Remember those finals weeks when you didn't burn the midnight oil, but the midnight bean. Where you pulled all nighters not to party, but to study, and you didn't cram beer and chips, but knowledge. Here at the coffee corner, we pour to everyone and we've seen a student or two in our time. Even a student-athlete or as I like to call them athlete students.
Recently, People have been hissing louder than an esspresso machine about the fact that some athletes have been caught selling their autographs and pocketing the money. Some are alarmed that they're breaking the rules. Others, demand that these athlete students must be paid. It's wrong for everyone, but the athlete to profit off their sweat.
Now, first I want to say this. Athlete-students have always been paid. After watching the college debt that many of my friends drown in more than a decade after they get their sheepskin I don't want to hear that someone who got 40 thousand dollars in free education, plus room, plus board, plus networking opportunities beyond belief have not gotten paid. They have. They get paid a lot more than the student scientists whose work leads to patents that enrich the school's fame and coffers. They get paid more grad student serving as a teacher's aide or the guy holding down three part time jobs just to pay what the student loan doesn't.
Our athlete-students in the major sports do get paid.
Now as recently as August a number of courts are saying that level of compensation isn't enough. That students qualify for a salary. THey are not amateurs, but employees of the school. A court also ruled that students at Northwestern University have the right to unionize. Should they? As I said, they are being paid, they're salary in tuition and board is greater than what most twenty year olds make in a year. On the other hand, when you read that Alabama boosters decided to pay off the three million owed on Nick Saban's house as a gift that sits above above and beyond the 7-8 million he's getting in salary... Well, there is a stink of unfairness.
This isn't simple. The NCAA makes billions. Coaches make millions. Why shouldn't Jameis Winston or Todd Gurley be able to pocket a few thousand if someone wants to pay them to sign their name? What's really is wrong with that? Isn't that capitalism? Isn't that the American way?
But... but... Amateurism?
Let's be honest, at the top schools college sports are professional in every way except pay. The courts have said so and in our hearts we know it too.
Here's my solution. The NCAA should adopt a GI bill approach. For the four years they play they are althletes. Their bed, board, travel, and expenses are covered. After that, if they want to be a student, the college doles out another 4 years where they can be a focused student and not take fake classes with fake grades, but real classes where they have the chance to learn, to better themselves, or fail. If they want to forgo that then they can take some cash... let's say the equivalent of 6 months tuition for every year they served their college.
Should athlete students get paid... the answer is a qualified "yes." After all, I want them to be able to afford a cup of java here at the Coffee Corner.
I'm Andrew Hiller.