I’m a child of the 60’s and 70’s. I remember the days when you got one college football game a week on TV and an occasional basketball game. I grew up following names like Suggs and Roche, Gore and Zatezalo. The beautiful thing about being a college sports fan then was you believed your college heroes played for the love of the sport, for the love of their school. A scholarship and a free education were cherished. And if a pro career followed, that was all the better.
I’m not suggesting college athletes of those days and prior didn’t reach under the table or accept the hundred dollar handshake. They did that and more beyond what was allowed by the NCAA rules. But, that was chickenfeed compared to what we see in this day and age of college athletics.
The FBI probe into college basketball has reignited the conversation about paying college athletes to play their sports, just like the pros. A faction of sports fans and media believe that with college sports generating millions of dollars annually for school coffers, the players should be compensated financially for their talent and their likeness. They believe college amateurism is dead.
In my opinion, they are right. And they are wrong.
Let me state this first. The players and family members who took money from agents as alleged in this current FBI investigation aren’t bad people. They know players of their level are going to get paid eventually, so what’s the harm in taking an advance, right? But, they were wrong for doing so. The players and family members, and agents, knew the rules, and they selfishly endangered the accomplishments of their teammates by taking money. They were foolish to think none of this would ever see the light of day.
This leads to my opinion that these elite players coming out of high school, those who feel they are ready for the pros and want to get paid, should have an avenue directly to their professional league. Let’s follow the lead of Major League Baseball for both the NBA and the NFL and allow them to draft players out of high school. Let them pay for the development of those players instead of leaning on the colleges.
The NFL has its policy of not drafting a player until he’s three years out of high school meaning even the best high school players have to go to college. And its these guys, like the basketball one-and-doners, that have led people to decry the current system and push for paying them big bucks.
So, let the NFL pay them and develop them. Baseball has its minor league, the NBA its G-League. The NFL, will all its billions, can also pony up for developmental teams. Don’t think otherwise. And why hasn’t it? Because the NFL has always had college football to do its dirty work.
Let’s just eliminate college athletics as a de facto farm system for the pro teams. The elite coming out of high school can sign their pro contracts either thru the draft or as a free agent, and the rest who are good enough to earn scholarship offers can go to college with the idea of getting an education and the dream of developing into a pro player.
I would love to see a four year commitment required of a player signing a scholarship but would settle for the baseball model where it’s a three year commitment before you’re eligible for the draft. And if you’re not happy with your draft, you can return for your senior season. This has worked beautifully for baseball. Anyone notice an FBI investigation into that college sport?
Now you ask, what’s to stop a college kid who blows up into a big-time pro prospect from taking money from an agent while in school? My answer? Nothing. But, I would add a clause to the scholarship terms requiring the athlete to repay the school a percentage of his scholarship based on the amount of money he received outside of the rules.
In closing, those who believe the best players coming out of high school should be paid for their skills are correct. Let them pay for play. In the pros. The rest? Let them follow the college road for at least three seasons and then, if good enough, they can cash in.
College sports could then legitimately claim its amateur status and fans and media alike can enjoy the purity, as best as possible, of college athletes once again.
Agree? Disagree? Share your opinions below.