By Teresa Welsh |
Most fans are not in favor of paying players. This is primarily because many still buy into the myth of "amateur athletics." Fans who oppose paying athletes frequently refer to the "free education" student-athletes receive and, indeed, there is some value to what they learn on campus. However, that education is conditioned on their health and success and always comes second to athletics.
If a student-athlete is hurt or unsuccessful, the coaches and administrators suddenly discard the noble ideals of "education" and a player is left with nothing. Fans would no doubt feel differently about the issue if a student-athlete was in their own family.
Moreover, no one mentions the lifetime of health care bills that await some student-athletes in contact sports. How can a "free education" compensate them for debilitating injuries caused during their time on campus? And how can we as fans truly enjoy a football game knowing that one player's career-ending injury will leave him saddled with nothing more than a lifetime of pain and doctor's bills?
Fans also like to imagine that college sports are somehow simpler and less corrupt than professional sports. Nothing could be further from the truth. College athletics are just as much of a big business as professional sports—it's just that the money goes into the pockets of coaches, athletic directors, conference commissioners and sports media executives. Further, the current system leads to corruption ,as coaches and boosters regularly find ways to circumvent the rules and provide benefits to young athletes.
It's time for all sports fans to wake up and realize that the current system benefits only the elite few who continue to perpetuate the myth of "amateur athletics." Everyone would benefit from a college athletics system that provides its athletes with better compensation and lifetime health care. If we truly enjoy college athletics and want them to continue, we better start calling for changes now. Because if we continue to throw more and more money into this broken system, it won't be long before the whole thing falls apart and we all lose.
About Brian Frederick Board Member of Sports Fans Coalition
Bobby Rush Democratic Representative from Illinois
Richard Burton Professor of Sport Management at Syracuse University