IT Blog: Pay ‘em All or Let ‘em All Go

Congressman Bobby Rush plans to summon university presidents to Washington for a hearing on whether or not college athletes should be paid. The NCAA and the schools make a killing off the work of college football and basketball stars, but should these players be compensated above what they already are?

Life is good for a collegiate athlete.

The work is hard, the hours are long and there's little free time, but they get a free education while doing what they love and, in many cases, are revered for it.

The point is not quality of life. They're fine. The point is adequate compensation. For all that NCAA student-athletes at top-level athletic institutions receive, it pales in comparison to the raw dollars that universities pull in from ticket sales, television, merchandising, etc, etc, etc.

The issue is the definitive line drawn between amateur and professional sports. Amateurs aren't paid and professionals are, but it's more than that. The idea of being professional in a meritocracy-based capitalistic society is that (hopefully) the best are paid more. If amateurs are paid, then you have to deal with the slippery slope of the better players being paid more. Then you have the schools that can afford to (aka, Texas, USC) buying up the best players.

No, if fairness is what you're searching for, there's only one solution, regrettable as it may be: Let ‘em all go.

Understandably, there are many positives for the athletes themselves being forced to stay in school. In basketball, for example, when high school stars go up against college competition, they usually discover that they're not as ready for the NBA as they once thought. Many players find that they enjoy college. Many realize the absolute importance of a college education. But even with all of these positives, it doesn't make it right.

They may be 18-year-olds, but they're adults. Regardless of how foolhardy those decisions may seem, they have the right to make those decisions and the NCAA should not be able to stop them.

That being said, professional leagues have the right to hire whomever they wish. Keep in mind, the NCAA is not stopping basketball players from turning pro, it's the NBA. The NCAA isn't stopping football players from going pro, it's the NFL.

It's nice for collegiate sports that they've been helped by age restrictions, but the rule itself wasn't instituted with that intention. The NFL does not have an age restriction for the purpose of keeping college football great. The NFL has an age restriction to maintain the quality of play in the NFL.

If a professional league wants to prevent younger players from entering, that's fine, but the NCAA should not place any restrictions of its own.

Now we're in a conundrum. The only fair solution is to let the players go pro, but the pro leagues don't want them. They're stuck in college, which doesn't pay them anything.

There are other options for the players themselves (Arena League, developmental leagues, etc.), but that doesn't address the amount of money that is being made on these players. They've got to be paid, but if you're going to pay ‘em, you got to pay ‘em all. Every one. If you get a scholarship, you get a little cash compensation to go with it.

Does the football team bring in more cash than the women's rowing team? Sure, but their current benefits come from the same school and they fall under the same governing body, the NCAA. The pay can't be so large that the smaller institutions can't pay it and it must be even across the board, but it's got to happen.

Would it be a lot? No, but it offers a measure of compensation without resorting to the slippery slope of free agency.

Either pay ‘em all or let ‘em all go.

What do you think?

Sticker Shock
by Clendon Ross
Inside Texas Publisher
May 1, 2007

So I'm driving my rental car through the scorching streets of Palm Springs on Monday morning, heading towards I-10 and what turned out to be a hell-ishly congested drive back to Los Angeles for my flight home to Austin, when I notice a Longhorn sticker on the vehicle in front of me. It wasn't the first sign that the Burnt Orange nation (or those opposed to it; see below) is alive and well 1,000-plus miles from the Forty Acres.

Multiple times I spotted Longhorn gear on festival goers at the Coachella Music Festival, which my wife's company webcast and which was what brought me to this oasis in the middle of the Southern California desert with its 100-plus temperatures in late April. Heck, at the festival, I think I saw more UT gear than USC gear, although that's probably indicative of the SoCal fashion culture more than anything else. But in several stores my wife and I stopped in searching for hats to protect ourselves from the intense desert sun, I found Texas caps prominently displayed alongside the expected assortment of Southern Cal, UCLA and Cal lids. This followed my trip to Colorado Springs recently where Texas gear shared shelf space with Colorado Buffaloes apparel.

But back to that Longhorn sticker. It was upside down. If I were in College Station, or north of the border in Oklahoma, the sight wouldn't have been much of a shock. But in Palm Springs, Calif.?

I scanned the banged up, 80's-era, California-plated, faded crimson red truck till I found the explanation for this stupidity: an interlocking O and U above the back right taillight. Honestly, my wife and I got a good laugh out of it. If we would have had our camera handy, we'd have taken a picture. The sheer pathetic-ness of the scene brought us both a smile.

It fascinates me to this day that people will, one, put a sticker on their car that derides a rival rather than supports their own school and, two, pay for said sticker of which a licensing fee goes back to the rival school!

But I'm to the point where upside down Longhorn stickers and the inverted Hook'em Horns from Sooners and Aggies (and Red Raiders and Jayhawks and Trojans and, well, you get the picture), no matter the intended disrespect, are a source of amusement rather than ire. Respect? Texas already gets that from where it matters, and it's not from some guy in a beat-up pick-up in a West Coast desert. But thanks anyway for contributing to the Longhorn cause.

What do you think?

Early Bird Gets the Recruit?
by Bill Frisbie
Lead Writer
April 30, 2007

Programs, such as Oklahoma and Texas A&M, attempt to get a head start in recruiting by offering scholarships to juniors before Signing Day. Should Texas follow suit?

Ironically, Mack Brown is facing a monster he helped create. The 10th-year Longhorn coach is credited for accelerating the timetable within the Big 12 by which high school prep stars are offered scholarships. Texas currently has 19 commitments, including a pair of Five Stars. Likewise, Brown had 19 commitments at the end of April, 2006 and would eventually ink 25. It begs the question: if your class is at least three-quarters complete before May, how much earlier should a program offer a potential signee?

Just ask Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione, whose program -- just like Oklahoma -- held its first Junior Day prior to the February 7 National Signing Day.

"I don't think there's any doubt in this state that you have to go early," Franchione said during the Big 12 Spring Football Teleconference two weeks ago. "It may be because we have so many schools within our state that have such great high school football and (collegiate) coaches are able to do such a great job of identifying (talent) a little bit earlier. I really believe young men are starting to identify earlier, too. Kids are much more prepared to make decisions and are starting to look ahead and make visits. In this information age, students know who's visiting, what positions are available and where they would fit in better than ever before."

A big problem with accelerating the time frame, Brown argues, is that it becomes more difficult to evaluate talent. It also increases the likelihood, he said, of more de-commitments. (Just ask the Aggies). Brown also wants to preserve the integrity of Signing Day (for high school seniors) by not holding his first Junior Day until the following weekend.

The flipside is that Oklahoma landed a couple of Five-Star recruits (Gilmer RB Justin Johnson, Fossil Ridge DE R.J. Washington) before Texas held its first Junior Day on February 11. If a highly-touted junior qualifies for your program and is interested in signing, why tell him to wait another month or three?

This is an issue I can argue either way. My first choice is that Division-I football implement an early Signing Day (in December) using the Junior College Signing Day as its prototype. It's a move that Brown has publicly supported. This way, youngsters who have always dreamed of playing only for a specific school can sign on the dotted line just before Winter Break. It would obviously go a long way toward forcing more thoughtful decisions and reducing the potential number of de-commits.

Short of an early signing period, however, the Division-I landscape is changing to where I think Texas must eventually offer a can't-miss prospect as early as the fall of his junior year (assuming he fits Brown's recruiting profile). But I'd like for Brown to try to delay the inevitable for as long as he can.

I like how Brown has tried to take control of the recruiting process by not allowing ego-inflated, 17-year olds to hold his program hostage. Throughout the years, some kids have made multiple demands of Longhorn coaches as a pre-condition to a commitment, including guarantees of playing time, jersey numbers, as well as the day and manner in which he intended to publicly announce. Brown wants to look a kid in the eye (not to mention taking a good, hard look at his transcripts) before popping the question. Brown is convinced he can continue to sign the caliber of talent he's been bringing to Austin without accelerating the timetable to where he feels he must offer players who "aren't shaving yet" just to maintain the competitive edge.

As much as anything else, Brown at least wants to wait until the ink dries on a particular class' Letter of Intent before extending offers to the next group. (This past year, the interim lasted all of three days).

"So far," Brown said, "it's working."

Brown's level of success in this area is unprecedented at the Forty Acres since scholarship limits were implemented more than quarter-century ago. Let him work it his way.

What do you think?

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