The AJC looked at the idea of paying college athletes. They wrote pro and a con piece in Sunday's paper. Senator Blutarsky has also written a piece on this topic called "Chasing the Almighty Dollar." I suggest reading all three for a balanced view of the issue.
Here's my take on the issue:
Proponents of paying student-athletes generally ignore or belittle the investment in them currently. Without a full appreciation for that investment and the future benefit derived from those resources, you can't judge what an appropriate level of compensation really is.
In the 2004-2005 academic year (source: NCAA Financial Reports Database), UGA's football related expenses were $12.5 million. Even if you remove coaching salaries from the equation, we still spent $8.7 million on our football program that year.
that's over $103,000 per player.
That money goes towards:
- Educating football players
- Tutoring them
- Mentoring them.
- Feeding them
- Housing them
- Transporting them
- Training them
- Clothing and equipment for them
- Repairing / healing / treating them
- Recruiting more of them so the current ones will keep winning
- Paying other teams to come play them
- Marketing and promoting them (they DO benefit from this via future endorsements or professional networking / visibility opportunities for non-pros)
- Giving them world class facilities from which to be pampered. Facilities well beyond the normal eating, sleeping, studying or non-standard learning facilities available to other students.
Yes. Georgia does make a profit from football. That same academic year the net football related profit was $38 million. But it's UGA that is assuming the bulk of the risk in recruiting the player.
Obviously, the player risks injury. Obviously, the player is required to work extremely hard; however, the risk in having that player "pan out" is enormous. The University recruits about 100 players over a 4 year period. Only a fraction of those players will ever be starters. As Paul Hewitt pointed out, only 1-2 players per year will actually move the needle on merchandising or attendance more than the player backing him up.
So beyond the $400k per career that we're investing. How much more should we really look at spending? Particularly when MOST athletic departments operate at a loss, most sports operate at an even bigger loss and most athletes don't pan out in a way that generates revenue for their school.
I respect all of the effort that student-athletes put into becoming champions and entertaining us as fans. However, paying them would wreck collegiate sports, and more importantly it would belittle the current investment already made in them.
Am I way off base?
(BTW -- If you're wondering. The metric is roughly the same for men's basketball. About $130k per year spent per athlete NOT including coaches salaries on the program)