Last week Orlando Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy grabbed headlines by making a statement that increasingly more Americans have been thinking: It’s time to start paying college athletes. On the surface Van Gundy’s advice seems to make a lot of sense, but if we delve deeper into the current college “amateur” model there may be more layers to consider when examining a future changes.
Let’s begin with the obvious – college sports are anything but amateur. Van Gundy is also correct in stating that colleges “disguise” what are clearly professional sports by calling them amateur, but in reality these colleges could give two hoots whether their student athletes are graduating, and could care even less about what happens to their former athletes who dont “make it” to the league. Out of sight, out of mind — especially if you no longer feed the college athletic revenue machine.
It seems like most people agree that the current system is a farce, but is paying student athletes the answer to the problem? To me, the problem is much deeper than simply paying college student athletes to play sports. Van Gundy’s stronger and more accurate comment was not the one about paying athletes, but what he had to say about seperating athletics and educaiton altogether:
“Athletics and education should be separate. Colleges shouldn’t be farm systems. It doesn’t make any logical sense…the system is wrong. Being a farm system creates problems that are beyond the control of even the best and most well-meaning administrators.”
How many more band-aids and spin jobs do we have to endure as fans before we see college athletics finally get this thing right? It’s actually pretty obvious to see when the corruption in college sports began, as you can see a direct, positive, linear relationship between corruption/ethics violations and the increase in revenue produced through college sports. The bigger the dollars, the greater the problems.
Several years ago when college coaches began making significantly more money than college professors it got me thinking more about the long-term significnace of these blatant disperaties — and then before I could think about that, college coaches soon began making more money than college presidents! Honestly, how can colleges truly call themselves “institutions of higher learning” when they clearly prioritize athletics over educaiton (as evidenced by the huge salary disparities)? Is it strange to you that your sociology professor might make $50-60k, while your football coach makes $3.5 million? And while you can make the argument that the football coach may be worth more than the sociology professor, is that true within a college educational system??
Van Gundy is right about seperating athletics and education, as paying athletes using the current model won’t fix anything long-term. What I mean by that is even though paying college athletes will expose the “elephant in the room,” it still won’t account for inflated grades, booster freebies, and the slew of regular crimes commonly found within college athletic departments. As a famous politician once said, “you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.”
It will be interesting to watch what changes the NCAA offers in the aftermath of all the violations that were reported this summer — will minor tweaks be suggested, or wholesale changes? In reality, until colleges completely do away with their current model the problems will persist. The only answer is to seperate school and sport, similar to church and state. The NCAA should look into creating it’s own “official” minor league athletic system, and release all academic requirements and thereby become what they already are – professional sports.
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