There’s a great tragedy to the mess that is college athletics.
It’s not that athletes are trapped in serfdom, that higher education is cheapened or that the whole mess is stubbornly held together by the hypocritical NCAA, which watches money pile up while refusing to admit the glaring, obvious holes in the system.
No, the saddest part is that the people most upset by the state of college athletics, the players and fans, have the power to change it and won’t.
By this point, most agree that it’s wildly unfair that student-athletes do the work while everyone else gets the money. We see through the alleged value of those sociology and criminal justice degrees, and we’re outraged at facts like these: Texas football players are worth $513,922 but have scholarships that don’t even cover expenses, Florida’s football and basketball programs are the nation’s richest but their players live $2,250 below the federal poverty line, and Duke basketball players are valued at more than $1 million but unpaid. (Well, we probably aren’t crying for Duke, but still.)
These are the circumstances that lead to things like Auburn changing grades or then-assistant Will Muschamp (allegedly) slipping $400 to a player and saying, “Is this enough? Is this good?” With so much money at stake, coaches and programs can’t afford not to blur the lines. And when they’re caught and NCAA sanctions are handed out, the next generation of coaches and players has to pay the price.
And on and on it goes.
But amid all this, it’d be relatively easy to spark a change.
A strike, especially at an event like Monday’s national championship hoops game, would cripple the NCAA, but no player is going to stand on the cusp of glory and NBA money, then back down out of protest. By the time athletes reach the stage where they can really make an impact, there’s too much cash, fame and female accompaniment at stake to walk away.
Likewise, if fans stopped watching and buying tickets and supporting their favorite teams, college football and basketball would become, well, college soccer. But that won’t happen either, because we can’t resist.
We hold the cards but refuse to play them, and the cycle seems destined to continue.
Well, fuck cards, it’s time for a different game.
There’s a simple way to turn this system on its head — an idea just crazy enough to work: Start paying the players ourselves.
For now, let’s call it Fanarchy Day, the trillion dollar coin for college sports. Read More →