In 1997, Biggie Smalls posthumously coined the phrase ‘Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems.’
It wasn’t intended to be the slogan of the NCAA, but 16 years later it might as well be.
The NCAA is big business. HUGE business. And it makes big money at the risk of big problems. The biggest of which — and by “biggest” I mean that it is the most current — surrounds its biggest star in (insert name here). It doesn’t matter if it’s Johnny Football, or Jadeveon Clowney, or some five-star stud who doesn’t have a name yet. The problem resurfaces each season, in sports other than football (see: Fab Five), and has about as much of a chance of going away quietly as Alex Rodriguez.
Two sides have formed on this — Pay ’Em vs. Don’t Pay ’Em. Of course it centers around money. The Pro-Pay ’Em side says that the student-athletes are being exploited to feed a billion-dollar industry without being fairly compensated, herded through like cattle, butchered for their profitable hides.
The Con-Pay ’Em points out that these athletes are paid. They receive scholarships that cover tuition, room and board, and food. Don’t forget that the cost of college is not just the bottom line, but the years of paying interest on student loans (see: my bank account). In total, athletes who receive a full scholarship can expect to save around $200,000, while playing a game they love with the best equipment and a flexible schedule for school that allows them to graduate.
Safe to say that I’ve gone back and forth on this one. I love Jay Bilas, and any one who follows him knows how he feels about it -- pay ’em, but regulate it. He’s the most convincing voice I ever listen to on the topic, and his unique lawyer/former player background gives him street cred on this topic. However, my background as a college grad completely overwhelmed by student loans pulls me back.
Mo’ money, mo’ problems.
Seems to me the problem isn’t student-athletes receiving a scholarship or getting paid, but rather when receive both. Why should a kid who’s saving $200k need a couple thousand extra? I mean, what if a walk-on had a monster season and then decided to sell some autographs for a couple Benjamins? Can’t blame that guy, but it’s against the rules.
A possible solution: Force student-athletes to make the choice between one or the other. If an athlete chooses to take money for an endorsement or an autograph session, then they can. BUT — they forfeit their $200,000 scholarships. Of course, the endorsements and/or autograph sessions would still have to be OK’d through some amount of paperwork filled out in triplicate. The players would have “scholarship status” when it comes to their sport, but would not receive the money.
This would no doubt put an increased value on that whole “free school” thing which gets devalued by the exploitationist movement. Even a 20-year-old knows that $7,500 in autographs only gets you an off-campus apartment and maybe some books.
As for the scholarship that is forfeit, the team does not get to apply it elsewhere. Instead, it should go to a fund that either goes to the athletic department as a whole to use on equipment and facilities improvements. Or, my favorite option, the money goes to non-athletes who need the help. It can be an essay contest or a GPA thing, but the benefit to a non-athlete would never go under-appreciated.
Forget the names. Forget the individuals and whether you like a certain person or not. This argument is literally older Johnny Manziel and any other current college athlete, so don’t treat it otherwise. Imagine if Manziel, who has no need for a scholarship considering is family’s wealth, gave up his scholarship money to a student he’d never met. If he did that, and then made some cash on the side at a sanctioned NCAA event, I’m in. Johnny Philanthropy sounds way better anyway.
And for anyone who was looking for a link to ‘Mo Money, Mo’ Problems’ — you’re welcome.
Paul Gangarossa is the Monroe County News & Sports Editor at Messenger Post Media. Follow him on Twitter at @_Keep_It_PG_ or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.