Monday, February 12, 2001

Paying players

Education payment enough

        Pay 'em all. Every last one of them, Heisman winners to bench jockeys. Give them $250 a week, says Matt Frantz, every week of the year. They're college football players. They've earned it.

        Why $250? Is that enough? Is it too much? Why is everyone making the same? Why just football players? If you're paying football players, what's left for anyone else?

        Who knows? Just pay them. They're suffering in a system that feeds them, houses them and attempts to educate them, all for free. They have tutors, counselors, aides, study tables and advisers. They've got half the university trying to help them get a degree.

        They are exploited, these beleaguered football players who can't afford a pizza on Friday night. I think about that every time I see one of them using a cell phone.

        I like Matt Frantz. He graduated from Ohio State in 1989, after four years as a placekicker. He has started something called the College Football Players Association because, he says, “These kids have no one protecting their rights.” (As opposed to the non-football playing students, who have F. Lee Bailey on retainer.)

        Frantz is right when he says football players should be able to turn pro when they want. Now, they have to wait three years after they graduate from high school. But the first football player to challenge that rule — the way Spencer Haywood did, to get to the NBA — would win his case in about 10 seconds. No one has pursued it.

        When Frantz says players who are walking billboards for shoe companies and snack foods should see a cut of that pie, he's right again. No kid should have to wear a swoosh if he's not being paid for it.

Worthless degree?
        But I'm sick of big-time, quasi-amateur athletes asking for compensation. The implication is that a college degree is worthless unless you're getting paid to earn it. Why should the athletes who wouldn't be in college if it weren't for sports demand to be paid for their free education?

        Football players work 20 hours a week. That's the rule. Are they exploited? Were you?

        When you were taking a full course load, then spending 20 hours a week waiting tables to help pay the tuition the football players get for free, did you feel put upon?

        But you didn't generate millions for your school, Frantz says. “A system that financially rewards everyone but the players,” he calls it, and he's right. But what do the basketball players say at UC? Don't they wonder where their $250 is?

        The millions float the entire jock boat. Most Division 1-A football programs balance their own budgets with a little to spare. The runoff goes to the other programs. Frantz makes it sound as if NCAA officials are lighting their Macanudos with $100 bills pulled from the backs of defensive ends.

Lots of money
        Bob Goin chuckles as he grabs a calculator. “Two-fifty a week?” the Cincinnati athletic director asks. The Bearcats dressed 109 players last fall. One-oh-nine, times $250, times 52 weeks, comes to $1.417 million. “Uh, no, that's not feasible.”

        Pell Grants go to needy players. They pay as much as $2,700 a year. Pizza for everyone!

        “It's going to happen,” says Frantz of his idea.

        Let's hope not. Not all rewards are monetary. Some are priceless. An education, for one.

        Paul Daugherty welcomes your comments at 768-8454.


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