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 #10 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: An Issues Discussion With Paul Dolan – Dolan is the Cleveland Indians Owner and CEO. He discusses the use of Native American names and logos by sports teams and the decisions to drop the Chief Wahoo logo and the upcoming change to the team name. Other baseball topics include health and safety, possible MLB rule changes and youth participation in the sport.
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Episode #9 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Issues With Ralph Nader – Nader is a consumer advocate and was named one of the “100 Most Influential Americans of the 20th Century” by Time magazine. He is the founder of League of Fans.
Episode #8 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Save College Sports From Overcommercialization and Professionalization? – The guest is Dr. David Ridpath, a sports business professor and past president of the Drake Group
Episode #7 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Brain Trauma and CTE Risk in Sports With Dr. Ann McKee – Dr. McKee works in the field of neuropathology and has demonstrated that “mild” repetitive head trauma can provoke chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a devastating neurodegenerative disease.
Episode #6 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Need for Quality Physical Education in Our Schools is Greater Than Ever – The guest is Clayton Ellis, one of our nation’s leading advocates for getting our young people to be more physically active.
Episode #5 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Youth Sports with Positive Coaching Alliance Founder Jim Thompson – Thompson started Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) in 1998 to help create a movement to transform the culture of youth sports from “win-at-all-costs” to a positive, character-building experience.
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.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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.
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