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Jim Delany, Iowa State AD Jamie Pollard spark more pay-for-play debate

Sep 26, 2013, 12:51 PM EDT


In what has become a now-daily occurrence, a well-known member of the college athletics establishment said something for or against paying collegiate athletes, which subsequently turned into a war of words on my twitter feed between the folks that want to see the labor force get a bigger cut of the profits from college athletics and those that believe a full scholarship is more than enough.

This time, it was Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, who had plenty to say in regards to college athletics and amateurism. Some of the highlights:

  • “Maybe in football and basketball, it would work better if more kids had a chance to go directly into the professional ranks. If they’re not comfortable and want to monetize, let the minor leagues flourish. Train at IMG, get agents to invest in your body, get agents to invest in your likeness, and establish it on your own. But don’t come here and say, ‘We want to be paid $25,000 or $50,000.’ Go to the D-League and get it, go to the NBA and get it, go to the NFL and get it.”
  • “I don’t view it as a labor force. I view them as athletes, as students. I view the universities and the brands that have been here for 118 years. It’s built by predecessors, from Isiah Thomas to Magic Johnson to John Havlicek to Archie Clark to Red Grange.”
  • “Being a full-time student is basic, providing opportunities for women is basic, providing Olympic sports opportunities for men is basic. The expectation they should graduate at or about the same rate is basic. I don’t want to give those things up. Why? Because we’re wildly successful in football and basketball? Now, if a judge says, ‘You must pay,’ I said, ‘OK. Tell us what to do now.'”

Then Iowa State’s Athletic Director Jamie Pollard decided to drop by, doing his best to drive a wedge between the non-revenue sports athletes — whose teams are funded by football and basketball — and the revenue sports athletes.

I’m not going to get to wordy about how ridiculous and shameful the concept of amateurism truly his (just read this), or why most of what Delany said is inaccurate (read this, too), or try and explain to you why college is the only real option for players in revenue sports, or list off the reasons why the “education” these athletes receive is not the same as the education a normal student gets. If you truly believe that college football and basketball players shouldn’t get a bigger cut of the money they generate, than I can’t help you. I just have to be glad you don’t actually have a say in the matter.

The one thing I’ll say is this: the heart of the problem isn’t the lack of pay for the players, it’s the lack of say. They have no power. They have no voice. They only thing really differentiating them from being employees of these universities is a label a court ruling from 50-some odd years ago, yet there is no college athlete union.

The NFL and the NBA have a collective bargaining agreement between the players and the owners. College athletes are at the mercy of a group of athletic directors that don’t want to see their seven-figure salaries reduced.

If that doesn’t rub you the wrong way, I’m not sure what I can say to you.

  1. jytlm - Sep 26, 2013 at 2:44 PM

    If you believe that academic institutions should be running professional sports teams, I don’t know if I can help you. The amateur athletic model functions perfectly well, as evidenced by the multiple club sports that exist in college. Why should the fact that fans are willing and demanding of high spending on varsity sports mean that amateurism needs to fail at that level as well? I understand that there are many problems with the varsity model, mostly with the revenue sports, but the solution isn’t to dive into the business side of college athletics, but to roll back to a model where student-athletes are actually student-athletes.

    And the reasoning that college athletics is the only viable path for those seeking to go to the NBA or NFL is a weak argument against amateurism. The schools have no obligation to fill the void of minor leagues, nor should they be doing so. Maybe philanthropists and entrepreneurs who care so much about the welfare of professional hopefuls can start a real minor league, instead of forcing academic institutions to deviate from their mission.

    • lparedes1537 - Oct 18, 2013 at 9:38 PM

      Forgetting about paying them, how about just allowing them to make money off of their own image? They are the labor force that drives billions of dollars in commerce and they cannot sign an autograph for money? That’s absurd!

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