Friday, March 6, 2015

Day Seventeen: Paying Student-Athletes

This week, one of my students asked me why I didn't like college sports.  I admitted to him that I didn't always dislike college sports, but I have lost faith in many of the colleges who simple want to create national championship teams at any cost.  Why?  I'm an educator.  I have taught many talented athletes in all types of sports, but I also realize (even though many of them do not) that less than 1% of graduating high school seniors will win a Division I Scholarship in any sport.  I tell my senior student-athletes this every year.  I remind them if they get a scholarship, please take advantage and get a real education. I say this because in our hometown in 20 years, there have been approximately four players to make it to the pros.  Of those four, three played for a Division I school. 

People always comment that schools make a ton of money off the football and basketball teams, and that the players should get a cut of the action. They say a scholarship is not enough. If it is not enough, why accept it? They believe they should get a stipend for playing, because the scholarship is not enough.  Uhmmm, okay.

I have no problem with players profiting from jersey sales or their image on a video game.  I have no problem with that at all.  According to Darren Rovell, they would not make nearly as much as they think they would.  They definitely would not get rich.  Based on Rovell's research, if they received a 5% royalty, they would walk away with about $2.25 per jersey based on an average price of $60 per jersey.  Rovell used a player who was reprimanded for selling his own jerseys for profit. He stated that the student would have made more selling his jerseys himself than taking a cut from the profit (I don't really have a problem with selling something that personally belongs to you. I get that the NCAA has rules, and I even kind of, sort of understand why they have it, but this is one of those stupid rules they need to do away with and redo). He stated that if they sold 300 of this student's jerseys he would have profited $625. Their meal ticket is probably more than $625.  FYI, even the top schools average about one million dollars per year profit in jersey sales.  That makes a huge (sarcasm) dent in the average thirty million dollars per year they spend on the teams. 

I'm going to use Louisiana State University as an example.  In 2013, LSU spent $24,049,282 on its football team.  LSU made $68,804,309.  That is a profit of $44,755,027.  That's a lot of money made off football, but do you know what the expenditures for LSU as a university was over all in 2013?  It was only cost about $447,396,923  to run the school.  The state paid the school $124, 590,470.  They self-generated $315,730,227.   $217,420,493 was spent on salaries for the various employees of the school. Les Miles made a base salary paid by the school of $300,000 (third-party donations make up the rest of the 4 million dollars he makes each year).  LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander had a salary of $600,000 in 2013.  Technically, the football coach makes more per year than his actual boss.  That makes sense.  By the way, base professor salary is $145,000.

I think the main issue I had was a quote by Richard Sherman,
I would love for a regular student to have a student-athlete's schedule during the season for just one quarter or one semester and show me how you’ll balance that. Show me how you would schedule your classes when you can't schedule classes from 2 to 6 o'clock on any given day. Show me how you're going to get all your work done when after you get out at 7:30 or so, you've got a test the next day, you're dead tired from practice and you still have to study just as hard as everybody else every day and get all the same work done [...]Most of these kids are done with school, done with class by 3 o’clock. You’ve got the rest of the day to do as you please, you know? You may spend a few hours studying, then you may spend a few hours at the library checking out books and just doing casual reading. Then you may go hang out with friends and have a coffee. When you’re a student-athlete you don’t have that kind of time. You wake up in the morning, you have weights at this time, then after weights you go to class and after class maybe try to grab you a quick bite to eat, then after you get your quick bite to eat you go straight to meetings and after meetings you got practice and after practice you got to try to get all the work done you had throughout the day that you got from your lectures and from your focus groups. And those aren't the things people focus on when talking about student-athletes.
See, I have a problem with this quote for this reason. I have never played football, and I am aware it is a very difficult and grueling activity, but seriously, Richard.  You had a tough schedule?

Don't laugh, I was in marching band in college.  We showed up the exact same week the football team did in the summer.  We would eat breakfast with the football team every morning.  Then, they would do field work while we did field work in the morning.  They would go in about 10, as would the band.  I don't know what happened in the field house, but over in band land, the instrument players and dancers would work indoors until about 12.  In marching band, I was in color guard.  We practice outside in the Mississippi summer all day. You can't do color guard routines in a building. If it were raining, they occasionally let us used the gym.  At 12, we would see the football players again at lunch.  At 3, we were all back to practice, until about 5.  We would meet in the cafeteria for dinner, and then, back for film or whatever they did in the field house, while the band would work field drills until we could not see.  (While I was in grad school, we could hear the marching band practicing during our classes. Those kids were often still practicing when we were on our way home as late as 9 pm.)

Once school started, we practiced every afternoon from 3-5 and then, from 6-8.  We were still expected to show up to class on time.  We went to practically every game the football team went to, performing during the game and during half-time, usually with a half quarter to wolf down food from the concession stand and take off the uni to go to the bathroom, before traveling back.  After football season ended, we didn't stop practicing, because we had the multiple Christmas parades to perform  and the Christmas concert.  In the spring, most of us were in the two additional bands concert and jazz.  Two different sets of practices, two different performances, Mardi Gras parades, concerts for the school, two major concerts of our own, touring different high schools to perform, and the occasional basketball game.  Oh, once, we had to miss class to travel to play for the governor.

The point of my little band story, don't dump on other students when you really don't know what their schedules are like, and how much extra work they put in often with less scholarship money.  By the way, I was also on the school's hospitality and recruitment team, Student Government Association, a member of the schools drug awareness acting troupe, held offices in two other clubs, and belonged to a couple more-and received no scholarship money for either.  As a matter of fact, during homecoming, I spent the morning taking alumni and visitors to tour various locations on campus before changing that uniform to my band uniform to perform at the game.

I can guarantee most of these band students and cheerleaders are not getting the same scholarships the football team is getting.  I can almost guarantee, the basketball, baseball, soccer, tennis, golf, etc. are not getting it either.  If you are going to pay the football players, pay them all, but most of the pay for pay proponents are only for football and basketball.

I am for the NFL and the NBA creating minor league teams for these students who only need about 2-3 more years to be field ready.  How many cities would love to have a minor league NFL team?  I know Mississippi loves its Mississippi Braves franchise.  I am for giving these scholarships to students who want an education, but happen to be good at sports-students who are college good, but may not be headed to the NFL.  I know there are those who disagree with me, and that's fine.  This is just my opinion.  Thus, I don't buy college products (except when I am attending the school), I don't go to the games, I don't watch the games, and I don't plan on working at a Div. I school.  [Grad school costs a fortune, and there are too few scholarships.]

As for the NFL, it's a business. I get why things are done the way they are done there, too. I don't always agree with that either. These, however, are not student-athletes.

Until next time, "The student athletes are the ones the kids look up to. The younger kids really look to them for guidance. We have to have high expectations of these kids. Participating in athletics is a privilege and with that privilege comes certain requirements." Bob Wilson  

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