The Solution To The NCAA Pay For Play Controversy

College athletes should be paid, but they aren't because there is no way to effectively regulate payments. We don't want the NCAA becoming the NFL. My Solution? Let them freelance!

The NCAA was founded in 1906 with noble intentions. According to it’s website it’s core purpose is “To govern competition in a fair, safe, equitable, and sportsmanlike manner, and to integrate intercollegiate athletics into higher education so that the educational experience of the student athlete is paramount” Translation? Its their job to make sure that their student-athletes have the best possible college experience. Its their job to keep the playing field level, and to punish those who decide to make it unequal. Its their job to serve as a protector for all student athletes, against physical, mental, and financial danger. Because as we have come to find out, there are people in the world of college sports who want to hurt student-athletes.

For an organization with such honorable intentions, the NCAA sure does get a lot of negative press. It is nearly impossible these days to hear the phrase “NCAA” without words like “suspension“, “investigation“, and “sanction” following close behind. In fact, many young people (who the NCAA is designed to protect), view the NCAA negatively. This is because the media has vilified the NCAA. They have made the NCAA seem like the bad guys, when in reality they are trying to be heroes. The NCAA is by no means a perfect system, but there is no denying that they do exactly what they are supposed to do. They protect their student-athletes. Nevertheless, there is one issue that I disagree with the NCAA on, and that is their refusal to allow student athletes to be paid.

Collegiate athletes deserve to be paid. The scholarships that they receive cover school-related expenses. They cover books, tuition, and room and board. These scholarships allow athletes to attend class, eat, and sleep on campus for free. What they don’t do, is give the players money. Many NCAA athletes come from disadvantaged backgrounds, where their families can’t afford to give them money. So, if the school isn’t giving them money, and their families aren’t giving them money, how on earth are they supposed to have money? They certainly do not have any time to work. During the day, these guys have to go to class, go to practice, sit down and do hours of homework, and attempt to get a proper amount of rest so they can get up and do it all over again the next day.

The NCAA also prohibits it’s student athletes from accepting gifts. Student-athletes aren’t allowed to receive money, discounts on any item or service, or even Christmas or birthday presents. Heck, the NCAA even has rules about who can buy or make dinner for a student-athlete. According to the NCAA Rules Guide For Parents of Student-Athletes, “Meals in the home of a student athlete’s parent must be preapproved and documented through the athletic department”. What? If a student-athlete wants to go home and eat a home cooked meal, he has to file paperwork and ask permission? And the school has the right to say no? Rules are rules, but that seems pretty excessive. Basically the student-athletes are allowed to use what the school gives them, and nothing else. These people are expected sacrifice their bodies for their schools for anywhere between 1-4 years, and they are only allowed to use what their institution gives them to get by. Sound familiar? It sounds a whole lot like indentured servitude to me.

No wonder so many people jump at the chance to skip college and go professional early. Why deal with all the rules and regulations of the NCAA when you can go off and do your own thing? Why not go make your own money, eat what you want to eat, and take gifts from whoever wants to give you gifts? The problem is that so few people are put in the position to make that choice that the NCAA doesn’t feel enough pressure to make any changes. Since the NCAA refuses to change, needy athletes are continuously tempted to take things that are now against the rules, even though they were able to have them in the past.

I would love to see the NCAA allow colleges to give players a small stipend just so they can have a little bit of cash in their pocket. A little taste of currency to satiate the cravings of a teenager longing for something to call his own. What’s the harm in paying student-athletes? There is no harm, providing everyone receives an equal amount of payment. The problem lies not in the morals of whether it is right or wrong to pay players, but rather in the proposed logistics of how to keep the payments from getting out of hand.

Allowing colleges to pay players would be disastrous. Any initial limits on stipends would be lifted within a decade at the minimum. Soon enough, colleges would be able to pay students as much money as they would like to. There would be no distinction from college sports and professional sports. One of college athletics oldest traditions, recruiting, would be turned into an all out bidding war like those of the MLB. Student-Athletes would be sold to the highest bidder. All that collegiate athletics stands for; sacrifice, amateurism, and pure love of the game would be swept by the wayside, never to be considered important again.

Heres my solution to the whole problem: Don’t let the colleges themselves pay the players, let student-athletes freelance. Let them do commercials. Let them sign endorsement deals. Let them play professionally during the summer. Why is it that every college student has the right to go professional in their field of choice except athletes? If a college student wants to be an artist he can sell his work if he chooses. Same thing goes for journalists who can freelance. Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook out of his college dorm. Aspiring authors can publish books while in college. This is exactly where the NCAA becomes overprotective. Everyone can go pro early, except athletes, who would have to forfeit their college eligibility to do so. Doesn’t that seem unfair?

There is no feeling quite like being young and strong with your own money in your pocket. Honestly you feel as if you could take on the world. The freedom to do what ever you want with that money is exhilarating. The purchases made with that money feel extra rewarding, because you actually had to sacrifice time and effort to earn that money. The mistakes made with that money will serve as valuable lessons, because it hurts to waste money when you have worked for it. The NCAA’s penchant for overregulation is denying student-athletes of these feelings, these freedoms, and these lessons.

The NCAA needs contemplate the situations that some of these kids are in, and do something about it. They need to let the kids develop their own brand and their own image while earning some money in the process. The NCAA is not the enemy, young athletes. They want to help, they really do, but they just get a bit overprotective at times. Don’t think of the NCAA as the bad guys. Think of them as someone who loves you, wants to protect you, and ultimately wants the best for you. When you think of the NCAA young athletes, think of your mom.

Article first published as The Solution to the NCAA Pay for Play Controversy on Technorati.

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