To pay, or not to pay?

By now, you heard all the dirt out of Columbus on the Ohio State football team and how, apparently, the Buckeyes were running a professional football team.

OK, maybe that’s overstating it a little.

But it has sparked an interesting debate on whether or not college football and basketball players should be paid.

And everyone has an opinion.

I’ve heard all of the arguments.

“Oh, they’re struggling. They don’t have any money. They can’t get a decent car, or take a date to the movies. And playing football doesn’t give them time to work. It’s not like the schools can’t afford it! They make millions off those poor kids…”

The no money thing? All true. Every word.

But it’s not only a fact of life for college athletes, but for college students as well.

I lived off ramen noodles and 69-cent Ingles pizzas during my college existence. I rarely went to the movies or out to a nice dinner.

And yet, here I sit. College life is supposed to be hard, isn’t it?

It’s supposed to be tight financially.

But paying the players? For me, no.

I think they’re compensated well enough already.

But the fact remains that, if Terrelle Pryor had to write a check for his senior season at Ohio State – not really an issue anymore – it would be for $23,178.

And that doesn’t include a few assorted fees that I’d guess push that total closer to $23,500.

But that isn’t an issue for the FBS athletes. Because they’re on a full ride, all the way down to the books they need.

Their job? Show up, play a sport and get a college education that’s worth thousands of dollars.

I spent 12 years paying back college loans. Pardon me if I don’t weep for kids who will get a degree with the massive bill that I had.

Eating right

Who doesn’t love a trip to Outback?

There’s one in Gastonia, which is only about 35 minutes from the campus of Gardner-Webb University.

You know how many times I ate there while at GWU?

Zero. Wasn’t in the budget.

Now, thanks to the education I got, I can afford to go every once in a while.

The point?

Patience is a virtue.

And there’s another often overlooked fact on the food issue.

The NCAA allows programs to serve their athletes one meal a day from what’s known as a training table.

It’s basically an athletic department-sponsored facility that serves players food specially designed for maximum nutrition.

Doesn’t sound like a chicken sandwich from the cafeteria, does it?

I pulled a few samples: Notre Dame, Florida and Southern Cal

I think I could bring myself to eat at those places once a day. Their meal plan, included in their scholarship, would provide the other two meals.

So no one’s going hungry.

The money myth

Surely schools can afford to slip the players a little something, right? I mean, they earn all of that money from TV deals from the BCS, bowls and March Madness, don’t they?

Sure they do.

But again, facts get in the way of the fairy tale.

There are 120 FBS, or Division I, schools. Care to guess how many of them actually turned a profit last year?


75 percent?


The answer is 14, or 11.7 percent of them turned an operating profit in the 2009 fiscal year.

How can this be, you ask?

The answer is simple.

At the average FBS school, say N.C. State, there are 24 sports, 12 each for men and women.

Two of them – basketball and football – turn a profit.

The other 22 lose money.


Sports like soccer, softball, wrestling and cheerleading (not really a sport, but listed as such at all need uniforms, travel budgets, game officials, facilities, programs, media guides, trainers, coaches and everything else involved with operating a program.

They all reach into the bag of money produced by the football and basketball teams and grab a handful.

And for about 90 percent of those schools, the bag stands empty at the end of the year.

So, even if it was a good idea – and it’s not – the money simply isn’t there.


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