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Time to pay college athletes?

Posted By Les Kinsolving On 09/16/2013 @ 7:27 pm In Commentary,Opinion | No Comments

Time magazine recently proposed that it’s time to pay college athletes.

I would respond to that by asserting that when (and if) university athletes begin to be paid, that will surely also be time to repeal the tax exemptions of all such institutions that opt for pro football.

Why should any university or college be tax exempt – as an alleged institute of higher learning – when they become proprietors of hugely profitable professional football teams?

But Time’s Sean Gregory writes the following:

  • “A great scientific discovery will make good press material for a few days, but nothing to compare to the performance of a first-class athlete.” (In other words, if there comes a discovery that means the conquest of cancer – that’s “good press material for a few days but nothing to compare” to a first-class football player – particularly if he becomes a pro-football star as well.)

  • The Time’s proposal does not apply to women’s college sports. What kind of uproar – if any – will that create under Title IX regarding gender equality in sports?
  • The University of Chicago dropped football in 1939. Most of Ivy League football games are played in stadiums that are 50-75 percent empty – because the Ivies regard football as a sport, rather than as a huge profit maker.
  • “According to federal data, the University of Texas football team netted a profit of $77.9 million in 2011-12. … The University of Michigan made $61.6 million from football. … Any business would kill for those profit margins.” (But are any of our universities publicly dedicated to the prospect of killing in order to make such profits from what is supposed to be campus recreational sport, rather than a hugely profitable business?)
  • “Academic work for some athletes is secondary: Top men’s basketball and football players spend 40 hours per week on their sports, easily. During football season, former Georgia tailback Richard Samuel, who earned an undergraduate degree in sports management in 2011, said he was an ‘athlete-student,’ not a ‘student-athlete,’ as the NCAA wants people to believe. ‘In the fall, we would spend more time on sports than academics.’” (And why should Georgia taxpayers, who pay millions to operate the University of Georgia, have to put up with this diminution of studies to sweat – by football team members – every fall?)
  • “Average salaries for major college football coaches have jumped more than 70 percent since 2006, to $1.64 million, according to USA Today.”

Writer Gregory does concede the following:

  • “Paying players could make even more of a mockery of education. Right now, for example, many athletes cluster into easy majors in order to stay eligible on the field. If they’re making good money while still in school, they may not care one lick about learning. ‘I just don’t think we ever want to go down the path of creating an employee-employer relationship with student-athletes,’ says Bob Bowlsby, commissioner of the Big 12 Conference. ‘This is higher education, and it always ought to be higher education.’

    “But often it is not. The federal graduation rate for football players at Big 12 school Oklahoma, for example, is 38 percent.”

  • “At the University of North Carolina, for example, grades were changed and bogus classes were offered for athletes and non-athletes alike. College sports are already impure; paying players can’t make things much worse. At the highest levels, the games are mass entertainment.”


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