There was a time in the history of college football when it was just a good ole scrum between two rival academic institutions and any money made helped buy a few uniforms and some leather helmets. Those days are long over! The business of college football is beyond huge. The money is flowing, no… rushing, no… tsunami-ing to athletic departments, universities, and coaches. Don’t forget about food and beverage companies and stadium contractors (building new stadiums, additions and indoor facilities). Basically, everyone. That is everyone except the reason for all the money coming in…The Players. It’s time to pay the players. Actually, it is past time. It blows my mind how much resistance I hear from fans about the notion of paying the players. It is not hard to figure out why the universities and athletic departments would resist it. But, fans being against it? We don’t make money off the players. We cheer for them. I always hear different reasons why the players can’t be paid. I will concede that there are issues to be worked out in paying the players but that’s what we do in every other profession. I have heard these many reasons but I would call them excuses. Again, we pay workers in every other profession we can do it in college football.
I think the discussion needs to begin with this notion-There is only one reason and one reason only that college football players are not being paid. If they make money then everyone else in the system will make less. It is not rocket science but it is economics. This is not a new fight for workers to ask for a bigger piece of the pie and employers to resist. We have a minimum wage law in this country for a reason. Some employers didn’t/don’t even want to pay that. Here’s the deal, there is all this money coming in and everyone is getting a slice of that pie. If you pay the players then somebody getting paid has to get less. It’s simple. Those profiting off these player do not want to make less. What’s even crazier is that not only are the players not getting paid, there are rules limiting what a player can earn outside of football(job, etc). What is the reason for this rule? Well, it’s the same reason. If the player could make money then those who profit off the player will make less money. For example, would Nike pay the school millions for the teams to wear their clothing when they could pay the player some of that? Man, what a system the NCAA and universities have created.
Now, people like to talk that these players are getting a free education. That is true. That has value but I argue that it is not enough. Especially, since we are finding out more and more that these players are being funneled into easy classes to remain eligible(you can find several stories regarding this matter). Meaning they are not even getting the highest quality education. In fact, one of the main reasons the Northwestern players have sought to unionize is because they really can’t get the education they want because of the demands of football. They at least want to get the education they are promised since most of them are not going to play football professionally. Bobby Bowden was the first coach to make $1 million/year in 1996. 19 years later, 72 coaches make over $1 million/year. Nick Saban makes $7 million/year which is a 600% increase from Bobby Bowden in 1996. It’s time to pay the players. It’s past time. One argument you hear a lot is that the money from football supports all the other sports. It does but it also supports individuals and universities bank accounts. There is no need to take the money from women’s lacrosse. Most coaching staffs make a total of 4 million/year to 13 million/year. What if they made less and the players got paid? That’s one option. Believe me, give me a minute with that athletic budget and I will find money for the players. Everyone involved(including the players) should sit down at the bargaining table and figure out how much to pay the players. It’s not rocket science. It is economics and it can be done.
Let me give you a scenario. A buddy of yours has some start up cash to open a restaurant and he wants you to cook because you are an amazingly talented chef. He spends the money to start the business and the restaurant is open. Business is okay but neither of you are making a profit. Everything you make just keeps the place open and is enough to survive. Then things start to change for the better. More and more people are coming in to taste your creations. People are raving about you, the chef, at this new place. Business is booming and the place is packed every night. Yep, money is rollin’ in. You and your buddy’s dream came true. Now, he is taking a huge salary and he tells you that you have to make the same as when you started which remember was nothing. Then, he tells you that not only won’t he pay you but it is against the rules for him to pay you and if he did someone would come shut down the restaurant. But, he tells you “This is what I can do for you, I will send you to some classes so you can learn how to do something else besides be a chef” Except, that you are already a great chef, everyone loves your meals and you work at one of the most successful restaurants in the world. Then he tells you “Well, if you are a good enough chef maybe in a few years(you have to stay at his restaurant for 3 years by the way) you can get a great paying job at a really successful restaurant.” Except, that you already work at a really really successful restaurant. And not only do you work but you are the chef that cooks the meals that everyone comes to eat. Oh did I mention that he hired a bunch of support staff for the restaurant and they all make a bunch of money too. Everyone at the restaurant is doing well financially except you. Would you want to work under these arrangements? That my friends is NCAA college football and that my friends is ridiculous. Which one of you would ever think that scenario was fair and decent? Many of these players come from lower income families. What a positive impact being paid a fair salary would have on them and their families. It saddens me that as fans we don’t advocate for the players to be paid. We are supposed to be their fans. We cheer for them. We follow them from high school. Let’s use our voice to demand that they get the pay that they deserve. I just want one school to go rogue and say “if you come here, you will get a salary” You think that would help their recruiting? It’s time. It’s past time. Pay the Players!