of the proverbial pie?
Coaches and athletic directors are being paid millions of dollars while athletes get nothing. Tell me another industry that the people who have the talent and provide the entertainment make no money at all? I’ll wait. Think about this for a second. I believe there are only 4 states in the USA that a college coach is not the highest paid state employee. That is absolutely mind-boggling to me. The head coach of Alabama, Nick Saban, makes $7 million a year. He has 5 national championships, so I wouldn’t say that he didn’t earn it. All I am saying is that those players that helped him win those championships deserve some money as well.
To be clear, I am not advocating that all athletes get paid; just the really good ones. I am mainly talking about D1 college football and men’s college basketball. Any athletic team that can prove that they are a revenue producing sport for their university should be compensated accordingly. All athletes that play football and men’s basketball for a school in a Power 5 conference should be paid (ACC, SEC, Big 12, Big 10, PAC 12). I also believe that something should be worked out for schools in the other conferences as well but they should not receive the same compensation as the Power 5 athletes. Their schools do not get the same bowl invitations and do not receive the preferential treatment in seeding for the NCAA basketball tournament as the Power 5 school. I also believe there are many women’s teams that should be paid as well, such as women’s UCONN and Tennessee basketball programs for example. They have shown a sustained level of excellence and should be compensated for their hard work. I am all for equal rights for woman, but at the end of the day, their sports do not produce the same revenue as the men’s sports. That is not my opinion, that is just a fact of life. I know Title 9 defenders will fight this vigorously but numbers don’t lie.
Not only do I believe that these college athletes should be paid, but I also believe that they should be able to benefit from their likeness and free market. How many D1 athletes received a settlement check from the case the O’bannon brothers (former UCLA basketball players) brought against EA sports for using our likeness in NCAA video games? I did!!! Has anyone noticed that EA sports has not made an NCAA football or basketball game in years? It was an admission of guilt. They knowingly benefited and profited off of the likeness of collegiate athletes and made millions of dollars. The judge ruled in the athletes favor and claimed EA sports exploited collegiate athletes using their direct likeness and not properly compensating them. How is that any different to what universities do to athletes everyday? As athletes, we do charity events and sign countless autographs. Many people sell those autographs for money. Don’t you think that an athlete should be paid to sign autographs if someone is willing to pay them? America is about capitalism isn’t it? If the school is selling your jersey in the book store, shouldn’t that player be able to profit off of that? It seems like common sense, doesn’t it?
The biggest pushback I have heard about paying college athletes is “How do you do it?”. To be honest with you, I’m not sure, I just know it needs to be done as soon as possible. I can think of a few ways, one of which is giving athletes a stipend. We could also hold the money into a trust until after their college careers are over. We could incentivize the payment by only giving them to athletes who graduate. I’m sure that would appease the people stuck on the phrase “student-athlete”. The notion that paying players will give schools an unfair advantage in luring premier talent is ludicrous. Schools already have an unfair advantage. Take a look at University of Alabama’s football stadium and facilities, then drive to University of Alabama-Birmingham to see their facilities and tell me the advantage doesn’t already exist.
When the Northwestern football team tried to unionize, I believe they were on the right track. To be fair to coaches, most of the ones I know, believe D1 players should be paid. Hopefully one day the people calling the shots at the NCAA will see it as well.


Why My Future Son Will Never Play Football

Why My Future Son Will Never Play Football- The Unapologetic GentSome people will read the title of this post and immediately discount it. Let’s be clear, I do not hate football. On the contrary, I enjoy watching it very much. During football season, my week consists of watching two or three games. If and when I have a son, that will most likely change, but we will address that later. First let me say that football has given me so much; it has allowed me to grow as a man. There are invaluable lessons that only the game of football can teach you. Football matures you in ways no other sport can. It teaches you commitment, work ethic and most of all team work.

I have quite a few friends who are current and former NFL players and we would always joke that even the laziest football player at the collegiate level works harder than anyone in any other sport. There is no sport that demands the work that football demands on and off the field. Football involves countless hours of training and watching film, not to mention practice which is one of the most grueling aspects of the sport. The game is the easy part. It is easy to get yourself excited to go play in front of seventy-thousand people. It takes a rare kind of discipline, a certain level of unselfishness and an undying commitment to improve. These are all qualities that anyone in life, whether in business or in a relationship, would look for in a person they want to associate with.

With all those great qualities that come from learning the game of football, it also can bring out a side most of America isn’t prepared to deal with. Football is a game of attrition. Football is a game that exposes and preys on the weak. Kids are trained from grade school to smell and seek out the wounded and swarm to it. That is the nature of the game. As football players, we tend to be more aggressive in every aspect of life. Surprise! That is what we were taught as children and as you go up in levels and kids start to be separated by talent and ability, it’s usually those football players who have an innate nastiness about them that succeed.

Anyone can play football in high school or join your local semi-pro team. But to make it on the elite college level and above, you have to have a “by any means necessary” mentality. Most people are mistaken and think that size is what makes people football players. I hear people say all the time “he is a big kid, he should play football”. There are plenty of big, yet soft people walking around on earth that want no part of what football entails. That is the biggest myth in the world.

The major difference between a defensive back and a linebacker is mentality. It has nothing to do with size and everything to do with mentality. Survival of the fittest, kill or be killed, blood in the water mentality. Most men don’t have it. They don’t have the stomach for it. It is not something that can be taught or learned; you either have it or you don’t.

I could live with my son having that mentality, because I had it. It can be used for good when harnessed and applied properly. The reason he will never play football is simply because the game is too dangerous. Knowing what everyone now knows about CTE and brain damage, I could not allow my child to play football. I feel like it would be like me encouraging him to smoke cigarettes. I know they are bad but everyone that smokes them doesn’t get lung cancer. If I knew back then what I know now about the effects of playing football, I would have never laced up a pair of cleats.

Again, I appreciate what it did for me. It allowed me to get an education at a top 25 university and most importantly, break the cycle of poverty in my family. My best friends in life are some of my former college team mates. If it wasn’t for football, I wouldn’t have them. I was able to experience the NFL, which is something most people can only dream of. I am appreciative of the experience. That is where the appreciation ends.

Bo Jackson and Kurt Warner have echoed a similar sentiment. They will not allow their sons to play football either. Most of my NFL buddies will not subject their sons to the game. Anytime I tell people my future son won’t play football, people are so taken aback by it. I always get the “how are you going to stop him?” question. First, I will stop watching football completely the day he wants to start watching TV with me. I will also not display any of my football paraphernalia that I acquired from my playing days. It will be in the attic in a box. As long as he is living under my roof, eating food I buy, wearing clothes I provide, he will not be a football player. When he moves out of the house, if he finds football after that, then God bless him. Again, I am not opposed to other people playing football, just not any of my children.

If you are trying to break the cycle of poverty as I did, and uplift the quality of life for you and your family, then by all means, play football and have fun! People always talk about protecting their children and keeping them safe. That is all I am trying to do. The definition of ignorance is a lack of knowledge or information. When I was growing up, we could plead ignorance. No one knew about CTE or the effects concussions had on football players. Guess what? Now we do. So now that we have the knowledge and information necessary to assess the damage football causes in players, what do you call someone who ignores that information? Naive? Stupid? Rebellious? Delusional? Passionate?

This post was written to spark discussion and debate. Please comment and let me know your thoughts on the subject.