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The Offtopic - Should Collegiate Athletes Be Paid?

The question of whether or not college athletes has ramped up recently with the admission from Arian Foster that he received extra benefits on the side, so let's talk about that.

Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

This has been bubbling for, well pretty much forever, but Arian Foster recently admitted to taking money (and tacos) while at Tennessee so it's come to the forefront of college athletics. With that in mind, Mat Smith at Radio 1190 in Boulder had a very enlightening interview with Jeremy Adams regarding his insights into whether or not college athletes should be paid. Check it out here:

It's a really great interview, but I'd like to hear it go even deeper (until the end when the audio gets all muddled over itself). Go listen to that and then come back and read my thoughts. I'll wait...

...okay done waiting. For the record, I do not believe in straight up paying athletes and turning the NCAA into minor league NFL (which it basically is already). It will never happen anyway. The NFL likes having the NCAA do all the work of training and promoting their future players. No one cares about the MLB draft. The NFL draft is a big deal because fans want to see where the players they've followed passionately for 3 or 4 years will play professionally. So there's that. But the larger question remains... what exactly do college athletes deserve? Nothing more than room, board, and books? The full spoils that exploding TV rights would indicate? A cut of the video game and jersey sale revenues?

Like I said, I'm not in favor of paying players. But I do believe that the stipend players receive is due for an increase. The most enlightening thing I learned from the Adams interview - he had to take out a loan to deal with issues relating to his diabetes. He said that insurance handled most of that, but he still had extra expenses to deal with. He also said that basketball players don't get training table like football players do.

Relating to that:

  • Athletes should receive 100% full medical insurance. An athlete shouldn't have to pay out of pocket for god damn aspirin, let alone needles for their insulin.
  • All athletes, regardless of sport, deserve training table

That's not even an issue of fairness; that's an issue of competition. If Jeremy Adams can't get what he needs to manage his diabetes, or if, say, Brie Hooks can't afford dinner after practice, that hurts us on the field. Hell, even if they can afford it, the fact that they might go home and eat pizza rolls instead of an athletic department provided meal of lean protein and vegetables or whatever (I don't know what an athlete should eat; I mostly eat pizza rolls) will hurt on the field. We need our athletes at their best. Those should be absolute basics of what an athletic scholarship entails, both for them and for the team. I'm not trying to be cynical, I believe all athletes deserve that much, but even the most pragmatic corporate bureaucrat would agree. It's simply the best way to maximize return on investment.

Further, Adams said that an athlete stipend is based on cost of living, which I don't believe is correct. I'm almost positive that athletes living off campus receive their stipend based on what it would cost to live on campus. This is based on a vivid memory of reading an article regarding the demise of the St. John's basketball program. One of the reasons given was that the school previously didn't have dorms, so the athletes were able to get stipends based on the cost of living in Mew York City. Once dorms were built, that stipend dropped because they were subject to normal room and board. That might be wrong, or that might have changed. I might be talking out of my ass, but that's what I vividly remember. With that in mind: Players deserve a full cost of living allowance. Living on campus is cheaper than off campus. That's a simple matter of buying power. CU Housing can buy food at a lesser rate than an individual household, just based on buying in volume. Everyone with a Costco membership knows this.

This is easily solved. Assign the same amount of money for every athlete, but pay tuition at an instate rate after freshman year. The extra money can go to the additional stipend. It would be a net gain for the athletic department. Right now, room and board is the same for out of state or in state students. But the overall cost is an additional $30,000 in tuition. This is not a new idea. Take that extra $30k per and spread it over every athlete, and it would be a huge deal for our student athletes, at no net cost to the university.

There's also this article quoting Duke coach David Cutcliffe.

He mentions that athletes get $15 after every game as a food stipend. That's enough to eat. Now, I still believe that the better option is the above, but if they want $15 for tacos, so be it. This is where the larger questions come in, which can really only be answered by an athletic department staffer. What does a student athlete actually get? I know that football players left behind get a meal stipend for the weekend. What is that? What is their medical? How is their stipend calculated? Both Cutcliffe and Adams mentioned Pell grants. How is that calculated? What are other funds available to athletes (Cutcliffe mentions these). Can they make money for working youth camps in the summer? What about for hosting recruits?

I don't think athletes are well compensated- not by a long shot. But I'm not sure that they aren't appropriately compensated, depending on your definition. Finally, I had this exchange with Jay Bilas:

I doubt that. The NCAA isn't who is requiring basketball or football players to stay in school. Just look at baseball. So if you don't want to play for what's offered, then don't play. It worked for Brandon Jennings. It's not the fault of the NCAA that players are required to be one year removed from high school for basketball and three for football. It's those leagues.

Turning these players into pros would be catastrophic to the college game- not the NCAA- the college game. But that's for another article. The question is; what do they deserve? Overall, I don't think schools do enough to measure school versus athletics, and that's because schools are now chasing money. But that doesn't mean that players should be JV pros. It does mean that they should receive an increased stipend. What does that stipend entail? Well, no one is asking the people who actually dole out what they receive. Which is the crucial question in the argument.

Personally, I think a great roundtable would be with someone with an AD representative, an athlete, and Lisa Norgard, who's a wife to a former athlete, and a mother to both a current athlete and another CU student. What do you think? Check in, in the comments!