I’ve spent nearly the last six years of my life living the same ever-changing schedule. The only constants from day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month are this: wake up, go to school/work, go from one to the other, sometimes swap again after a couple of hours, go home, study, go to bed. Repeat. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I was very blessed to have tremendous help paying for my undergraduate degree. As a graduate student, I finance my entire education out of my own pocket, including tuition, books and fees. Like a lot of people our age, every meal my wife and I eat, every light bill we pay and every drop of gas we put into our cars, we’ve had to work for.
So forgive me if I have little sympathy for my collegiate peers who are given the opportunity to play GAMES for a few months out of the year, and in exchange get free medical treatment, free meals, free workout equipment and trainers, free room and board, and last but certainly not least, a free education.
In the wake of all the controversy surrounding last year’s Heisman trophy winner Johnny Manziel (aka, the Money Badger), the whole issue of college athletes and their amateur status has yet again been given new life by the mainstream sports media and delusional fans everywhere. The issue is not whether or not schools, the NCAA and networks like ESPN are justified in their profiting off of the talents of amateur athletes, because to be honest, who doesn’t like money? The question is: why aren’t the players getting a slice of that capitalist pie?
Collin Cowherd, host of ESPN Radio’s The Herd, a morning sports talk show, said it best regarding what’s really going on here.
“These college athletes are being extorted? Well please, extort my kids to Stanford.”
I enjoy college athletics as much as anybody, and if you read my blog with any regularity you already knew that. I know I’m certainly not alone in my love for school colors, fight songs and Saturday nights because let’s face it: college football is America’s favorite sport. According to a Wall Street Journal report from earlier this year, Texas Tech football is worth 211 million dollars, making it the 22nd most profitable program in the country. College football is big business, and for that we can thank the guys running around on the field.
But why, must I ask, should their thanks come in the form of monetary compensation? Is that really what we want college athletics to become, a minor league of sorts? I understand that player jerseys are being sold at stores everywhere, I understand that ESPN is making enormous amounts of cash off broadcasting their images every weekend, and I understand companies like EA Sports make a killing using player “likenesses” in their video games. I get all that. What I don’t understand is how anyone can say, with a totally straight face, that these kids aren’t compensated.
Let’s just look at what the amateurs get out of all this:
Free medical treatment
Average yearly cost of health care for a regular individual: $5,615
Average yearly food cost for one regular adult male, aged 19-50: $3,510
Average yearly gym membership cost for a regular person: $800
Average yearly rent for a one-bedroom apartment (enough space for a regular person): $6,048
Average yearly cost of clothing for a regular individual: $1,700
Average yearly tuition cost for regular students: $32,617
Add all that up and the average scholarship athlete is given an annual salary of $50,290. Granted, they won’t ever see most of that dough, but it doesn’t make the amount any less significant. Most regular college graduates won’t make that kind of money after five years, much less while they’re still in college. Regular college graduates won’t pay off their student loans till 10 years after they finish school, and these athletes won’t have to ever repay a penny spent on their higher education.
These amateurs aren’t extorted, they’re privileged.