Thursday, August 13, 2009

Pay the kids.

Those of you that know me know that I am a huge college football fan. Given my background, it was almost impossible for me not to be. My dad went to Michigan and my older brother went to Ohio State, so I grew up caught in the middle of one of college football's most heated rivalries. For the record, I always sided with my brother. Dad always had - and still has - Mom in his corner. That experience as a kid was only compounded when I attended both Alabama and Oklahoma, both hugely storied pigskin programs. Needless to say, last year was amazing for my teams as they kept winning and winning - and heart-wrenching when they were both beaten by the much-hated Gators of Gainesville, Florida. (Full disclosure: I attended UF for two semesters. Nice school - excellent, really - but I could never root for the team after attending 'Bama.)

I look forward to fall football more and more each year. Just ask my wife. She's a pretty big fan herself, but even she seems bemused this year by my wild-eyed hyperventilation. Being unemployed has given me some extra time to whip myself into a frenzy - but also to ruminate on some issues in the game. I'm going to spend some time exploring some of the more interesting ones. Starting now.

College football is big business. Say what you will about how the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), ahem, "determines" college football's national champion, but there is no disputing that the controversial system has amped up the water-cooler factor of a sport already drenched in trash talk and rivalries. Huge TV deals, conferences with their own networks, obscene bowl game payouts, campus athletic facilities that far outstrip classrooms and labs - the sport is flush with cash. Everybody around the sport is benefiting. Even the student-athletes that play the game. Scholarship money abounds and kids that might not otherwise get a college education are getting one.

But I still think that there is an inequity in the sport. Though I know that there are problems with the concept - the first being "it'll never happen" - it's time to pay the kids for their play. Why, though? I just mentioned that many of them get a first-rate education when they might not get one. So why pay them more?

It's all about fairness. As the money in and around the game has increased exponentially, the kids are still rewarded with only a college education. You say, "that seems fair to me", but it's not. It's like the minimum wage went 50 years without being raised. Schools are seeing more and more profit from football - left-tackle-sized profits, in fact. But to get these profits they are riding the hard work of students. Yes, they sink all the money back into the school, scholarships and the athletic department, too. But that's woefully indirect. And not fair. There's no sport without the players.

Tune in for tomorrow's exciting conclusion: Fair is Fair, Unless You're a College Football Player!

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