One of the biggest issues involving the NCAA today is whether or not student athletes should be compensated for their services to their school’s athletic programs. A highly debated subject, the topic has perhaps gained more and more controversy due to recent support by high profile coaches. The NCAA has also been negatively perceived for its strict and sometimes questionable enforcement of its polices involving extra benefits for student athletes.
Scandals like the ones at Miami and Ohio State haven’t helped its case. A big part of why student athletes are involved in receiving improper benefits is the nature of college athletics. If you compare the NFL or the NBA to College Football or Basketball, what is the difference between them?
Both are high revenue producing businesses. Both make their participants famous. Both tempt their participants in participating in questionable activities. In some ways, College sports are just as, if not more, popular and successful than their professional counterparts.
Consider the situation that the University of Kentucky basketball program is in. It just won a national championship. Its entire starting lineup, including three true freshman players, declared for the NBA draft afterwards. Critics of Kentucky and Head Coach John Calipari harp on the fact that his so-named “one-and-dones” have ruined the landscape of College Basketball. But they are missing the point.
Calipari isn’t doing anything illegal. He is abiding by the current system set in place by the NCAA and succeeding at an extremely high level (it also helps that he is a darn good coach with a knack for producing NBA-ready talent). The NBA’s policy for players entering the draft centers on the fact that they have to be at least one year out of high school. And remember, many of these basketball players, as well as many college athletes, come from places where they have experienced financial hardship.
It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that these athletes want to make good income as soon as they can. However, would they be as eager to leave school if they were being compensated for competing on their college teams? I understand that college athletes already (for the most part) are on scholarship and receive many benefits because of who they are.
But if they were to be given a little income for themselves, for which they could use for their individual purposes, it could provide a little more incentive to stay in school and get their degrees.
And this brings me back to NCAA violations involving supposed illegal benefits. These same players and programs that the NCAA is punishing for violations are being taken advantage of, far worse than they would like to admit. You have street agents providing favors for these athletes and expecting the athletes do give favors in return (which is how most violations come out in the news).
Then you have the athletes’ schools themselves. Think of the Reggie Bush saga years ago at the University of Southern California. The school distanced themselves from Bush because of the sanctions that the NCAA put on their athletic programs because of violations that Bush committed while at USC. But do you hear them apologizing for all of the money that Bush made them during his time there? I certainly didn’t think they made a big one.
In today’s world, college athletes are pawns in a huge chess game. These are young men and women that are still finding their way in the world. And as much as the NCAA, colleges, and universities want to deny, they do take advantage of them. They reap the benefits of the athletes competing in their sports. But they also punish them to protect their institutions’ integrity and character. They are just as at fault as their athletes at times, particularly in some of their strange rulings of cases that arise.
The reality is that the notion of not compensating student athletes isn’t as cut-and-dry as people believe it is.