NCAA Misses the Mark In Discussing Paying College Athletes

 

There is a recent blog post on http://ncaa.org by Dave Pickle, a long-time NCAA staff member.  The article offers an argument against paying NCAA student-athletes anything above the cost of an athletic scholarship as currently defined by the NCAA.

In the article Mr. Pear cites the arguments of Jay Paterno, Penn State Quarterback Coach and son of living legend Joe Paterno.  One of the points made by Coach Paterno is that a scholarship is already in and of itself a thing of value.  He cites Andrew Luck, quarterback at Stanford, as an example.  Luck will receive a $70,000 education package this academic year at Stanford.  NCAA rules, noted Paterno. Limit football players on NCAA teams from spending more than 600 hours in an academic year participating in football-related activities.  That means that Luck will earn over $100 per hour for his “work” this coming year, a princely sum.

Coach Paterno has the same blinders on that many proponents of the current scholarship system have.  First, it is true that NCAA rules limit student-athletes who play football to spending no more than 20 hours per week in certain, defined periods of time on football-related activities.  There are some realities that Coach Paterno fails to mention.

First, the vast majority of college football players spend their summers on campus participating in “voluntary” workouts.  Since current rules allow schools to not observe the 85 scholarship rule until Aug. 1 of each year, many schools actually have more than 85 players on campus for about 6 to 8 weeks during the summers.  In some cases this can approximate tryouts.

Coaches and staff cannot supervise these workouts.  Who among us doesn’t understand that there is a behind-the-scenes structure to these player-led workouts?

Once classes begin many players know that they need to spend time beyond organized activities watching film and studying playbooks.  This “voluntary” time does not count against the 20 hour per week rule.

On game days the NCAA counts all team activities as 4 hours towards the 20 hour weekly limit.  On most teams players spend 10-12 hours on game days involved in various activities.

Between the end of one season and the beginning of spring practice players have physical conditioning they are expected to participate in weekly.  Some of this is factored into the 30 weeks of organized activities and some time isn’t.  In addition, when school is out for Christmas and New Year’s any practice and bowl game activities are not restricted by the 20 hour rule.

The end result is that most college football players spend well in excess of the 600 hour estimate of yearly time put forth by Jay Paterno.  In fact, something closer to 1500 hours is more accurate.  Of the 120 Football Bowl Subdivision schools in the NCAA, 80% are public colleges and universities.  The annual cost to attend these schools for one academic year is closer to $25,000.  If you divide $25,000 by 1500 you come up with an hourly “wage” of just under $17.00 per hour.  In truth the figure for “in-state” students would be closer to $15.00 per hour.

The time for activities listed above also does not include such things as mandatory study halls, meetings with coaches, mandatory meetings with tutors and the one team meal allowed per day under NCAA rules.  Those activities could add another 450-500 hours to a student-athlete’s time investment.

The arguments against paying student-athletes miss the real problem with any plan for truly paying college student-athletes.  Very few college athletic programs—estimates range from around 15 to maybe 25—actually make money without considering sources of revenue such as general student fees or subsidies from university general funds.  Any plan that would only pay student-athletes in a couple of sports—people talk about football and men’s basketball—will surely be challenged on constitutional grounds.  It is almost certainly the case that Title IX would require that women’s sports receive equal treatment.

Once you start talking about paying athletes in multiple sports you have to ask where the money is coming from.  The answer is there is not enough money available to operate a widespread “pay for play” program.  So in the end implementation problems will probably limit any changes to a tweaking of what a scholarship entails.

No matter what happens we must not let the Jay Paternos of the world throw around “facts” that don’t stand up to even a little scrutiny.  In the end college coaches have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo in college sports.

 

10 Comments

  1. Tcbowe September 13, 2011 at 1:51 am

    I totally agree with your take on this issue, Greg.  There is no way athletes in only the two major men’s sports will receive hourly pay.  If anybody gets paid by the hour, then all must get an hourly “wage”.  Philosiphically, the argument that athletes receive a “free” education does not hold water in my book.  Too many kids are recruited (and make their respective universities money) who have no chance of earning that “free” college degree.  I know, I know, they get free tutors and are afforded many special advantages. Even still, many of them are not equipped with the necessary educational framework to be successful in a college curriculum.  I feel a better solution would be to allow the players to market themselves and make money on their likenesses. (Jerseys, commercials, etc.)  Whatever they earn could be subtracted from their scholarships and the money saved could go back to other academic programs at the university.

    Troy Bowe

     
  2. Tcbowe September 12, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    I totally agree with your take on this issue, Greg.  There is no way athletes in only the two major men’s sports will receive hourly pay.  If anybody gets paid by the hour, then all must get an hourly “wage”.  Philosiphically, the argument that athletes receive a “free” education does not hold water in my book.  Too many kids are recruited (and make their respective universities money) who have no chance of earning that “free” college degree.  I know, I know, they get free tutors and are afforded many special advantages. Even still, many of them are not equipped with the necessary educational framework to be successful in a college curriculum.  I feel a better solution would be to allow the players to market themselves and make money on their likenesses. (Jerseys, commercials, etc.)  Whatever they earn could be subtracted from their scholarships and the money saved could go back to other academic programs at the university.

    Troy Bowe

     
  3. Tcbowe September 13, 2011 at 2:12 am

    I agree with your stance on this issue, Greg.  There is no way the constitution will allow only athletes in the two major men’s sports to be paid.  If one is going to receive a “wage”,  all are going to have to be paid.  There simply is not enough money for this to happen.  Many argue against this idea on the grounds that the athletes are receiving a “free” education.  The facts is, some of these athletes are not capable of completing this “free” education.  They enter college unprepared, and ill-equipped for the rigors of a college curriculum.  I know, I know, they get free tutors and are afforded many opportunities not available to the regular student.  One should remember the admission requirements have been lowered for some of these student-athletes, for the sole reason of making millions of dollars for the university on the field or the court.  Perhaps, a more feasible solution would be to allow student-athletes to make money from selling their likenesses (jersey sales, commercials, etc.)  The money made could be paid back to the university to pay off their respective scholarships.  This money could then be used for other academic programs at the universitites.

     
  4. Tcbowe September 12, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    I agree with your stance on this issue, Greg.  There is no way the constitution will allow only athletes in the two major men’s sports to be paid.  If one is going to receive a “wage”,  all are going to have to be paid.  There simply is not enough money for this to happen.  Many argue against this idea on the grounds that the athletes are receiving a “free” education.  The facts is, some of these athletes are not capable of completing this “free” education.  They enter college unprepared, and ill-equipped for the rigors of a college curriculum.  I know, I know, they get free tutors and are afforded many opportunities not available to the regular student.  One should remember the admission requirements have been lowered for some of these student-athletes, for the sole reason of making millions of dollars for the university on the field or the court.  Perhaps, a more feasible solution would be to allow student-athletes to make money from selling their likenesses (jersey sales, commercials, etc.)  The money made could be paid back to the university to pay off their respective scholarships.  This money could then be used for other academic programs at the universitites.

     
  5. Alex Cecchini October 20, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    I’m sorry let me get this straight…

    100% agree that the number of hours associated with being a football player, whether counted by the NCAA or not, is much more than 600.  I’ll even spot you the extra hours you cited as being part of tutor sessions, study halls, etc (by the way are free of charge and not included in the tuition/fees/room/board cost calculation and go towards an education in ADDITION to the prospect of a pro career in the sport they chose).  Let’s say a student athlete (well, football player since other athletes like volleyball, rowing, etc put in FAR less time) truly does put in, on average, 40 hours a week towards their sport for a whole year.  That’s full-time, 2,080 work hours in a year.  What is their benefit?

    Let’s use the University of Minnesota – a pretty typical public university in terms of cost of attendance (some are more, some less, private schools much higher).  Total cost of attendance covered by the U of M this year are $21,788 (in-state student tuition) or $26,788 (out-of state tuition).  If you divide that out for a full-scholarship athlete, they are being compensated at $10.48/hour (in-state residents) or $12.88 (non-MN residents).  I will actually put that number higher since the value of the education they receive (if taken as a “pay”) is one that wasn’t taxed.  If that hourly rate was post-tax, social security, medicare, etc that comes out of a normal pay check (roughly 30% in total for a hard-working MN resident), the pre-taxed hourly pay is $14.96/$18.40.  That’s a pretty good pay (read: better rate than internships for engineering or business students would receive over a summer of work).

    Also consider that students with no financial aid (parents, government, etc) can get an on-campus job to help pay down that tuition is allowed to work at least 10 hours but a maximum of 40 hours per week during the school year (sounds like an athlete to me) and get paid more along the lines of $8.50/hour (pre-tax) money, but not to exceed the amount awarded by the school for financial aid.  They could also go work at local restaurants or shops making just above minimum wage, maybe additional tips.  They then have to find their own time to study for school and if they want a tutor, they’d have to pay for that as well.

    Also keep in mind the room and board covered by the school (UMN in this case) is $7,724 per year, which averaged out is $644/month for food and rent.  Also factor in the number of meals provided for them – dinners after practice, any meal on any trips, meals the night before or day-of games, etc.  Also factor in the gear they receive – workout clothes, university apparel, bags, etc that are free of charge.

    At the end of the day, these student-athletes have received an education in any field they want, room and food, assistance in class free of charge, and books/supplies covered ($1,000/year), plus additional free meals to help drive food costs down.  They ALSO had access to top-notch athletic facilities, trainers, staff, medical care, and more that helped them get better at a sport they may pursue a professional career in.  So they have 2 career options instead of the 1 a normal student would have.

    My numbers were conservative (high on the hours put in, low on the cost – not including tutors, food, clothing as part of the package) and the student athletes still come out pretty good.

     
  6. Alex Cecchini October 20, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    I’m sorry let me get this straight…

    100% agree that the number of hours associated with being a football player, whether counted by the NCAA or not, is much more than 600.  I’ll even spot you the extra hours you cited as being part of tutor sessions, study halls, etc (by the way are free of charge and not included in the tuition/fees/room/board cost calculation and go towards an education in ADDITION to the prospect of a pro career in the sport they chose).  Let’s say a student athlete (well, football player since other athletes like volleyball, rowing, etc put in FAR less time) truly does put in, on average, 40 hours a week towards their sport for a whole year.  That’s full-time, 2,080 work hours in a year.  What is their benefit?

    Let’s use the University of Minnesota – a pretty typical public university in terms of cost of attendance (some are more, some less, private schools much higher).  Total cost of attendance covered by the U of M this year are $21,788 (in-state student tuition) or $26,788 (out-of state tuition).  If you divide that out for a full-scholarship athlete, they are being compensated at $10.48/hour (in-state residents) or $12.88 (non-MN residents).  I will actually put that number higher since the value of the education they receive (if taken as a “pay”) is one that wasn’t taxed.  If that hourly rate was post-tax, social security, medicare, etc that comes out of a normal pay check (roughly 30% in total for a hard-working MN resident), the pre-taxed hourly pay is $14.96/$18.40.  That’s a pretty good pay (read: better rate than internships for engineering or business students would receive over a summer of work).

    Also consider that students with no financial aid (parents, government, etc) can get an on-campus job to help pay down that tuition is allowed to work at least 10 hours but a maximum of 40 hours per week during the school year (sounds like an athlete to me) and get paid more along the lines of $8.50/hour (pre-tax) money, but not to exceed the amount awarded by the school for financial aid.  They could also go work at local restaurants or shops making just above minimum wage, maybe additional tips.  They then have to find their own time to study for school and if they want a tutor, they’d have to pay for that as well.

    Also keep in mind the room and board covered by the school (UMN in this case) is $7,724 per year, which averaged out is $644/month for food and rent.  Also factor in the number of meals provided for them – dinners after practice, any meal on any trips, meals the night before or day-of games, etc.  Also factor in the gear they receive – workout clothes, university apparel, bags, etc that are free of charge.

    At the end of the day, these student-athletes have received an education in any field they want, room and food, assistance in class free of charge, and books/supplies covered ($1,000/year), plus additional free meals to help drive food costs down.  They ALSO had access to top-notch athletic facilities, trainers, staff, medical care, and more that helped them get better at a sport they may pursue a professional career in.  So they have 2 career options instead of the 1 a normal student would have.

    My numbers were conservative (high on the hours put in, low on the cost – not including tutors, food, clothing as part of the package) and the student athletes still come out pretty good.

     
  7. Steven Davis December 1, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    After reading this article my thoughts are still mixed own the fact that some student athletes should get paid and some should not. I look at the point made about Adrew Luck and think that a student who getting a 70,000.00 dollar a year scholarship should not get paid. Then i look at a situation where a kid who comes from rough situation and his scholarship is not as nearly that much should get paid. If you don’t pay the student athletes, the question is , how can they earn extra money. Another quetion is, if we do pay the student athlete where will all this money come from. Some will say pay the football and basketball players, they generate most of the revenue. Others will say that is not fair to pay some and not all. And what will happen all the people who fought for title IX get involved. I think that if you start messing with the way things are you find problem much bigger than the one we already have.  

     
  8. Steven Davis December 1, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    After reading this article my thoughts are still mixed own the fact that some student athletes should get paid and some should not. I look at the point made about Adrew Luck and think that a student who getting a 70,000.00 dollar a year scholarship should not get paid. Then i look at a situation where a kid who comes from rough situation and his scholarship is not as nearly that much should get paid. If you don’t pay the student athletes, the question is , how can they earn extra money. Another quetion is, if we do pay the student athlete where will all this money come from. Some will say pay the football and basketball players, they generate most of the revenue. Others will say that is not fair to pay some and not all. And what will happen all the people who fought for title IX get involved. I think that if you start messing with the way things are you find problem much bigger than the one we already have.  

     
  9. Jimmyjohnson February 24, 2012 at 6:58 pm

    you’re an idiot

     
  10. Kristen Moose June 10, 2016 at 8:39 am

    I agree with the fact that athletes should not get paid above and beyond a college scholarship. This especially should not be provided to some athletes and not others. Athletes are often receiving large amounts of money to play a sport in college. The whole purpose of going to college is to earn a degree that can be used to get a job and be paid the rest of your life. To get a free education or even just assistance puts athletes above those who will be in debt because of student loans for years. Regardless of the amount of hours they have to put in, they should first and foremost love the game and be willing to do so because they want to be good. They receive many other perks and bonuses besides the tuition money, which in a way is being paid to play. If they were not playing the sport they would not receive the money or at least that large of an amount. Although some sports create more revenue than others, I think that paying some athletes and not others is going to create more issues than it is worth.

     

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