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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 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

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