To pay or not to pay

John F. Silver

News comes in bunches.

There is no hotter topic in college sports right now than pay for players. The record TV deals that are being signed by conferences, the astronomical salary of coaches (really the only ones getting rich off all this) and now the protest of A.P.U from college players. The love of money is indeed the root of all evil.

On WednesdayB1G commissioner jim Delaney, the man who speaks for all big college athletics, had a message for that:

“Maybe in football and basketball, it would work better if more kids had a chance to go directly into the professional ranks,” Delany said. “If they’re not comfortable and want to monetize, let the minor leagues flourish. Train at IMG, get agents to invest in your body, get agents to invest in your likeness and establish it on your own. But don’t come here and say, ‘We want to be paid $25,000 or $50,000.’ Go to the D-League and get it, go to the NBA and get it, go to the NFL and get it. Don’t ask us what we’ve been doing.”

So, let’s cut to the chase, should the NCAA and colleges pay players to play?

No.

Not at the levels that some are asking. I am in favor of a small stipend, but after that it becomes impractical.

When you take in the cost of attendance and then add in a stipend for incidentals, the system is more than fair to 95 percent of the players.

What?

Yes,you read that correctly.  It’s an unpopular opinion and I’ve changed my tune on this over the last decade covering college sports. Maybe because I started covering hoops low Division I hoops in the Northeast Conference where maybe one player a decade has a chance at making money in athletics after college.

To me, anything more than a small stipend would destroy the college game.

For the vast majority of Division I athletes, FBS athletes too, the value they bring to the program is less than the value they extract out of it.

In plain terms, a 5-year offensive lineman who never starts is getting a full education and room and board to play football and wants the same as the Heisman Trophy winner?

Who should get the money?

We talk about a capitalistic society and then criticize the NCAA for not paying players market value. If we are going to go down with that thought experiment, Johnny Manziel should get millions and the 5th string wide receiver on A&M should have to pay his own way.  If we split it equally, then that’s not capitalism, that’s socialism.  How long before the high-value players rebel against their teammates?

Now, I have tremendous moral problem with the NCAA making money off of Johnny Manziel jerseys and the head coaches of these institutions making so much money  that they are the highest paid state employees in each state (Geno Auriemma is the highest paid Connecticut state employee).

Should Manziel be allowed to make money off his name? Yes.  He should get royalties on his image. He’s a rare case where he is worth millions of dollars to A&M that they could not have gotten from another talent. He’s the exception, not the rule.

But, how many people are Johnny Manziel?  At most 10 basketball players a year and maybe 40 football players at best. Is anyone really that valuable than the next?

The value is created by the institution, not the player.

Here is this at work. The old Connecticut Pride of  CBA lore had several UConn players on the roster including current men’s coach Kevin Ollie and the rosters were littered with high-profile former college players.  There was no one in the Armory at the game. You could hear a pin drop. Six months prior, a UConn vs. Top 25 caliber program would have drawn tens of thousands. That game was going on, and no one was there. What does that tell us about the role of college branding?

Lastly, let’s not excuse the fact the players are getting paid something in real value. For any of us who have taken out student loans (the scourge to economic freedom for those under 40), we know that is real money and real value.

A practical example? Was former UConn C Enosch Wolf getting paid to go to UConn?

Wolf had his scholarship taken away this spring but invited back as a walk-on. He had to pay his own way. He stayed in Germany to sign a pro-contract. Why? The cost.

UConn, where out of state tuition, room and board are about $43,000 per year, gets paid whether it is by scholarship or stipend.

We are also forgetting that playing college sports is voluntary. If a player feels that he/she is exploited, then don’t play college sports.

My biggest issue with paying players much more than a stipend (the players should have some walking around money for soda, movies and incidentals) is practical.

I talked with several UConn players in Newport this summer about the issue when the Manziel autograph scandal hit.

UConn quarterback Chandler Whitmer didn’t think paying players was something that’s necessary.

“We are blessed to have opportunity to play college football,” Whitmer said. “School’s paid for, whatever is extra. There are so many that want to play college football, I don’t want to get greedy and enjoy the game.”

Offensive guard Steve Greene think players should have some walking around money and get some royalties for their likeness.

“I do think there should be a little something, Greene said. “Really, the time we put in is like a full-time job. For certain people, they don’t have anything. It would be nice to be able to have a little money in your pocket for a sandwich.”

UConn head coach Paul Pasqualoni has dealt with this issue over the course of his entire 40-year career. Here are his thoughts from Newport this summer.

“I think the perception is so much money going around but I don’t think you can minimize the cost to the programs,” Pasqualoini said. “Then, the issue becomes the stipend, who do you give it to? Do you give it to everybody? There are laws like Title iX. Is it just for football, football/basketball? Or track? I have no idea. I understand the issue of the stipends. years back there was laundry money. There is pell grant for those who qualify.

If it was affordable and fair, I would be for it. But I have been around it a long time and in a lot of meetings. Maybe with the math and the new playoff system the math works now. I don’t know.”

Lastly, if it isn’t heavily regulated by the NCAA (which no one wants), there is this issue.

“Then it comes a recruiting,” Pasqualoni said. “This school offers scholarship and cost of attendance. Then, you have a chance of 5 years to collect – it will influence your decision. I think it has to be fair.”

The current system isn’t working. The NCAA is a hypocrite and the notion of amateur is a sham. Johnny Football should get his money.

It doesn’t mean what’s being talked about to fix that is going to be good for the other 8,000 players in FBS football. If they operate under those rules many would be worse off for it.