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 #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a long-time member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
Follow on Facebook: @SportsForumPodcast
Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
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.”
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.
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.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
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.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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