Editorial: The NCAA’s rules on student-athlete pay aren’t the real problem

photo by: Journal-World Photo Illustration

Lawrence Journal-World Editorial

Some great basketball minds, including University of Kansas coach Bill Self, have come out in support of the California law that eventually will allow student-athletes to be paid for endorsement deals and other such marketing work.

A prime argument that Self and others have made is summed up in this recent quote from Self: “I think it’s been long overdue to give student-athletes the same opportunities that general students possess.”

Given that, here is an interesting question for Self: Should KU basketball players be allowed to bet on the games they play in? After all, other students can do so. NCAA rules, though, prohibit student athletes from betting on any collegiate or professional sport because to do otherwise would invite corruption.

That’s also the argument for why the NCAA doesn’t allow student-athletes to be paid for endorsement deals or any other work that derives from “the publicity, reputation, fame or personal following that he or she has obtained because of athletics ability.”

What is to stop a rabid booster from sending word to a top recruit that the booster’s business will pay the recruit $100,000 a year to appear in his business’s ads if he comes to KU.

Is that what we want college athletics to be about? Fans of schools with rabid, rich boosters maybe do. But it is easy to see why the NCAA — and lots of smaller schools that just want to provide reasonable extracurricular athletic activities — don’t want to see college sports become even more about who has the richest, most rabid boosters.

There are valid reasons why the NCAA can and should ban players from being paid for their athletic talents. The NCAA shouldn’t be forced to run a system that invites corruption.

Here are some other questions for those who support the California law and are eager to lambaste the NCAA:

• Why aren’t you mad at the NBA? So many people are labeling the NCAA as a dictatorship because it won’t allow a student-athlete to sign an endorsement deal. But how is that worse than the NBA saying you can’t play in its league unless you are at least 19 years old? When you are 18 years old you are an adult and can get drafted and die for this country. But you can’t play in the NBA. Consider this: The average length of an NBA career is just under five years. By delaying the start of that career by a year, the league is lopping off 20% of the average player’s career. Talk about a cruel dictatorship. The NFL is just as bad, or worse, but since this is Lawrence, we’ll focus on basketball.

• How is this different from the choices other college students must make? Say you are a very talented science student. You get a chance to intern at one of the college’s research labs on very exciting work. If you take the internship, though, you can’t also work at a private lab doing the same research work. The university prohibits it because it creates too much disruption. You have to make a choice. Uber basketball talent Zion Williamson had to make a choice. He could have gone overseas and made big money until he turned 19. Instead, he played for “free” at Duke. Why? Maybe because playing overseas wouldn’t allow him to gain a legion of Duke fans that he could take with him to the endorsement deal he signed as soon as he ended his college career. If the NCAA is offering such a bad deal, why do so many people take it?

• Do you know that even student-athletes can have an outside job? The NCAA doesn’t prohibit student athletes from getting paid to work while in school. If you are willing to toil away in anonymity in the stock room of a department store and get paid the going rate, that is permissible under NCAA rules. It happens all the time at smaller schools and smaller sports. It doesn’t happen often in big-time programs, though. But it is not the NCAA that prohibits it. Rather, it usually is an unwritten rule from the coach. If you have free time, you spend it getting better at your sport, not at some side job. To do otherwise means you are not a team player, in the eyes of coaches and rabid fans.

Too bad California — and everybody else who is concerned about the exploitation of student-athletes — didn’t pass a law that will change that.


Welcome to the new LJWorld.com. Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.