The most commonly debated topic in the world of sports today is the incredibly touchy subject of whether or not college athletes should be paid. The once simple and trustworthy organization of the NCAA is now shrouded in controversy and complexity. The recent upbringing of the potential for unions in college athletics just adds to the commotion. This debate, as well as many others, currently contribute to a failing and deteriorating NCAA.
For decades, college sports have been built upon the commitment of student-athletes and their love for the game. This foundation is why college sports have always been so special. However, this foundation is quickly disappearing.
An extreme minority of college athletes are actually there for a shot at the pros. Just roughly 1.2 percent of college athletes play professionally after college. The other 98.8 percent of student-athletes are there for the love of the game.
That 1.2 percent of players that go pro and slated for big paychecks in their future and do not have to worry about getting paid in college. That leaves a large portion of college athletes eager to make as much money as possible before their four-year tenure is up.
A perfect example of that 98.8 percent of student-athletes is the football players from Northwestern University. They have been the steam engine driving this debate train.
To be frank, Northwestern is not a good football team, and in turn, has fairly average football players. These players see the reality that football will not make them money after college. Therefore, they want to get as much money as they can before they go into the real world.
There is a reason that you do not see people like Jameis Winston or Doug McDermott pushing for this change, because they know they will get the big checks one day. If big names like these were leading the charge, this change would have been put in place years ago.
The biggest problem I have with college athletes requesting money is that most Division I athletes are getting paid, whether they realize it or not. When you count up the amount of money that they are not paying in school tuition, books, meal plans (thanks to Shabazz Napier) and who knows what else, you are looking at the very least $100,000 over four maybe even three years. That’s money that millions of other college students in America have to struggle to pay. That’s money that goes toward an education, something that a majority of American cannot even get at the college-level.
To see these student-athletes take that education for granted is truly an abomination and is quite sad. We are raised to believe that education is the most important and invaluable thing in life. How can we continue to convince children of that if the great athletes that they look up to take that gift for granted?
Perhaps this selfishness stems from the top, down. The people in charge of the “non-profit” organizations that is the NCAA cut corners and exploit loopholes to maximize the very thing they claim to not be about: profit. The NCAA continuously turns a blind eye to violations to avoid confronting very real problems that currently exist. As Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby put it, “cheating pays presently” in the NCAA. In his statement, he went on to say that “if you aspire to circumvent the rules, you can do so successfully.”
If a statement such as this one from the commissioner of a big time Division I conference such as the Big 12 does not wake up those in charge of the NCAA, I don’t know what will.
Even coaches are contributing to the selfishness. Coaches do nothing to stop the problems arising in college athletes and in many cases, make them worse. They become figure heads on as large as a national scale and become consumed in propaganda and that they let go of their morals to win. This is where the points that Bowlsby made begin to connect.
I run cross country and track for the University of Mary Washington, a Division III school in Fredericksburg, Virginia. All of the coaches at my school are also professors and teach at least one class. The same requirement was held at the high school I attended. What this requirement does is not only direct the coaches mind away from something other than his or her sport, but creates a real and substantial connection between the coach and the student body. Just as a college athlete is a student-athlete, I believe that a college coach should have to be a professor-coach.
College athletes need to put life in perspective and be thankful for the tremendous opportunities that they have been given and not feel the need to go to such great lengths to make a quick buck. Coaches need to be advocates for these necessary changes. The NCAA needs to grow a spine and not give into each and every demand of its student-athletes and crack down on all violations. Just because Shabazz Napier goes to bed with the munchies from time to time, does not mean every Division I athlete needs an unlimited meal plan.