Opinion: We can’t pay student-athletes

Jody Michael

Jody Michael

Jody Michael is a junior broadcast journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].

Some sports fans might have stumbled upon Taylor Branch’s cover story in The Atlantic last week about the NCAA. Long story short, Branch is furious that college athletes play for no pay.

People take Branch seriously because he’s a Pulitzer Prize-winning civil rights historian. That’s why it’s really unfortunate he resorted to such pathetic arguments in his NCAA screed.

Branch had the gall to compare the athletes to slaves, sort of. He ultimately didn’t play the slavery card, but he sure waved it in the air like a clueless lunatic.

“Slavery analogies should be used carefully,” he wrote. “College athletes are not slaves. Yet to survey the scene—corporations and universities enriching themselves on the backs of uncompensated young men, whose status as ‘student-athletes’ deprives them of the right to due process guaranteed by the constitution—is to catch an unmistakable whiff of the plantation.”

Seriously? Do we need a reminder that no one forces athletes to come to college and play for free?

Football and basketball players go to college because the NBA doesn’t let anyone enter the draft until they’re a year removed from high school; in the NFL, the requirement is three years. But they don’t have to go to college in the meantime. They could play in an independent minor league or overseas.

So any college athlete who complains he or she doesn’t get a salary is either too stupid to realize other options are available or is secretly enjoying the compensation student-athletes do get: a free education.

Also in the news recently is a report by the National College Players Association that found what big-school college athletes are worth on the basis of team revenues. For example, the average men’s basketball player is worth $265,000, while the average football player is worth $121,000.

But the NCPA was too stupid to remember that athletic revenue can’t really go to athletes because it’s not even enough money to cover all expenditures. Did you know that of the 120 biggest college athletic departments, only 14 of them make more money than they spend?

Here at Kent State, more than $250 of a student’s tuition each semester goes to the athletic department. It’s not like the university has extra money that it’s hiding from athletes. It would have to come from students, and with as many problems that the American education system already has, do we really want to make a college education even more expensive and unattainable?

Of course, the athletic departments do spend recklessly. Nearly 100 college coaches absurdly earn more than $2 million every year – luckily, Kent State coaches Darrell Hazell and Rob Senderoff make a comparatively reasonable $300,000 and $250,000 respectively. But even giving athletic departments the efficiency they need wouldn’t be enough to close the huge deficit gap.

We cannot afford to pay athletes, and students should be more vocal when Branch and his delusional backers ignore that inconvenient fact.