Don’t just show them the money; let them hold on to some

By Hunter Ford

Would the end product of college athletics (especially football) be any better, or any worse, if athletes got paid? Would anybody really care?

Johnny Manziel on cover of Time
Johnny Manziel on cover of Time
Last week, Time Magazine put Johnny Manziel on its cover as the poster boy for why college athletes should get paid. The arguments for college athletes getting paid is a fairly easy one, at least for football and men’s basketball. These two sports rake in bazillions of dollars for universities. And they make a lot of money for TV networks, product licensing and other commercial ventures that capitalize on the popularity of those sports. It’s only fair that the labor (the players) should be able to pull a few apples of those money trees. After all, there would be no product to sell if not for them.

The argument against paying athletes is that is too complicated and expensive to pay all athletes in a fair manner. How much does Johnny Manziel earn, in this scenario? Not counting autographs. What about the long snapper? What about the power forward on the women’s basketball team? If you pay some athletes don’t you have to pay them all? Besides, scholarship athletes already receive a valuable commodity.

Universities wouldn’t have to worry about this issue if the NCAA would reform its rules to allow athletes, in any sport, to take advantage of opportunities to make money that are already there. The schools wouldn’t have to fork out a red cent.

If somebody wants to pay for an autograph, fine. Allow players to sell them if there is a buyer, or buyers. Allow athletes to accept discounts on services, or to sell items they are given.

Do you remember the Ohio State “Tattoo Gate” scandal? Several Buckeyes players got busted for receiving free, or discounted tattoos. They also were pegged for selling jerseys, shoes, awards and other memorabilia. Unlike Johnny Football, who comes from a well-off family, these players were trying to help out their cash-strapped folks down home. They eventually received five game suspensions and had to “repay” money to charity.

The mother of one of those players said this to an Ohio newspaper:

“They didn’t do anything that any other person wouldn’t have done. They looked around to see what they could do to help [their families]. There’s no crime here. None. They’re not involved with agents. They didn’t steal anything. They didn’t borrow anything from anybody. It was theirs. Nobody told them it ‘almost belongs to you.’ It belonged to them.”

That’s a crystal clear argument.

Let college athletes use what’s rightfully theirs to do whatever they need to do to get ahead or to help their families. They are all a compound fracture away from never playing again. They should be able to strike while their irons are hot.

Somebody besides the athletes cares whether they get paid. It’s the people who are making money hand over tight fist. They don’t want even a little loose change to hit the floor. Would it matter to the fans if players got to share in the riches?

Would the Alabama-Texas A&M game be more compelling if Johnny Football had never signed an autograph? Really, it makes it that much more compelling. I’m glad the NCAA didn’t go “Buckeye” on him and suspend him for five games. I’ve been looking forward to this rematch for a long time. Here’s hoping the Tide tattoos his ass to the Kyle Field turf a dozen times or more Saturday afternoon.

2 thoughts on “Column: Besides the players, does anyone care if college athletes get paid?”

  1. I absolutely agree it’s a good thing the NCAA didn’t suspend Manziel (more than 30 minutes, that is). They should have, but I’m glad they didn’t, just so Alabama can play the best QB, win or lose, on the field.

    But why is Manziel the cover-boy for this issue? He himself says he paid his own money to travel to sign thousands of autographs for free. He worked his butt off to receive zero profits, so he says, so why should he alone represent the collective effort to pay players when he’s saying they shouldn’t be paid?

    There is a group out there spearheaded by some senior players out west (Colorado, I think?) who are actively pursuing players’ rights to profit. Manziel isn’t part of that group, and I would be sincerely and utterly shocked if he volunteered to help their mission. He’s done enough volunteering for all those agents, right?

  2. We can’t understand the money, but we can understand the consequence. They can’t all be Manziels, but they can all be paid. If a dollar from every $20 t-shirt with a college logo on it went to the players, for example, nobody would scoff at the price increase.

    Personally, however, I don’t want college players to be paid. I like the heroes of college football more than the anti-heroes. Guys like Andrew Luck, RG3, AJ McCarron, they represent what makes college football special. But guys like Reggie Bush, Cam Newton, Johnny Manziel, and Tyrell Pryor represent what I wish we could prevent. I don’t want to celebrate their selfish egos, but that gets them so much more attention than their talents alone.

    Don’t forget, those tOSU guys were also getting drugs and cars. They sold their championship rings. I can’t imagine what that’s like, but I don’t want to celebrate it, either.

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