Paying College Football Players
College football is a big business, attracting huge quantities of viewers and, with them, huge amounts of money spent on trying to reach those viewers. There’s an opportunity to make money in this neighborhood and so, naturally enough, everybody gets in on the action.
Everybody, that is, except the people doing the work: the players.
Getting people to perform valuable work on your behalf without pay is a neat trick, and the administrators who have pulled it off deserve a tip of the cap for cleverness. To play professional football one needs, in effect, to put in three to five years playing college football first. The college teams, however, have formed a cartel through the NCAA that prohibits all of them from paying their players, thus shutting down the market mechanisms that in normal fields allow people who perform valuable services to acquire wages for their trouble. In theory, the idea is that these are amateur athletes, but nothing about the competition in which they’re engaged has any suggestion of amateurism beside the basic fact that the workforce isn’t getting paid. In any industry outside of sports, this would be regarded as intolerable.
I agree with this. Even as a college professor, I thought athletes were being exploited and that NCAA rules that, for example, made an athlete choose between the professional draft and his college eligibility were wrong.
Here’s the rub, though: Matt’s argument for paying players only works for revenue sports. That, basically, means major conference football and men’s basketball plus a handful of baseball and women’s basketball programs. Title IX, however, would require paying comparable salaries to all college athletes. And, because football programs are so large, they are offset by numerous money-draining women’s teams that have no marketing value whatsoever.