PR in Sports

Looking at the World of Sports from a PR Perspecitve

Should NCAA Athletes Play for Pay?

with 8 comments

Ah yes, March Madness is upon us! One of my favorite times of the year, but along with exciting college basketball, we can certainly expect a heavy dose of ‘should college athletes get paid’ commentary. This is always a hot topic with strong opinions from those in sports and academics, and I came across an interesting article in the Indianapolis Star from long-time columnist Bob Kravitz on this exact topic.

His basic premise is ‘lets make college sports a real minor league.’ His theory is that a scholarship athlete should have a choice, accept the scholarship and become a student-athlete, or turn down the scholarship and get paid $25,000 per year by the college, with no academic obligations. He argues that most likely only 3-4 athletes a year, between football and basketball, would accept the pay.

Kravitz does raise some interesting questions, and his is one of the more creative ideas that I’ve heard on this topic, but also one of the most unrealistic. It would be a PR disaster for the NCAA to announce they’re going to pay college athletes, but those athletes wouldn’t have to remain eligible or attend a single class for that matter. This would especially be an issue for public universities funded by the tax-payer.

I honestly can’t think of a single way that the NCAA could justify this to the public, and I’m unsure how Kravitz can pass this as a plausible solution. There’s no doubt that the NCAA and their member institutions are making millions, even billions, from football and basketball, but turning them into a quasi minor league is not the solution.

Basketball is really the sport with the issue, since football players can’t leave for the NFL until they’re three years removed from high school. I’m not for college athletes getting paid, I’ve always thought the scholarship was payment enough, but the NBA and NCAA need to figure something out. The 1 and done system has some serious flaws. The 1 and done basketball player literally has no incentive to attend class, especially not in the second semester.

I think the road we’re headed down is the NBA turning the NBDL into a true minor league, with each team having the their own affiliate. The NBA would then go back to allowing players to jump directly from high school, but any athlete choosing the NCAA would be required to stay somewhere between 2-3 years.

According to “point 3” of the Weekend Dime on espn.com last weekend, the NBA is already in the process of moving the NBDL to a more baseball-style minor league system. The issue is that some NBA teams are willing to absorb the cost of basketball operations for their affiliate, but not the business costs. This may have to wait for the economy to turn before becoming a viable solution.

But, I think that is the best solution for the NBA, NCAA and preserving the term “student-athlete”, but I’m interested to hear others opinions/ideas on this. Do you think Kravitz has a plan here? Do you have another solution?

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Written by Brian Gleason

March 9, 2009 at 1:53 am

8 Responses

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  1. Good topic, Brian

    As a former college athlete, I think that athletes SHOULD be paid. However, I don’t think you can make college athletics a “minor league system”. I’m sure that the people who gave us the NCAA Tournament and the BCS could find a way to pay these athletes. College athletics are a billion dollar industry. They don’t have to give the kids all of the money. I think a “piece” of the pie is necessary.

    12kyle

    March 9, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    • Hi Kyle,

      It’s definitely interesting the different perspectives. I’m a former college athlete as well and have always been against college athletes getting paid. I just think a quality, free, education and the lifelong advantages that provides is enough. If an athlete doesn’t take advantage of that opportunity, then that’s on them.

      Although I do understand the argument you and others make.

      Brian Gleason

      March 9, 2009 at 8:54 pm

  2. Brian,

    You posed an interesting question and Kravitz has a point as well. I think paying college-athletes would turn into a PR nightmare for the major & minor leagues as well as the college affiliates. Student athletes know that they are in school first and foremost to obtain an education. But frankly, many of them probably won’t be there without an athletic scholarship. So to give an additional incentive in form of a paycheck would sweeten the pot in some cases but also lead to displaced hopes and misguided futures of student athletes in generations to come. From a PR aspect, I think the last thing the public (sports fans) wants to hear is how much a college athlete gets paid when they’re regularly reminded how much a pro is making.I’m not sure if the public or the players are ready for that kind of pressure, publicity or scrunity.

    Aerial M. Ellis

    March 9, 2009 at 8:32 pm

  3. Good post on a tough issue, Brian.

    I agree with you: college athletes should not be paid, especially from a PR standpoint. The NCAA would get roasted and lose a lot of credibility. Though it has shown otherwise at times, the NCAA must do its best to balance academics for its STUDENT athletes and making money.

    To play devil’s advocate, however, college basketball & football are money makers & what is the main reason they’re money makers? The student athletes.

    A tangential observation: If you notice, the one and done’s come from mostly the same schools. Every once in a while a school like Kansas State gets a Michael Beasley, but it’s usually the Memphis’ (Rose, Evans, and in the next year Demarcus Cousins, Xavier Henry, and maybe John Wall), the O$U’s, & UNC’s that produce these stud players. Why do you think this is?

    Tom O'Keefe

    March 9, 2009 at 8:50 pm

    • Thanks Tom.

      I think the reason you see 1 and done’s coming from mostly the same schools is because the main goal of a 1 and done player is to get to the next level. A kid like Tyreke Evans, currently at Memphis, has seen Derek Rose become the #1 pick in the draft. Some of the studs at UNC watch the NBA and see rosters littered with former UNC players. They figure playing for that coach and/or that program is their quickest way to a paycheck in the NBA.

      Brian Gleason

      March 9, 2009 at 8:58 pm

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    Lilian Hyman

    December 24, 2009 at 6:20 am

  5. Hey, excellent job on writing this Should NCAA Athletes Play for Pay? « PR in Sports up, I am going to link this from my personal blog!

    larry kuyper mn

    June 25, 2011 at 9:13 pm


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