Saturday, January 1, 2011

Was Suspended Ohio State's QB Terrelle Pryor in the Right or Wrong?

Stefanie Loh of the Patriot News examines the five game suspension of Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor and several other players for selling their championship gear and pocketing the profits - a violation of NCAA rules but, from the players' standpoint, a way of obtaining the fruits of their otherwise unpaid labor.

She interviews Geoff and me for the story. Here's an excerpt:
All season, the waters of college football have been muddied by stories of student-athletes breaking rules by trying to make money or receive benefits that, per NCAA rules, they are not eligible for due to their amateur status.

But as a 2009 ESPN.com story showed, a bona fide football star can be a multi-million dollar asset to his university. The University of Florida’s football revenues totaled $132 million in Tim Tebow’s sophomore and junior seasons combined. In exchange, the only monetary compensation the quarterback received was his scholarship worth $13,160 per year, and a minimal monthly stipend.

* * *

Patriot News: Is there any feasible way we can find a happy medium and compensate the student-athletes while not creating dissension?

Rapp: You could allow for a fairly modest stipend. Like what grad students make teaching introductory English in exchange for $20,000 a year. Then, if you’re Terrelle, you have something in your pocket, and it reduces temptation. The real problem is that most universities couldn’t afford to give their student-athletes $10-20,000. For most universities, it would mean the end of their programs.

McCann: How would other athletes be compensated? And how would Title IX work into it? If you’re only paying the players from programs that make money — at most schools that is men’s basketball and football — other players would say “I should be paid too” and the school would say, “You’re not contributing enough to the market.” It would certainly complicate college sports, and I imagine some schools would have to cut programs to pay for this.
To read the rest, click here.

I went on to say that another response -- though not a complete solution -- would be for the NFL, NBA, and WNBA, and their respective players' associations, to collectively-bargain a lowering of their age/experience eligibility restrictions. Here are the current rules:
  • The NBA requires that U.S. players be 19-years-old and one-year removed from high school.
  • The WNBA requires that U.S. players be four-years removed from high school or at least 22-years old.
  • The NFL requires that players be three-years removed from high school.
Those rules are applied in all cases and make no exceptions for a young player's extraordinary talents (i.e., there is no Lebron exception) or his/her financial hardships.

Lowered eligibility would mean that college football and basketball players who would be drafted if they were eligible could then leave college (or not go to college) and pursue those leagues and thereby earn income for their labor. These are the same players who, because they are the best, presumably generate the most fan interest and are thus the most deserving of gaining compensation for their services. To be sure, some of these players would prefer to attend/remain in college, develop their games, and obtain a college education - the choice, though, would be theirs.

None of this is to say that other college student-athletes don't deserve to be paid for their athletic achievements, but if only some can be paid, it would seem that players who are 1) good enough to turn pro and 2) would turn pro but can't because of arbitrary age limits should be first in line.