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.