The recent allegations against Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, his father's supposed request for $180,000 from Mississippi State during recruiting, and speculation as to why he chose Auburn over the Bulldogs when his first choice was to play for coach Dan Mullen at Mississippi, has again brought supporters of paying college athletes out of the woodwork.
The reason: To be done with the sneaky, underhanded, and unethical payments being made to high caliber athletes in order to gain a commitment to said college and sign them.
On the surface, this might seem like a good idea, a logical thing to do, right? Coaches certainly make millions from the successes these athletes bring to their programs, and the universities for which they play see financial windfalls uncharacteristic of any type of normalcy as their teams secure bids to finales at season's end. That is, at least, in football and basketball. Even the video game industry has jumped on the "gravy train" bandwagon through their use of star college athletes' likenesses. If it sells, they will use it.
I think all would be in agreement that the above behavior, the exploiting of someone's talents for the benefit of themselves, is at the root of this push toward paying college athletes. However, as much as I hate to see anyone get exploited, and do see the "surface" logic behind paying college athletes, it just does not sit well with me.
Call me a purist if you must, but I just can't wrap my mind around the idea of bringing in more superficial external reasons for athletes to play sports. It is bad enough now, with so many looking for the big "payoff" (fame, fortune, scholarship, and all other perks that come with elite level athletic status), that the loss of perspective in our sports culture has truly become pervasive. Finding an athlete who is just trying to "be the best one can be" for the sheer self-satisfaction that that brings is like panning for gold in your bathtub.
Yet there is much more than what I have described above at issue here, albeit as important as that is; things that Bill Plaschke articulately expresses in his piece Paying college players is an inherently bad idea published last month in the Los Angeles Times.
Bill describes in detail the conglomerate of issues paying college athletes would bring to the table, not the least of which would include who actually gets paid. Not all athletes, nor all sports, bring dollars into the system. In fact, most programs (and their athletes) are expenditures on the balance sheet rather than financial assets, with the exception of the "big" two (football and basketball), as mentioned earlier.
In addition, Mr. Plaschke pulls no punches as he lays out the probable landscape that would likely develop through the adoption of such an arrangement. If you think our current system smells heavy of exploiting college athletes, what do you think will happen when more $$$$ enter the picture in the recruiting process? Just the idea of this makes my skin crawl.
And what about all the other athletes and sports that do not bring in financial reward to the system, the universities and their athletic departments, what happens to them? Do they not put in the same amount of time and efforts as their media-friendly brethren? Do we really want high school sports becoming more of a breeding ground for self-centered attitudes that reflect "what's in it for me?"
I highly encourage you to read Plaschke's piece, Paying college players is an inherently bad idea. At the very least, it gives some excellent food for thought when weighing in on this topic.
And don't miss Monday's poll where you can express your feelings on whether college athletes should be paid for their efforts.