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KU’s Self: Athletes should be paid

Oct 20, 2012, 6:53 PM EDT

Big 12 Media Day Basketball AP

Payment for student-athletes is one of those nuanced topics people seem to be unnervingly certain about. Many hew to the principle of amateurism espoused by the NCAA charter, and declare that a free education is all any player can ask for. Others point out that the NCAA and its member institutions are undeniably profiting from the free labor of student-athletes, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, and note that any other student on campus — including a student journalist — is allowed to earn money from his or her skills at any time.

While we await the results of Ed O’Bannon’s lawsuit, it behooves us to listen to all sides of the issue, and to keep an open mind. If one of the nation’s top college basketball coaches can change his mind based on new evidence, it’s safe to say there really is no easy way to think about the problem.

The coach in question is Bill Self, architect of the Kansas Jayhawks’ 2008 national title run, and current caretaker of one of the sport’s profitable blue-blood programs. The Lawrence Journal-World recently learned that Self has altered his  opinion on the matter of pay-for-play, as realignment wreaks havoc on the geographic footprint of each major conference.

“I used to be totally against paying players, paying athletes. I’ve changed,” Self said Friday in a phone conversation with the Journal-World to discuss particulars of his upcoming “Courtside View” panel discussion set for 7-8:30 p.m., Nov. 1 at Lawrence’s Crown Toyota Pavilion.

“I think if presidents are willing to take these athletes and send them across America, miss more school because they have conference realignment, and with the big business of the BCS Championship playoff in football plus the amount of money we generate through television in basketball, I can’t imagine why there aren’t different angles and avenues in which we could compensate the people that are exactly the ones bringing the money to the schools — the student-athletes,” Self said, taking one long breath.

Self’s panel discussion will include Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News, Fran Fraschilla and Jay Bilas of ESPN and Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star. Plenty of heavy topics will be under discussion, in addition to the hot-button topic of pay-for-play.

My own stance on the topic? I feel student-athletes should share in the revenues generated by their efforts. If the proposed compromise of post-graduation trust funds is adopted, I’ll consider it fair, if still a bit disingenuous. In the meantime, as long as everyone’s nominally bound by the current NCAA charter, any attempt to get around said rules by under-the-table payments is clearly legally wrong, even if it’s morally defensible.

I know I sound like I’m waffling — none other than the estimable Mr. DeCourcy tried to nail my opinion down on Twitter one afternoon. Suffice to say that I hope a day is coming soon in which student-athletes have access to a fair percentage of the money they earn for their “employers”, because as long as it’s a grey area, the shady stuff will continue to go down, and that hurts the sport and the young adults who play it.

Bill Self called it: realignment is about money, not even remotely about what’s best for student-athletes. That fact bears examination.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

  1. otissistrunk - Oct 20, 2012 at 7:11 PM

    Isn’t it enough that these “students” are accepted into some of the finest academic institutions in the nation not because of their grades but their athletic ability? There is NO way they would be able to get into these universities without their athletic ability. Let’s not be naive…they get enough from the team and university along with free schooling..they don’t need to get any more

  2. halfcourthero - Oct 20, 2012 at 11:50 PM

    No it is not enough!!! As a former college athlete I can tell you that all of the travel long hours working out and going to class is A LOT OF WORK!!! Just to wear a university’s name on ur chest who could take the scholarship away if they wanted to? Puhleeze!!! Regular students and athletes in non revenue producing sports can make money when they want but if a basketball or football player wanted a job to help support his family, he would be ostracized and suspended for doing something that this country was founded on. An education is a good thing but if I’m helping to make 4 billion dollars and all I have to show from it is some memories, injuries and a paper degree (which these days doesn’t guarantee a job) it doesn’t constitute as a win for the athlete.

    • florida727 - Oct 22, 2012 at 6:37 PM

      Sorry, couldn’t disagree more. I’m a former college athlete too. If you don’t think tuition and room and board is enough, then the alternative is simple: don’t play. Be just like every other student on campus: PAY your own tuition, PAY your own room and board, and then go deliver pizzas or waiter/waitress tables to earn some spending money. You’re getting a FREE education AND you’re meeting alumni/boosters and other influential people that can help you get a job when other “ordinary” students can’t. The access you have as an athlete is incredible… IF you utilize your resources.

  3. otissistrunk - Oct 21, 2012 at 12:18 AM

    Then don’t play…my point is is that a majority of these “students” would not be admitted to these universities if not for their athletic ability..they should feel fortunate they are in the position they’re in

    • opiedamus - Oct 22, 2012 at 11:19 AM

      @ halfcourt & otis: you are both correct, if that’s possible and why this is such a hot button. Most athletes do feel fortunate. However, to speculate that most of these athletes are “taken care of” is a bit shortsighted. The point, I think, halfcourt is trying to make is that the athletes’ days are so structured and the NCAA so strict, that they cannot go out and get a job to supplement themselves. There are rules that prohibit them from making too much $$ from a job.

      Think of it this way, an academic scholarship doesn’t hamper one from working in a school’s department of science or taking a job w/any company. Nor are they prohibited from making a certain amount of $$. They go to class and then have the free time to earn money and study. An athlete, typically, must take all their classes by lunch time, then practice, then study. Add to that the travel and you’ve got yourself a full blown job, so to speak. Understanding otis’ point of: “then don’t play,” it’s still shortsighted to black and white the issue as it is a huge gray area.

      I played hoops in college and worked in the offseason. I graduated and feel very fortunate to not have the loans that others have. Saying that, I had a brother that received an academic scholarship. He made enough through the school year (as a department assistant) and summers (local law firm) to actually have a much larger bank account that I did when he graduated. This is not sour grapes, it’s just the reality of the situation. It’s not about athletes feeling fortunate, nor is it about paying the athletes a ton of money. The playing field has changed and something needs to be done to level the playing field. I don’t have the answers, but to go too far one way or the other or label an athlete as ungreatful or spoiled is not a good general blanket statement.

  4. badintent - Oct 21, 2012 at 1:16 AM

    Head Football coaches and ADs are getting $ Million dollar a year contracts on the back of 18 year teenagers !! Wake the Fu*k UP ! Pay these guys so they support their inner-city families with more that just $ 50 /month laundry money.
    NCAA Football $$$ pays for All the NCAA women sport programs, everyone of them ! No one goes to women sports except for soccer moms. NO TV $$ for NCAA Football games, no $$ for women sports , Federal (En) Titlement 12 be damn ! And all the little men’s sports like fencing, hockey, tennis,etc would be dropped.
    Anyone that doesn’t want these football players paid is a Racist. Bar None.The NCAA Nazi Gestapo has Congressmen in their hip pocket with lobbyists $$$$$$. I can’t believe that Rev Jackson has never sued the NCAA in a massive class action lawsuit on behalf of all the blacks that had played the football and left it with broken bodies, broken dreams and had their scholarships taken away, with zero chance to ever get a post -secondary education. Read the book “Meat on the Hoof” ! It was about the U of Texas program where the head coach ran players into gang tackles over and over until the player was carted off the field with broken bones or a concussion. Then he would get back their scholarships to give to new high school players.

    • basadeed - Oct 21, 2012 at 8:24 AM

      You lost all credibility when you used the word racist. Maybe the Rev. Jackson is too busy trying to keep his son out of jail.

    • goodellisruiningtheleague - Oct 22, 2012 at 8:28 AM

      Were you drunk when you typed this?

  5. packhawk04 - Oct 21, 2012 at 1:35 AM

    Well, kids could always walk on somewhere, play if they want to, and take out loan after loan to pay for that paper degree (which doesnt gaurentee a job) and spend decades replaying their loans. The choice is theirs.

    • basadeed - Oct 21, 2012 at 8:19 AM

      The universities could stop taking money from television deals, bowl games etc. The revenue from tickets for KU games would pay for the players scholarships, the television and tournament is extra. If the athletes shouldn’t get any of the money their sweat makes, then the school shouldn’t. It’s not like they are talking about giving them big bucks.

  6. frug - Oct 22, 2012 at 4:16 PM

    I have no philosophical opposition to paying players. What I do oppose is asking non-athlete students and taxpayers to pay them. There are only about 20 or so self sufficient public athletic departments (those that actually bring in more revenue than they spend) in the country. The rest (including KU) depend on some combination of student fees, state support and direct institutional support to close the gap.

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