Pay to play? I don’t think so

  • 03/06/2009 11:34 am in

First, a preface: I’m no fan of the current rules that prevent athletes, specifically in college basketball and college football, from entering the professional league of their choice at the conclusion of high school.

It’s probably a good rule in college football because only a handful (if that) of players would even be able to make the jump. But in the case of the NBA, it’s a terrible rule unless your name is Korleone Young.

But the column from Bob Kravitz in this morning’s Indianapolis Star suggesting college athletes should be able to choose between a scholarship and $25,000/year was a bit off the wall for my liking. Let’s go to the text:

When athletes arrive at a Division I school, give them a choice: They can get a full-ride scholarship, with all the perks that involves, or offer them a salary of, say, $25,000 per year to work on their NBA, NFL or NHL degree.

That is, let them compete for the school, use the college as a paid minor league and do so as true mercenaries, with no requirement they go to class.

Why is it so bloody important that we maintain this student-athlete hypocrisy when it’s clear that some athletes have absolutely no interest in, or aptitude for, a college education?

Again, the proposal: A Division I athlete, man or woman, revenue-producing sport or non-revenue-producing sport, gets the option: a scholarship or a paycheck with no academic strings attached.

The problem with this whole argument is that Indiana University or any other institution, is not a paid minor league system. Nor should it be. It’s a university. Which means, in theory, it’s supposed to be a haven for learning and getting an education, no?

Sure, there are athletes all over the country that go to school without the intention of ever receiving a diploma. I’m not blind to that. But that’s no fault of the school or the athlete. It’s the fault of the system. Both the NBA and NFL refuse to create a legitimate minor league system. So by default, these kids are forced into attending college when in reality they should be able to choose their next step after high school. The ball is in the court of the NBA and NFL to step up, but it shouldn’t be on schools to start forking over paychecks.

My guess is that this will generate strong opinion one way or the other, so let’s hear it in the comments.

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  • Sallad

    I really feel like Kravitz went off of the rails here. As much as it may seem at times that colleges and universities are minor leagues for professional athletes, they serve a far more important purpose. What would stop the NBA from opening up the D-League to players straight out of high school? Let them get their year in there without the charade of attempting to get a degree.

    When it comes to the NFL, making kids stay in college makes far more sense–most high school football players are physically unready to play professional football. If NFL Europe or the Arena Football League were still in business, I wouldn't have a problem with a player deciding he has no interest in pretending to go to class and instead opting to spend a year playing for a smaller team (The CFL is still in operation, who wants to be a Toronto Argonaut?).

    The whole “one and done” concept is not good for the NBA or the NCAA but trying to turn the NCAA into a minor league won't fix anything, either.

  • Sallad

    I really feel like Kravitz went off of the rails here. As much as it may seem at times that colleges and universities are minor leagues for professional athletes, they serve a far more important purpose. What would stop the NBA from opening up the D-League to players straight out of high school? Let them get their year in there without the charade of attempting to get a degree.

    When it comes to the NFL, making kids stay in college makes far more sense–most high school football players are physically unready to play professional football. If NFL Europe or the Arena Football League were still in business, I wouldn't have a problem with a player deciding he has no interest in pretending to go to class and instead opting to spend a year playing for a smaller team (The CFL is still in operation, who wants to be a Toronto Argonaut?).

    The whole “one and done” concept is not good for the NBA or the NCAA but trying to turn the NCAA into a minor league won't fix anything, either.

  • GFDave

    I guess I don't understand the basic premise. I assume that the value of the salary should be equal to that of the scholarship. If that's the case, I would also assume that many, if not most, athletes would be financially compelled to pay for their tuition with their salary. So, my question is, what have we accomplished?

  • GFDave

    I guess I don't understand the basic premise. I assume that the value of the salary should be equal to that of the scholarship. If that's the case, I would also assume that many, if not most, athletes would be financially compelled to pay for their tuition with their salary. So, my question is, what have we accomplished?

  • dale11

    Kravitz isn't very smart. He has written a handful of good articles over the years.

  • dale11

    Kravitz isn't very smart. He has written a handful of good articles over the years.

  • Disco_Briscoe

    College is the minors for the most part and that is never going to change with the revenues these programs produce. These kids are getting a lot more than just a free ride to college and place to live. They are learning important life lessons and are being mentored not to fail and to work hard from a majority of good people (coaches)…who knows the education may come in handy when they don't make the show.

    I think letting HS kids in the NBA has ruined the game even though it's sad these kids can outplay experienced vets.

  • Disco_Briscoe

    College is the minors for the most part and that is never going to change with the revenues these programs produce. These kids are getting a lot more than just a free ride to college and place to live. They are learning important life lessons and are being mentored not to fail and to work hard from a majority of good people (coaches)…who knows the education may come in handy when they don't make the show.

    I think letting HS kids in the NBA has ruined the game even though it's sad these kids can outplay experienced vets.

  • cookcmc

    This guy is a dope. I think the 1 year requirement now is also useless, if they went to 2 years it would probably serve the students more to develop their maturity to handle the millions of dollars and the publicity that comes with the NBA. I know the arguments for and against, it just gets frustrating at times when HS players only play in college for 1 year, they go to the NBA and ride the pine. Let's make a list of impact HS Players in the NBA and include 1 and done players – I can think of probably 5 of the top of my head, I'm sure I'll think of more after I send this. I would not object to a mandatory 2 year requirement in college prior to going to the NBA.

  • cookcmc

    This guy is a dope. I think the 1 year requirement now is also useless, if they went to 2 years it would probably serve the students more to develop their maturity to handle the millions of dollars and the publicity that comes with the NBA. I know the arguments for and against, it just gets frustrating at times when HS players only play in college for 1 year, they go to the NBA and ride the pine. Let's make a list of impact HS Players in the NBA and include 1 and done players – I can think of probably 5 of the top of my head, I'm sure I'll think of more after I send this. I would not object to a mandatory 2 year requirement in college prior to going to the NBA.

  • jg

    The I year requirement is useless, I agree. It needs to be at least two years.

    Fortune 500 companies don't just hire amateurs, their is a level of performance you must achieve before you are considered, why? They want employees that protect and promote their companies image the right way and keep them on the path of success.
    The NFL's case is pretty obvious, they don't want young kids out of high school who are physically not able to take the punishment from older men. The potential career expectancy of professional football player is short enough as it is.
    The NBA has an image problem, and it really began with the large flows of high school athletes going pro and being given such large contracts on raw talent.
    The fact is, college athletics is a guarantee. A guarantee to have the opportunity to be successful in life. If you aren't drafted into a professional league or can't make it through the minors, you have a degree. That proves you have achieved a level of performance to be a qualified candidate for not just a job, but a career.
    The NBA tarnished their image because they give huge contracts to raw talent that is unproven and they are far ahead of other professional sports at committing this travesty.

  • jg

    The I year requirement is useless, I agree. It needs to be at least two years.

    Fortune 500 companies don't just hire amateurs, their is a level of performance you must achieve before you are considered, why? They want employees that protect and promote their companies image the right way and keep them on the path of success.
    The NFL's case is pretty obvious, they don't want young kids out of high school who are physically not able to take the punishment from older men. The potential career expectancy of professional football player is short enough as it is.
    The NBA has an image problem, and it really began with the large flows of high school athletes going pro and being given such large contracts on raw talent.
    The fact is, college athletics is a guarantee. A guarantee to have the opportunity to be successful in life. If you aren't drafted into a professional league or can't make it through the minors, you have a degree. That proves you have achieved a level of performance to be a qualified candidate for not just a job, but a career.
    The NBA tarnished their image because they give huge contracts to raw talent that is unproven and they are far ahead of other professional sports at committing this travesty.

  • Jeff

    How about if a student would already be receiving a full ride, they could get a $250/month stipend? They don't have as much time to get part time jobs and should be attending class during much of that time. Many of these students are making more for the universities they play for than the amount of their tuition. Another issue is the different value of the scholarship. For instance, a full scholarship at Butler is worth far more than one at Indiana because of the difference in tuition. I guarantee that DJ White made more money for IU than was his tuition added up to. Maybe with this little bit of a stipend they won't feel the need to mess with selling drugs and may even work harder to get an academic scholarship so they can use their stipend.

  • Jeff

    How about if a student would already be receiving a full ride, they could get a $250/month stipend? They don't have as much time to get part time jobs and should be attending class during much of that time. Many of these students are making more for the universities they play for than the amount of their tuition. Another issue is the different value of the scholarship. For instance, a full scholarship at Butler is worth far more than one at Indiana because of the difference in tuition. I guarantee that DJ White made more money for IU than was his tuition added up to. Maybe with this little bit of a stipend they won't feel the need to mess with selling drugs and may even work harder to get an academic scholarship so they can use their stipend.

  • BGleas

    I think what people are missing here, especially Sallad and cookcmc, is that the 1-year rule has nothing to do with maturity, development or learning to handle the money. It's all about marketing.

    Stern and the NBA realized that with players coming directly to from high school they were paying millions of dollars to players that weren't marketable yet. By forcing them to go to college, even for a year, you're bringing players to the NBA that are already in the public conscience.

    Yes, a two year rule would be better and I think Stern is in favor of that, but it has nothing to do with maturity or making the college game any better. It's all about having ready to go to market players.

  • BGleas

    I think what people are missing here, especially Sallad and cookcmc, is that the 1-year rule has nothing to do with maturity, development or learning to handle the money. It's all about marketing.

    Stern and the NBA realized that with players coming directly from high school they were paying millions of dollars to players that weren't marketable yet. By forcing them to go to college, even for a year, you're bringing players to the NBA that are already in the public conscience.

    Yes, a two year rule would be better and I think Stern is in favor of that, but it has nothing to do with maturity or making the college game any better. It's all about having ready to go to market players.

  • BGleas

    Do you mean a list of impact HS and 1 done's in their rookie seasons, or HS and 1 and done players that panned out overall in their career?

    I ask because you often hear the argument, “for every Kobe there's 10 Korleone Youngs”. That thinking is flawed. If you actually do the research, a vast majority of the direct from HS to NBA players have panned out to at least serviceable NBA players, and a good number have turned into All-Stars.

  • BGleas

    Do you mean a list of impact HS and 1 done's in their rookie seasons, or HS and 1 and done players that panned out overall in their career?

    I ask because you often hear the argument, “for every Kobe there's 10 Korleone Youngs”. That thinking is flawed. If you actually do the research, a vast majority of the direct from HS to NBA players have panned out to at least serviceable NBA players, and a good number have turned into All-Stars.

  • Sallad

    No, I get that–Stern and Co. will never admit it, but a minor league or the D-League (Or Europe) will never get the public's attention like college basketball. It's unfortunate that supposedly amateur athletes are just cash cows for whatever university and eventually professional team gets ahold of them, but I get it.

    I just think Kravitz's idea about turning the NCAA into a minor league is ridiculous idea on the NCAA's part, not so much the NBA's part. I think more separation from the NBA is better for the NCAA, even if it hurts the NBA.

  • Sallad

    No, I get that–Stern and Co. will never admit it, but a minor league or the D-League (Or Europe) will never get the public's attention like college basketball. It's unfortunate that supposedly amateur athletes are just cash cows for whatever university and eventually professional team gets ahold of them, but I get it.

    I just think Kravitz's idea about turning the NCAA into a minor league is ridiculous idea on the NCAA's part, not so much the NBA's part. I think more separation from the NBA is better for the NCAA, even if it hurts the NBA.

  • BGleas

    Gotcha, I misinterpreted your original statement, my bad.

    I agree that Kravitz's idea about college being a minor league is ridiculous. I would love to see the NBA make the NBDL a true minor league in which each NBA team has their own affiliate, preferably in their region.

    Then players can go straight to the NBA from high school, most would play for the minor league team for a year, but if you choose college then you need to stay at least 2-3 years.

  • BGleas

    Gotcha, I misinterpreted your original statement, my bad.

    I agree that Kravitz's idea about college being a minor league is ridiculous. I would love to see the NBA make the NBDL a true minor league in which each NBA team has their own affiliate, preferably in their region.

    Then players can go straight to the NBA from high school, most would play for the minor league team for a year, but if you choose college then you need to stay at least 2-3 years.

  • aceman07

    I agree whole heartedly with anyone who says this guy is nuts. Here's the problem with sports writers. Most of them are morons and have never played sports. Let's do a quick analogy here. Let's say, Johnny, graduates from high school and has extraordinary skills in the area of software developing. How many colleges are going to pay Johnny to go to college? You guessed it, nobody. He's going to college to earn a degree because in the real world that degree is needed no matter how talented he is to get a good paying job. Furthermore, how fair is it to Amy, the girls tennis star when Bob pointed out that we're only going to pay athletes who are in revenue driving sports? Both Amy and Christian Watford worked on their athletic skills tirelessly so they could earn that scholarship to IU or ND or wherever. Why should Christian get his choice just because basketball earns money while tennis does not? There's too many holes in this pay to play theory. Besides, a lot of these guys end up working for years after they leave school so they can graduate because even they can see that they must have a plan after their sports lives are over. Just getting them here on scholarship encourages this while letting them skip straight to the NBA or NFL does not.

  • aceman07

    I agree whole heartedly with anyone who says this guy is nuts. Here's the problem with sports writers. Most of them are morons and have never played sports. Let's do a quick analogy here. Let's say, Johnny, graduates from high school and has extraordinary skills in the area of software developing. How many colleges are going to pay Johnny to go to college? You guessed it, nobody. He's going to college to earn a degree because in the real world that degree is needed no matter how talented he is to get a good paying job. Furthermore, how fair is it to Amy, the girls tennis star when Bob pointed out that we're only going to pay athletes who are in revenue driving sports? Both Amy and Christian Watford worked on their athletic skills tirelessly so they could earn that scholarship to IU or ND or wherever. Why should Christian get his choice just because basketball earns money while tennis does not? There's too many holes in this pay to play theory. Besides, a lot of these guys end up working for years after they leave school so they can graduate because even they can see that they must have a plan after their sports lives are over. Just getting them here on scholarship encourages this while letting them skip straight to the NBA or NFL does not.

  • MikeinNC

    Make the NBA fully fund and promote their own minor league….make a simple rule…when you graduate high school you make a choice – college route, or developmental route….if you choose the college route you are committed for 3 years, no exceptions….if not, you can go into the NBDL, Europe, whatever. This would just be a more rigid and formalized version of what has worked very well for baseball for quite a long time….

  • MikeinNC

    Make the NBA fully fund and promote their own minor league….make a simple rule…when you graduate high school you make a choice – college route, or developmental route….if you choose the college route you are committed for 3 years, no exceptions….if not, you can go into the NBDL, Europe, whatever. This would just be a more rigid and formalized version of what has worked very well for baseball for quite a long time….

  • MikeinNC

    Make the NBA fully fund and promote their own minor league….make a simple rule…when you graduate high school you make a choice – college route, or developmental route….if you choose the college route you are committed for 3 years, no exceptions….if not, you can go into the NBDL, Europe, whatever. This would just be a more rigid and formalized version of what has worked very well for baseball for quite a long time….