13 February, 2014

How to fix the NCAA

It comes up all the time, there are strong opinions on both sides of the issue. Should college athletes get paid?

On the one hand, major universities make millions off of these players. Everything from TV contracts to jersey sales to ticket sales and more.

On the other hand, if you pay them, who pays them? The university? Alumni? Sponsors/boosters? And if you do pay them, do they become employees of the university? If they are employees, and they get hurt in a game, do they get workers comp?

Recently, a group of football players, petitioned the court for the right to organize as a union.

First of all, let’s only consider men’s basketball and football for this. As much as you may love the women’s tennis team or the men’s lacrosse team, let’s be honest, the only sports that make money for the schools are Men’s BB and Football. The rest at best break even. The other day I saw part of an SU women’s basketball game, the stands were empty. A far cry in the Carrier Dome from when the men are playing.

Another complaint that people have about the ‘students’ that are just there as a stepping stone to the NFL or NBA. They play 1-3 years, go to class just enough to stay academically eligible. Oh sure, you hear stories about the Rhodes Scholar that played on the football team, or the point guard that graduated cum laude in engineering, but generally those are the exception, rather than the rule.

Never fear, I have the solution.

There should be a minor league set up. You can recruit or draft high school players to play in a 10-12 team league. They can play for as many as 4 years and get paid the equivalent of a college scholarship. Set up teams in mid markets, cities like Rochester, NY, Columbus, OH, Oklahoma City, OK, Amarillo, TX, etc.. once they have played in the league for 3 years, they are then eligible to be drafted into the NFL. Work with the NFL, not against it. We have seen what has happened to other organizations that tried to start a league to compete with the Shield.. (XFL, USFL, WLAF.. ). This league can also be a proving ground for coaches and coordinators.

For the basketball players, treat it more like the way MLB is set up. Let players who have the skill, go right to the NBA, for those who need a year or two, use the NBA-DL as a minor league. The players can get drafted into this league out of high school, play for as many years as they need to get ready to take the next step.

This way players who really don’t have an interest in college other than as a stepping stone to the NFL or NBA aren’t taking roster spots from real student athletes who want to have the experience of playing in college while they are working towards their real goal of a job that isn’t in professional sports.

There will be pushback from the big schools that have a lot of money tied up in the big time college athletics, but it will return the NCAA back to what it was intended to be, another activity available to the students who would like to participate, either as players or as spectators.

As always, I welcome your thoughts on this.. agree with me or tell me why I’m a moron.. or somewhere in the middle..