The Professional Amateurs of College Sports

By Jake on March 9, 2011 at 1:00p
49 Comments
A man with a Mullet-Mustache combo like that KNOWS class!All fanbases agree: The other team is full of cheating douchebags!

The sun did in fact rise this morning, and Tressel is still our head coach. No doubt the spectre of NCAA investigations shall haunt us throughout the offseason and on into the season. I hate it. I'm annoyed at just about everybody involved, from Yahoo! to Tressel to the guy who put sour cream on my burrito EVEN THOUGH I SAID NOT TO. So, I've decided to let other people worry about it, and I've emotionally divorced myself from the swirling eddies of idiocy that will undoubtedly bubble up in burps of stupid over the next few weeks. I won't weigh in on whether Tressel deserves this or that punishment, or whether this or that school did worse. However, the original controversy, the exchange of memorabilia for money and favors, did pique my interest in one oft considered idea: paying college players.

As athletic budgets, coaches' salaries, and media contracts have ballooned so has the criticism that student-athletes are less the scholar and more the exploited apprentice. When Pryor&Co were suspended, the key reason was that they were profiting off of their amateur status as student-athletes. The NCAA considers even the sale of one's own sport-related property a conflict of interest. The Tat-5's status at the university and the source of the memorabilia as athletic rewards both meant such sales violated NCAA regulations. While not a criminal matter, the players voluntary submitted to NCAA regulatory guidelines by accepting a scholarship at a member institution. However, the universities themselves recieve tens of millions of dollars in revenue every year. The dilemma is thus: the players do not profit from their participation while the universities ostensibly profit heavily from the athletes' participation; to what extent is such a disparity unfairly exploiting players themselves?

First, let's look at what a scholarship athlete actually receivers for their trouble. According to NCAA regulation, a scholarshipped Div-I athlete must reciever a full scholarship; no partial scholarships are allowed. A full athletic a scholarship covers not just tuition, but also room and board, fees, and books. According to the Ohio State website an incoming freshman will pay roughly $20,000 in those four areas in 2011, and can expect an annual increase in costs of between 5-10%. Ohio State is about average, while some private schools can run above $40,000. So we can say that a college athlete "earns" roughly $20,000 to $40,000 a year, or on the lower side of the median when compared to national incomes. So how does that compare to the unversity's income?

Conveniently, Kristi Dosh, writing for Forbes Magazine, examined the profitability of football programs and athletic departments in the Big Ten earlier this year. Based on the numbers the universities gave the Department of Education, the average Big Ten football program saw a revenue of roughly $40.6 million and a profit of $22.7 million. A 55% profit margin would make any CEO not employed in finance or oil ruin his pants in envy. Looking at the athletic departments as a whole, the average Big Ten school earned a profit of $10.7 million. Looking at just football, this amounts to a profit of roughly $267,000 per scholarship athlete and almost a million dollars per starter. Even setting aside 3/4ths of the profits for reinvestment, the average Big Ten football program could afford to pay its players over $75,000 a year over and above their scholarships. Given those numbers, it looks less an unfair disparity and more an cause for Marxist revolt among the players. 

The broader view, however, puts those numbers in context. The top programs do make money, but according to this article by Professor Andrew Zimbalist of Smith College, the average FBS athletic department makes, at best, $1 million dollars a year. At basketball schools like Wake Forest or UCONN, their football programs often lose money. If they're squeezing the players, they're squeezing water from rocks. Still, that doesn't mean schools like Ohio State, Texas, Michigan, and Florida aren't getting an artificially good deal at the players' expense. Why couldn't those schools that do profit off their athletes compensate them for hard work, while those who don't carry on as usual? 

As I see it, there are several issues with turning the top teams semi-professional. To begin, who deserves how much of the pie? In the non-collegiate world, wages are paid contractually and are negotiated between employer and employee or their representitives based on past performance and future projections. In college football, you can't fire kids who underperform (unless you're in the Big 12 or SEC East West). Furthermore, revenue is largely independent of performance. The money being made by Ohio State this year is largely the result of contracts signed several years ago and sellout crowds who would show up no matter who wore the scarlet and gray. If anything, the university should be giving former players pensions.

In addition to issues with setting wages, we run into issues of fairness toward the other varsity sports. Ohio State field 31 varsity sports comprised of over 1,000 athletes. On any given year, most teams run a deficit and dip into the football programs well for funds. Any move to distribute football profits among the football players would necessarily elevate them to a higher level then their peers in the department. Is this fair? If two kids play the hell out of a game to represent their university, is it really ethical to tell one kid he's $50,000 better at representing his school? A university is not a profit-oriented corporation, despite how it sometimes appears, and officially elevating some student-athletes above others could certainly detract from the core purpose of collegiate athletics. If the money is the thing, why not divorce the player from the university entirely and run things like semi-pro soccer across the pond? What about providing an equal pay out to all student athletes based on profits? Let's look at the Ohio State athletic department as a whole. Last year, it made a total profit of $18.5 million. Given that there are over 1,000 student athletes, that's $18,500 per student. This at one of the most profitable athletic departments in the country, not accounting for the funds necessary for debt repayment and re-investment. 

Maybe you're unconcerned about bifurcating the athletic student body into haves and have nots. After all, there already exists a social hierarchy anyway. Few people write extended opinion pieces on the top shotputters and fencers don't get mobbed by fans after they beat their rivals. However, there would exist another cleavage among haves and have nots. Already, without salaried players, the differences in personnel between top programs and the rest of the FBS is staggering. The biggest teams have the best facilities, the best coaches, and the best NFL pipelines. Can you imagine what would happen to the Boise States and TCUs if Cecil Newton were actually allowed to shop his son around? Even if schools were required to split football profits among all their players equally, what kid wouldn't prefer a $20,000-a-year party budget for going to SEC U? Even more, the T. Boone Pickens and Phil Knights of the world would be even more prone to buy their schools into the BCS championship. To the extent that money already rules college athletics, adding paid players would accelerate that trend exponentially. 

The truth is that this issue exists because the universities themselves decided to monetize college sports and blur the line between professional and amateur athletics. Anytime you do blur the lines between two relatively distinct categories it inevitably becomes increasingly difficult to properly define the roles, rights, responsibilities of those involved. The answer, as I see it, is that there is no answer. The university has a responsibility to its students and trustees to make education its top priority. With that in mind, it has a social responsibility to ensure that it's pursuing college athletics with the best interests of the those student-athletes in mind rather than using athletics merely as a means of raising revenue. To the extent that college football has become the spectator sport that it is today, it has become questionable whether athletic departments are in it for the kids.

Which brings me back to Jim Tressel and the memorabilia scandal. What we see, with the Tat-5,  or Cameron Newton, Reggie Bush, and other scandals, is not a disease but a sympton. As long as the student athlete hovers in between amateur and pro, there will be people exploiting that gray area for their benefit. The NCAA gets flak for inconsistency, obsfucation, and hypocricy. What should we expect when we simultaneously view the players as playing for fun and playing for profit? The NCAA only reflects our own inconsistencies as fans. We have two choices: either support a dramatic reform of the system, toward or away from professionalization, or get used to ridiculous and arbitrary rulings from the NCAA. Which is best? All I know is that I don't know.

49 Comments

Comments

The_Lurker's picture

You don't like sour cream on your burrito? What the hell, bro? I am bifurcated on the subject, actually...depends on whether it's a chicken or beef burrito.

Buckeye_Mafia's picture

I feel you Jake. I have been more irritable than normal today. As I sit at work, all I can think about is what was last night and what's to come. Then think about the drooling over sCam Newton by NFL scouts. Its disgusting that such a blatant cover-up is being overshadowed by Tress's stupidity.

Adolphus Washington is half grizzly bear and half dragon | Noah Spence kills quarterbacks, just to watch them die.

buckeyedude's picture

I think the OSU sychronized swim team and fencing team should definitely be compensated for all of their efforts.

 
 

luckynewman13's picture

the way I see it, why doesn't the NCAA just say "screw it" and let every player athlete make money off of his or her own image. The NCAA or the University doesn't have to contribute to his or her well being, but why get in the way of selling their own skills or face to the highest bidder, as long as it keeps their ametuer status as an athlete in tact? Sure there would be some issues that would need to be attended to, but if I get a scholarship to take film at tOSU, will I lose my scholarship if I make a successful independent movie and sell it to a distributer? Will I lose my opportunities to get my business degree if I become a consultant for a corporation before I graduate? Should that guy who wanted to play football at Colorado not be allowed to play because he made money off of his image as an OLYMPIC SKIIER? Let's face it, it is completely impossible to make sure a univeristy is making sure all its students aren't taking advantage of their status in some way. If the NCAA wants to keep the with the amatuer nature of the sport, then they should just be asking whether or not the Univeristy is DIRECTLY contributing to their well-being. Sure it can create some loopholes, but those loopholes exist already in reality.

tomcollins's picture

I don't know how you do it without opening the floodgates.  If you make it semi-pro, then you basically are cutting out a HUGE number of schools from ever being competitive.  You'll end up with MLB type inequalities, and I don't think that's healthy for the sport.  So you need some kind of balance without creating gigantic loopholes.  It's a very tough challenge.  Allowing people to "sell their image" will just mean T. Boone will offer "endorsement" deals for his wind farms or whatever he is up to, and pay them a good amount to sign with the Pokes.  So either we go all out unregulated and have things go to the highest bidder, or we have some type of regulation, similar to what we have now, but allowing different things and having different limits.

 

Title IX has a huge implication here as well for making smaller schools football programs twice as much as it otherwise would.

Jake's picture

I did, thanks. Fixed

gwalther's picture

Bob Knight supports Tress http://usat.ly/gnecjC

Class of 2008

M Man's picture

Not surprising; Bob Knight, for all of his history, is a good man with good values.  (Bob Knight and Bo Schembechler were close personal friends.)  I get the message behind picture that accompanies this entry, of course, but on a slightly more serious note, I shall not forget that Jim Tressel was generous to Rich Rodriguez when he was battling the Detroit Free Press, and I do hope that, and I shall be not at all suprised when, Rich Rodriguez speaks up on behalf of his friend and coaching colleague, Jim Tressel.

Matt's picture

One of the first realizations that hit me when this scandal broke was an empathy and understanding for what Rich Rod went through during his time at Michigan -- and Rich Rod didn't even do anything wrong, in contrast to Tressel.  Ironic that it took an Ohio State scandal to make me feel for Rich Rod in a way I had not before.  Rich Rod truly got a raw deal.

M Man's picture

Amen, Matt.  I could give you an hour-long tutorial on the subject.

But here's Brady Hoke, making me almost happy that he is our new Head Football Coach.  This is from a certain unmentionable newspaper in Detroit, which does not deserve a link: 

"He's a good man, and I have a lot of respect for him, and they'll fight through that situation, and it will have no effects on the rivalry," Hoke said today during a meet-and-greet luncheon with his coaching staff.

Hoke saw no need to pound away at his colleague.

"I've known Jim Tressel a long time. He's a quality guy, a doggone good football coach, and I don't know that situation," Hoke said. "I know what we're focused on at Michigan."

 Well said, Coach Hoke.

buckeyedude's picture

We'll see about RichRod going to bat for Tress. Drew (NOT)Sharp already had one of his tantrums today in the Freep. What a prick that dude is. Hated by everybody, UM fans, MSU fans and now OSU fans.  That's quite a resume.

 
 

M Man's picture

"Prick"?  Is that all you've got?  I think Drew Sharp is a "prick" only on his best days.  It goes downhill from there.  He's not smart, he's not funny, he's not talented, he's not a good writer, he's not a good reporter.

The Drew Sharp Hate Club is a big one indeed.  Welcome aboard.

buckeyedude's picture

And getting larger, M MAN. LOL.

I must admit also, I had given a lot of crap about RichRod. Just didn't like the man and his tactics, BUT, one thing that I did applaud him(and the UofM hospital) for was his/their support of the Mealer family and the tragedy that happened just a few miles from my aunt's house in Wauseon(near Pettisville, actually), Ohio. My cousin babysat the Mealer brothers when they were babies, so I am very familiar with that story and RichRod and UM should be commended for how they have accepted and helped the entire Mealer family. After that, can't stand RichRod. :D

 
 

M Man's picture

I just sent the Detroit News link to the 11W mods.

Coach Rodriguez, speaking warmly and generously of his impressions of Tressel and OSU:

http://detnews.com/article/20110310/SPORTS0201/103100446/Rich-Rodriguez--OSU-didn’t-recruit-negatively-against-U-M--but-others-did

Says other teams recruited negatively versus him.  OSU was not one of them.  Says that fact told him about the kind of program he thinks Tressel ran.  Says Tatgate just five guys doing something stupid, with no competitive advantage to OSU.  Et cetera, et cetera.  Read it and enjoy.

Matt's picture

Good stuff, M Man.  I'm looking forward to seeing where Rich Rod coaches next.  I suspect he will have learned his lesson from the GERG debacle and, once he is shored up on the defensive side of the ball, he will be fielding BCS bowl teams sooner rather than later.

M Man's picture

Agreed, Matt.

And Michigan learned its own lesson from the GERG debacle.  Dave Brandon promptly said to the world, that Michigan had better understand that you can't get cheap with assistant coaches and coordinators.  And he promptly wrote a check for $750k for Greg Mattison, with (I think) a $200k bonus for a B1G championship.

Buckeye_Mafia's picture

Atleast he is saying what he feels. I can ESPN finding a reason to fire him soon from this.

Adolphus Washington is half grizzly bear and half dragon | Noah Spence kills quarterbacks, just to watch them die.

btalbert25's picture

ESPN is not out to get Ohio State or its supporters folks.  I was listenning to ESPN radio last night and the guys on there were talking about how it would be a monumentally stupid mistake to fire Tressel.  They talked positive about him.  Next week or the week after when it's Oregon, Auburn, or Tennessee that are facing a scandal that's all you will hear about. 

Truth be told, Sportcenter hasn't really given this much publicity.  They are more concerned about the NFL collective bargaining and Miami Heat sucking.  This could have gotten much more negative press than it has.  The blog world may be full of garbage, but lets not act as if ESPN's goal is to take down tOSU. 

 

William's picture

Did you watch Jim Rome today? The two minutes that I saw of that show made me sick to my stomach, ESPN does have an agenda against OSU and that is blatantly obvious through their biased coverage of college football.

vitaminB's picture

It's okay to play baseball in the summer, get a huge signing bonus, and then go play football in the fall.  Why don't big schools work a deal with local MLB teams to draft a guy in the 22nd round, pay him a $1M signing bonus fronted from the school as a donation to their MLB approved charity, and then cut him?

Dean's picture

So you want schools to launder money through the MLB?  Somehow I don't think the NCAA would be okay with that (and it would be pretty transparent).

BuckeyeChief's picture

Only in Auburn, my friend.

 

"Clutch has no boundaries"

Buckeye_Mafia's picture

Amen brother.  After all the BS I have read on multiple forums (including the BMW forum I frequent), I have come to the conclusion that fans are rediculous.  They all have thier opinions/agenda and want to see every other school burn til they are the onlyone left standing.  On the car forum mentioned above I was called a "fanboi" because I brought up the fact that even though Tress's transgression were deplorable, they were a drop in the bucket compared to what we have read/heard about Auburn and Oregon.  Of course I was the fanboi for bringing them up.  Them some idiot Badger fan decided to chime in on Tressel's stuff at YSU and Clarrett.  I love when fans of second-tier school (i.e Wisconsin who have won nothing) talk ish about schools like tOSU calling them dirty and whatnot.  And of course he had to remind me that they beat us in football this season.  But was dumb enough to bring up this year's Rose Bowl.  #IDIOT

Adolphus Washington is half grizzly bear and half dragon | Noah Spence kills quarterbacks, just to watch them die.

buckeyedude's picture

They're talking about this on a BMW car forum?! What's next? President Obama going to chime in and give his two cents worth?

 
 

BuckeyeChief's picture

It's also in the runner's world forum, suprisingly positive comments though.

 

"Clutch has no boundaries"

Roger's picture

BMsecW has had it out for OSU for a LONG time!

Buckeye_Mafia's picture

On the BMW forum there is an Off-Topic section with a sports thread. And one of the topics is College Football Smack Talk. They were all bashing Tress and the program. Including fellow tOSU Alum and fans. I was already pissed off as you may expect and then I went there to get away from it. Must to my dismay, I was right in the middle of it. Oh well, I got to take shots at the shabby Wisconsin, Auburn, USC, and Oregon fans. Of course I was a fanboy for calling out other programs and their coaches but didn't feel bad like I normally would.

Adolphus Washington is half grizzly bear and half dragon | Noah Spence kills quarterbacks, just to watch them die.

gwalther's picture

Urban Meyer's comments on SC were the best I've heard so far. Paraphrasing Brian Kenny "Can you run a major program like Ohio State, Florida, or Texas, these days without having some violations along the way?"

Meyer: "No."

 

#winning

Class of 2008

thorvath22's picture

I think I am mostly dissappointed by the fact that Tressel's image has been tarnished and everything he has put into the University and community is now overshadowed by his 4-5 mistakes in his long career. If anyone listened to the Big Show today you would of thought you where listening to an Ann Arbor radio station in that all he did was basically call Tressel a liar and cheat by bringing up his past issue at Youngstown state and issues with Clarett and Troy, it seemed to me that Bruce had an adgenda he could finally lay into since the recent developments.

I am dissappointed that Tressel didn't do the right thing just as much as the next buckeye fan but I'm not going to use my 20/20 hindsight to say Tressel is a cheater and only cared about a NC in 2010 instead of reporting his knowledge because who knows what all entered his mind in that time frame. I am nobodies judge but my own and same goes for Tressel, he is the only person who has to live with this feeling of failure for the rest of his life and we all know that is probably the worst punishment...until the NCAA claims his soul that is.

741's picture

I do think it's time for Hooley to move on to greener pastures - somewhere where he can be proud to associate himself with the hometown sports team. Can we make that happen?

blazers34's picture

not being from Cbus, I odnt know anything about this dude.  but based on teh twitterz he HATES OSU football.  Whats up with that? 

Matthew's picture

He's just one of those radio personalities that has the RUSH LIMBAUGH mentality of ratings - "I'd rather be pissing people off than getting no response at all".

 

And I assume it works for him.

Class of 2010

poguemahone's picture

At least in this instance, he's playing the part of the rare host who isn't a complete sycophant for the local college football powerhouse. If you listen to hosts in other big college towns, he's actually quite refreshing in that respect. I disagree with him frequently, but I admire the fact he plays it straight in a town where even the lightest criticism of OSU, athletics-related and otherwise, is bound to get you a bevy of haters.

He's often admitted on his own show that he tends to put on the blinders w/regard to Buckeye basketball in the same way Spielman does when it comes to Buckeye football. But he can be a homer for the gridiron guys too: look no further than 2007, where he basically crowned the Buckeyes National Champs after the win at Happy Valley. I'll admit I haven't listened to him as often as I did back then with ever-diminishing free time, but he can be the homeriest of homers when he wants to. He's been on one side of this story since the beginning and it happens to be the unpopular one.

tampa buckeye's picture

Bull shit. That is all.

buckeyedude's picture

LOL Tampa. Your comment was succinct, pithy, and on the money. I concur.

 
 

BuckeyeChief's picture

Well, I have a lot of thoughts that have been rambling around my brain today, which are probably left better there. I went to the gym (on base) today in full Buckeye gear, stood on a weight bench, whistled to get everyone's attention, flipped them the bird while proclaiming Jimmy T is numero uno, than proceeded to give the crowd the DX "Suck it" sign repeatedly.

Afterwards, I went and told my office lead to expect a phone call shortly.

 

 

*Sigh. I really wanted to do this, but couldn't take the pay hit. But I did give a fellow Buckeye fan a firm handshake, and told him we'll be back. Then I went home and put on my Mets jacket, because I rather talk about how much they suck and Bernie Madoff and stuff, than to hear Jimmy T's name besmirched. And I did tell the Notre Dame fan to suck it, at least people don't die for our coaches mistakes.

 

If this post didn't cheer you up, here is this from WFNY:

http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2011/03/video-crying-member-of-miami-heat-revealed/

 

"Clutch has no boundaries"

BuckeyeChief's picture

Debating on whether to go run 4 miles or smoke a cigar. Tough times.

 

"Clutch has no boundaries"

blazers34's picture

run 4 miles, THEN smoke the cigar.

BuckeyeChief's picture

WAY OT, but are any of you guys with the Columbus Running Co? Anyone coming to Va Beach for the Shamrock? Debating on having someone hold a sign for me near the Finish line so I can hold up as I cross it...

"In Tressel we STILL trust" or something like that.

 

"Clutch has no boundaries"

buckeyedude's picture

Try internet porn. It's cheaper and it doesn't hurt your lungs or joints.

 
 

tampa buckeye's picture

Let us focus on what is really important right now.  We have a very special Basketball team at Ohio State.  This team should win it all.  Ask yourself this question... who can beat the team you saw play vs wisky?  Your answer should be an NBA team because no team in college basketball has a shot against the team that played last sunday.

   I could careless about football right now.  It is time for march madness and Girls in bikinis.  Amen.  

buckeyedude's picture

Amen brotha! Got my tix to the BT championship game sunday, cause I KNOW who's going to be there!

 
 

tomcollins's picture

After looking over the emails and the documents Tressel signed in December after it broke, it really seems Tress was looking not to protect his players but his lawyer buddy.  I'll bet dollars to donuts that the source is a significant donor that he didn't want to risk getting disbarred.

francosutrack's picture

Just an FYI as I was an athlete at OSU. What was said in the write-up above was not entirely correct. Certain sports do not allow partial scholarships, these being the ones such as Football, Basketball etc. Others like the Olympic sports and Baseball to name a few do allow partial grant-in-aid. 

pioneer92's picture

Playing collegiate players will never happen as fully explained. However, why not let scholarship athletes hold jobs? As I understand it they are not allowed to work. I played D3 so my understanding of scholarship rules is limited.

tomcollins's picture

I thought they could work, but they had to actually work (can't get paid $500 by a car dealer to sell cars then just not show up and still get paid).  I could be wrong, though.

Jake's picture

Scholarship athletes can definitely work. I used to work with an App State player at my part time job. Had to let him go because his practice schudule interfered with his work schedule too much, though. Working during the season is almost impossible.