By Ken Reed
The issue of whether or not to pay college athletes has been a hot one for a long time. Moreover, even if you think college athletes should be paid, the question is what would paying college athletes actually look like? What about Title IX considerations? What would happen to non-revenue college sports like field hockey and tennis?
The issue is an important one, albeit a messy one; a tangled web of factors to consider. Until now at least.
Patrick Hruby has written a thought-provoking long piece for the Atlantic magazine that uses the Olympic model to address the issue of amateurism in college sports.
Hruby points out that the Olympics eventually gave up the myth of amateurism, allowing athletes to be compensated, and the Games have thrived. He builds a compelling case that the same thing would result in our colleges and universities if the current strict amateur rules were dropped. He also contends that college athletic departments wouldn’t have to pay a dime in salaries.
“Salaries aren’t mandatory,” writes Hruby.
“The Olympics doesn’t pay participants. It simply allows them to get paid. There’s a difference. A difference college sports should welcome with open arms. Don’t make campus athletes university employees. But do let them be like [Michael] Phelps, appearing in commercials and on the cover of video games, profiting off their fame and image like everyone else in America. Including their coaches. Doing so won’t cost the current college sports industrial complex a penny of the billions it receives for men’s football and basketball broadcast rights; if anything, it will help grow and share the wealth without having to share too much of said wealth.”
As Hruby suggests, history tells us that prohibition doesn’t work. College athletes have been getting paid under the table — in a variety of ways — for years. Given that you can’t stop these types of payments, and given that it’s highly unlikely that big-time college sports will become less commercialized anytime soon, American college sports will be gradually pulled toward the Olympics model. At that point, college and university executives and board members will have to make a big decision: Are we going to go with the Olympics model (scholarships, plus allowing outside endorsement-type income) or pull back to the Division III model (current Division III amateur rules, including no scholarships).
Hruby’s asking, why wait? It’s a question that every college sports stakeholder should seriously consider.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.” We discuss overzealous adults in youth sports, the dangers of sport specialization, youth sports entrepreneurs and the profit-at-all-costs mindset, and the growing socio-economic gap in youth sports.
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Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Episode #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan.
Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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