Chris Baldwin’s comments on my stance against paying college athletes was pretty typical of “journalism” these days: ad hominem attacks, inflammatory rhetoric, and a distinct lack of analysis or detail. These are the things that excite readers and sell advertising.
I understand this completely.
So, let’s agree that Baldwin is in principle right: College athletes should get paid for playing, above and beyond the $200,000+ they receive in tuition, room, board, books, travel, access to a national stage on which to display their skills, and the chance to play a sport that they presumably love for four years.
The question then becomes: How would such a system ever work?
As I poitned out in my blog on the subject, the vast majority of college sports LOSE money for universities. Do we pay women lacrosse players less than men basketball players? Do we charge some athletes for the opportunity to play their money-losing sports?
And where does the money come from? Here at the University of Illinois, TAs (including the one for my course) are being cut right and left across the campus for lack of funds; research initiatives–the sorts of projects that bear on “real life” far more than sports do (e.g., cancer research, microprocessor development, cognitive aging research, etc., etc.)–are underfunded or not funded at all despite the supposed windfall created by having the No. 1 basketball team in the nation.
I almost took a job at UC San Diego last year, until I discovered that faculty in the UC system hadn’t had even a cost of living raise in the last three years, and starting salaries there were 20% lower than at the U of Illinois, despite the astronomical cost of living in SoCal. Where, pray tell, would the UC system get the cash to pay their athletes, when the faculty can’t even afford to pay their mortgages?
I don’t have anything in principle against compensating athletes for their contribution to a university’s image and atmosphere. My contention, however, is that the athletes are already compensated in the fairest, most equitable way currently possible.
So I’ll be cheering for the Illini and the Spartans in the Final Four this weekend. (BTW, I was at Michigan State when they won it all, too – I may in fact be good luck after all!)
But I won’t be sending Williams, Brown, Head, Powell or Augustine a check for their “trouble,” even if they do win.
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