Should College Football Players Be Paid? Opponents Say It Would Ruin an Amateur Sport; Proponents Say College Football Already Seems Professional

By Lewis, Michael; Williams, Bob | New York Times Upfront, November 17, 2008 | Go to article overview

Should College Football Players Be Paid? Opponents Say It Would Ruin an Amateur Sport; Proponents Say College Football Already Seems Professional


Lewis, Michael, Williams, Bob, New York Times Upfront


YES The three most lucrative college football teams in 2005--Notre Dame, Ohio State, and the University of Texas--each generated more than $60 million for their schools.

College football is not simply an extension of the university's mission to educate its students. It's big business, and everyone associated with it is getting rich except the people whose labor creates the value: the players.

There are thousands of big-time college football players, many of whom are black and poor. They put up with playing for free because it's impossible to pursue a career in the NFL unless they play at least three years in college. (Less than 1 percent actually end up signing pro contracts, and even fewer ever make serious money.)

Opponents of paying college players say that college sports should not be commercialized. But college football is already commercialized for everyone except those who play it. Ticket sales and network TV broadcasts generate huge revenues.

It's a fantasy to think that serious college football players go to college for some reason other than playing football. Otherwise, why would schools need to give coaches incentives to encourage their players to attend class? And if college football players are students first, then why do they fail to graduate at such alarming rates?

It's not that football players are too stupid to learn. It's that they're too busy. Unlike other students on campus, they have full-time jobs: playing football for nothing. It's time to start valuing the work these players do for their schools with a paycheck.

--MICHAEL LEWIS

Author, The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game

NO Paying college students for playing on school teams is a bad idea for several reasons. …

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