The time has come to pay college student athletes

The NCAA reinstated three Ohio State football players last week who were suspended for taking $200 each from a university booster at a charity event earlier this year.

Other team members were found trading their celebrity status for benefits from a local merchant, and a former University of Miami booster, now in jail, admits that he has provided extra benefits to the school’s football players over an eight-year period.

All these acts violate NCAA rules, but when you look at the billions of dollars college sport is making these days from television deals and other money-generating athletic activities, a measly $200 for selling one’s own jersey to get a tattoo seems very minor.

“There is a real exploitation” of big-time college athletes, Washington State University-Vancouver English and Black Studies Professor Thabiti Lewis told me by phone last week. “I’ve visited a university where they had a few star athletes signing their jerseys that were going to be given to some alumni or friend of the program who had given money to the university, and [they were] given [the apparel] as a gift. But that’s not seen as selling [the players’] services.

“I don’t have a problem with [former Ohio State QB] Terrell Pryor’s behavior,” Lewis continued. (Pryor allegedly sold his school athletic gear in exchange for tattoos.) “It’s the system.”

Drexel University Sport Management Professor Ellen Staurowsky adds, “In modern 21st Century America, this is not behavior that is outside of the realm of what these young people see all the time. The rules don’t make much sense to them, or to many other people.”

“A lot of the colleges are making their money off of the student-athletes,” admits former North Dakota basketball player Travis Bledsoe, who recently graduated with a communications degree.

Certainly the coaches do, as well as the conferences where these schools are members with billion-dollar television pacts. An advocacy group report released last week and reported in this week’s MSR strongly points out that the time is now.

The players need to get paid.

You do this, pay the players, and things like what happened at Ohio State and Miami would not occur. “This would eliminate at least a lot of people going outside of the school and taking money from boosters, and taking extra money,” Bledsoe believes.

Rules — even those archaic ones by the NCAA — aren’t made to be broken, but the college sport’s governing organization has created a monster that subliminally tells college athletes it’s now time to get theirs.

So what’s a measly $200 when there are billions out there that should be shared by the individuals who primarily help make it happen:

The players themselves.

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    Charles Hallman's picture
    Charles Hallman

    Charles Hallman writes regularly for the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder and blogs at Another View.