Pay for Play

November 5, 2011

Political Theory


            It is six years ago, 2005, and you are unquestionably the best player in all of college football.  You have won college football’s Heisman Trophy, awarded to the most valuable player in college football, and play for one of the most renowned programs in the nation.  The school is reaping the benefits of your success on the field in the form of ticket sales, retail sales, media exposure, player recruitment and much more.  Along with all of this you have been a huge factor in your programs’ perennial success each season, and on multiple occasions have helped your team earn a bid to one of the five coveted BCS bowl games.  Reaching these games not only helps the programs’ reputation, it also rewards the program with millions of dollars in revenue. 

What do you gain out of all of this? First off you get to go to college and earn a four year education for free.  Along with an education you get all of the popularity and fanfare that comes with being a top collegiate athlete, but after that what else do you get?  The only monetary reward you are getting is your college education being free of charge, after that there is nothing (at least there is not supposed to be anything).  You are prohibited from going out and signing lucrative endorsement contracts, receiving any types of gifts, hiring an agent to help you prepare for a prospective professional career in athletics, and most obviously from being for paid playing football.  After everything the program is gaining from your skills and success do you think that these circumstances are fair for you? I don’t think so. 

The person I described above is star athlete Reggie Bush who was a student and played football at the University of Southern California (USC).  Reggie Bush is currently a professional football player in the NFL playing for the Miami Dolphins.  These days money is no issue Bush, as he has a contract which pays him several million dollars a year, along with the multiple endorsement contracts he has earned over the course of his professional career. 

Months after Bush’s senior year at USC it was reported that both Bush and his family had received several hundred thousand dollars in the form of “gifts” throughout his collegiate career at USC.  This is obviously against NCAA rules.  The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is the governing body which sets rules and standards for all college athletic programs.   The Reggie Bush scandal led to investigations from both the NCAA and USC itself.  In the end it was not Reggie Bush who suffered from this scandal, the University of Southern California did.  Their football team has had several harsh sanctions limiting their football program which have held their program from reaching their expected level of competition. 

While it would be tough to argue that Bush’s actions were just, it is not so ridiculous to argue that he deserves some sort of monetary compensation for everything he did for USC.  Bush’s scandal is one of the more recent “pay for play” scandals that have fueled the debate over whether college athletes should be paid for their services.  For decades this issue has been one of the most heated debates in all of collegiate athletics, and even all of athletics.  College athletics is a massive business for universities in which the top programs earn over $100 million in revenue over the course of a school year.  It seems absurd to think that the individuals who make it all happen receive nothing in return for their services.  In my opinion the current rules that the NCAA holds on this topic need to be changed to make the dynamic between collegiate athletic programs and college athletes more equal in regards to monetary benefits.

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3 Comments on “Pay for Play”

  1. akmcoy Says:

    While the argument that players should receive payback for the rewards they bring their schools, I think this topic is too complex to be fixed quickly. One has to question what changing the rules would really do. If players were able to be paid, will it really stop schools and boosters to stop breaking the rules? It seems very likely that top schools would still offer premier recruits “extra benefits”. I completely agree that something has to be done to try to even the playing field between players and programs, as well as between programs. Unfortunately, I think that it will be awhile until we see anything drastically change. The NCAA has countless cases to deal with regarding this issue, yet they haven’t done anything till this point. It’ll be interesting to see what they decide to do.

  2. rpsafian Says:

    Pay for Play has been one of the hottest topics over the past few years not just in the NCAA, but specifically here at The University of Michigan. More than a decade ago, the U of M was rocked by an investigation of the men’s basketball team and basketball team booster, Ed Martin. Sometimes referred to as the Ed Martin Scandal, it was discovered that several basketball players, including the Fab Five’s Chris Webber, had violated NCAA rules and accepted over $600,000 dollars in financial “compensation”. The University is still recovering from the sanctions as a result of this scandal, including the vacating of the 1997 NIT and 1998 Big 10 Championships as well as the 1992 and 1993 Final Four appearances. More information on the entire story can be found by watching ESPN’s documentary, The Fab Five.

    I bring up another example of this Pay for Play notion to enforce just how big of an issue it is in college sports. I believe that Pay for Play in college sports is wrong and that Reggie Bush, Chris Webber, and the other athletes involved are at fault for their actions. I believe that the financial compensation of a full-ride scholarship for college athletes is a sufficient enough reimbursement for player’s performance. Yes, these players are bringing in millions of dollars to the school in terms or revenue, ticket sales, and media exposure, but if it weren’t for these scholarships, many players would not be able to afford college. Not only are collegiate athletes’ tuitions being paid for by the school, they are also receiving one of the best educations in the country at no cost to them. College is not the time for 18-22 year old students to be receiving millions of dollars in endorsements and gifts. If this were the case, athletes would undoubtedly be taken advantage of and problems like debt, gambling, and lucrative spending- that plague even professional athletes- would be seen early with college players.

    Hobbes would clearly agree with the notion of Pay for Play because players would be receiving money for their own actions, thereby increasing their self-interests. He would argue that Reggie Bush and Chris Webber were legitimate in their actions because they chose to do something to augment their self-interest, since the world is in a state of war and only the strong, or in this case the best athlete, survive. However, I believe this time should come after graduation and before the start of professional life, when athletes are old enough to make rational, though-out decisions about their career, income, and future.

  3. rmwells3 Says:

    It’s been clearly established multiple times now how this Pay for Play is a serious issue, however, I think college should continue to not reward players for their efforts. It should be the University’s objective to reduce the amount of temptation swirling around those highly touted players that are the money makers of the program. College is meant to be education first and then play later. Just as every kid goes to college for an education to then find a job of which he has had sufficient training for and make money after graduation, an athlete is following that same mold. Hence, I honestly believe it should become, when that athlete reaches the professional world of his sport then he should be entitled to deserve the pay that matches his talent. In college however, their glory on and off the field are attributed to those that donate to, run, and organize those academic institutions so that they can continue to educate athletes into professionals. In a sense, the program depend on its athletes, while the athletes that help the program succeed rely on the effort and excellence of those programs that recruit them. This cycle emphasizes that team atmosphere and help to flourish the traits of leadership and responsibility in those athletes.

    On another level, its hard to designate a price tag for each athlete since most sports attract different revenues even though an athlete on the men’s soccer team may be more skilled/valuable than an athlete on the football team. This is problematic because doesn’t the prior athlete deserve more money then? After all, he is more valuable right? These kinds of problems would arise and become too strenuous considering how many collegiate athletes exist. So let the professional teams of their respective sports make the prices tags and do all the sorting out as only the best athletes based on their “athletic merit” make it to the professionals.

    Rousseau, Locke, and Hobbes would all argue that there is a social contract that we all agree to. This contract has laid down the fundamental structure that governs the people and or creates new laws to better protect the self interest of the people. Well, let’s apply that to this scenario and you will find that there were laws already implemented to protect those self interests of younger collegiate athletes. Now, it’s time to follow them to the letter as they’ve agreed to go through the designated path to the pros in their respective sports.

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