College Football: A Piece of the Pie, Please



Think the idea of paying Matt Barkley and Robert Woods seems crazy? I’ve got three billion reasons why it’s not.

The pay-for play movement in college football has been slowly gaining steam in recent years, and South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier is one of the biggest coaches to throw his hat into the ring in support of the idea. So have Alabama’s Nick Saban, and LSU’s Les Miles.

Last May, Pac 12 commissioner Larry Scott inked a 12-year $3 billion TV pact, with Fox and ESPN, to broadcast his conference’s football and basketball games. The pact will net each school between $30-$40 million dollars annually.

That’s not exactly chump change.

The Pac 12 isn’t alone. The SEC, ACC, and the Big 12, have also reeled in big money television contracts worth $205 million per year, $155 million per year, and $220 million per year, prospectively. This is just the tip of the iceberg. These insane amounts of money don’t even include the millions of dollars that is made in advertising, memorabilia, concessions, and ticket sales.

Mark Emmert, the almighty overseer of college athletics, no doubt cringes every time the subject of paying college athletes is brought up. He has said on several occasions, giving players a cut of the proverbial pie would wipe out the amateurism of the game. Either Emmert is naïve enough to think he can keep pulling the wool over fans eyes, or he is in denial. The day that big money deals were first introduced into the industry, was the moment the focus of the NCAA shifted towards the bottom line, and away from the well-being of the student athlete. If coaches, commissioners, and presidents can benefit from the athletic prowess of these kids, the players themselves should also be allowed to do so because they are the reason colleges receive these deals in the first place.

Opponents will argue that college athletes are more than compensated in the form of a full-ride scholarship, but that isn’t entirely true. While most of their school expenses are paid for (i.e. books, tuition, room and board), those scholarships do not include daily living expenses such as food, clothing, and any other necessities which on average cost an additional $3,000 per year. According to NCAA rules, college football players are prohibited from getting a part-time job, nor can they receive any type of financial help from anybody outside of family members. It begs the question: how do they expect less fortunate students to live?

A few years ago, Emmert made a half-hearted attempt to ease some of the financial burden for players, when he attempted to get conference commissioners to approve a stipend of $2,000 a year for athletes on scholarship. Not surprisingly, it was voted down because it was supposedly unaffordable. At a time when revenues were at an all-time high, THAT excuse is hard to believe.

Since the power hungry, greed driven, talking heads within the NCAA won’t cough up some money to help the athletes whom they are supposed to serve and protect, then maybe it’s time to do away with the old out-dated bylaws that keep them from earning additional income. If Barkley, Woods, or any other athlete, wanting to sell his autograph or memorabilia for a profit, or a free car, let them.

Either that, or give them a piece of that pie the colleges find so lucrative.