I just watched yet another video talking about how terrible it is that the players in the NCAA are not paid and the tournament makes $1 Billion dollars every year. I have heard this every year for so many years it grows tiresome, the latest was by John Oliver. I am not linking it, but I am sure you can find it if you want. I’ll save you the trouble though. Here it is in a brief nutshell…NCAA bad, Players treated terrible. There is money and the players should be paid, since the money only exists because of them.
Here is my problem with this, aside from John Oliver and cheap humor shots that he takes on everything, it shows a distinct and disturbing view on money in our culture. This is what all of these people are saying – if there is money made then it must be fairly divided. Well now that doesn’t seem so bad does it? Student athletes are barely students at most schools and though tuition room and board is covered now, that is not really that great a deal if the education portion is smoke and mirrors. But, here is the thing, and it is a big thing, life does not and never has, worked that way. These student athletes are given an opportunity that many would otherwise not have, they take it or leave it as they choose. I understand the pressure and the lure of playing in the NBA or NFL, but the fact remains. A full scholarship to university where you can, if you choose, earn a degree. After school, whether you become a professional athlete or not, that degree can change you life and the outcome of that life.
Yes millions of dollars are made, yes that money does not go to the athletes, but something precious does, an opportunity. Opportunities to totally transform your circumstances are not that common. Many are missed, many are ignored, but many are not. So many student athletes in so many different sports earn college degrees and through those scholarships and that education change their own lives. Yes they are trading a commodity (their physical ability) for that opportunity. Yes a lot of money is made and none of it by the students at the NCAA level, however without those millions of dollars, the opportunity in so many other sports is more limited. And for me, it is not just that, it also that in our lives, we often work for companies who make money based on our talents. That is the trade off. I give you my time, and ability, you pay me a salary.
I don’t get rich, but the company I work for might. In our day and age, we think that isn’t fair, I should get more money. Sometimes, I agree. When Walmart makes billions but doesn’t pay a living wage to it’s employees, I think that is wrong. But if they paid those employees to go to college and earn a degree so they can advance their own careers, well I actually think that becomes a trade off I can live with. Student Athletes have a golden opportunity if they can take it, to better themselves. To do something, to trade something of theirs for something that the schools have. Yes, the school will make money, yes the advertisers will make money, yes the tv people will make money, but I can be better at the end. I would make that trade if it were offered to me.
The NCAA is not perfect, far from it, they are flawed and slow to change and the change is almost never to benefit the students, but I would not be one who thinks that student athletes should be paid to play. We have leagues for that. Let the student athletes be paid in an education. I would like to see the NCAA guarantee that education to any student athlete who receives a scholarship, you can attend that school on that scholarship to a degree, if you choose.
So, I will be watching the tournament, I will enjoy it, I will root for my favorite team, and I will feel fine about it.