College Capitalism

The debate over whether college athletes should be paid has raged for years. Essentially the whole issue boils down to the fact that college athletics is a business. Underneath the x’s and o’s, l’s and w’s, are red and black figures scrawled in some ledger on Adam the accountant’s desk (because in my mind that’s how accounting works). It’s these numbers, the net gains and losses, which fuel collegiate sports. But where people tend to take issue with the business of college athletics is the pay structure and distribution of revenue.

It’s an Occupy Wall Street kind of argument; the system is too top-heavy and higher-ups are exploiting those beneath them. Similar convictions are at play. In the case of college sports, the schools and coaches are the ones raking in massive piles of cash. But the athletes don’t share in these spoils. Some of them are lucky enough to receive scholarships for their efforts, but the disproportionate earnings present a stark contrast.

Just take a look at Andy Enfield, the coach with the super model wife who became the talk of the nation after Florida Gulf Coast progressed to the Sweet Sixteen. His team exceeded expectations, won a few games under tremendous scrutiny, and suddenly, when the Cinderella story concludes, he’s off to greener pastures. 847,000 dollars greener, as the new coach of USC. That’s his compensation for Florida Gulf Coast’s incredible string of upsets.

Can you guess how much those junior forward Chase Fieler was compensated for those wins?  How about 0 dollars. How about senior guard Sherwood Brown? Again, 0 dollars. The really difficult question to answer is how much money Florida Gulf Coast made from those wins. With the tidal wave of incoming freshmen the school is sure to receive, considering all the free publicity garnered by their stellar basketball team, the number is pretty much incalculable.

So here’s a possible solution. If colleges insist on paying a guy like Enfield a million dollars per year or a guy like Rick Pitino 3.9 million dollars per year, then there should be a caveat to these ludicrous paychecks. The coach should allot money from his yearly income to pay players. It could be used as a recruiting tool, and when players perform well they can receive bonuses to reward what they’ve done for their school.  

Okay, so the idea definitely could do with a little polish because it’s far from perfect. But then again what business is? 


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