Will's Last Word: Common Sense From An Unlikely Source

Will Palaszczuk
September 30, 2019 - 1:53 pm
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(Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

While trying to maintain my philosophy as a political apathetic, the last place I would look toward as the bastion of common sense in governmental matters is the state of California.

What a surprise it was, last month, to find out The Golden State's legislature passed a law that requires as much common sense as it took Mack Brown to realize his best shot to beat Clemson was to go for two on his team's final offensive possession.

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law Monday morning that would not punish student athletes for seeking compensation on their name, image and likeness, something that continues to be mindlessly verboten under NCAA regulations.

This topic has generated many minutes of discussion on our airwaves, driving opponents of the legislation to bemoan "the end of college sports as we know it". While I'm all for gallows humor, I still have yet to see one opponent of the bill and of this way of thinking point out any harm that exists in allowing the main dictators of the growth of college sports a larger piece of the pie.

The NCAA generates $900 million on its biggest revenue cash cow, the Men's Basketball Tournament. Add in another $600 million annually for the College Football Playoff, and that creates $1.5 Billion in cash, the majority of which is split by college administrators who never hit a free throw or catch a pass.

"But these kids are on scholarship!"

A common argument for those against the pay-for-play movement is that the kids are "paid" via scholarship and the cost-of-attendance stipend. This provides the players the bare minimum to attend class, eat at the training table and pay for housing. There's no way for them to earn discretionary income, as their sports ask for their committment 12 months out of the year. I've talked to multiple players off the record in the past and currently as student athletes who lament the inability to do something as simple as go to the movies, take their girlfriend on a date or buy her flowers. While most people on the outside see the lavish livings of the Clemson and South Carolina Indoor Facilities, not every college has a palace of that nature, and that's hardly the only place they spend their time.

"But paying the players will cause inequity among the team!"

Some believe that paying the players will create a chasm between the quarterback and main skill players from the rest of the team, clearly ignoring that this dynamic already exists. Even though his name isn't on the jersey, you see more people wearing Trevor Lawrence's number 16 on their backs than they do anyone else on the squad. To act like the "pay for play" movement only affects a select few is a naive way to look at something that has the potential to benefit players from all sports. I use the example on my show all the time about the tennis and golf athletes giving lessons or hosting clinics in a way to raise their profile at universities whose name carries as much weight as pro teams. Could you imagine the attendance of a Doc Redman Golf Instruction camp during his time at Clemson? Or USC National Champion tennis player Paul Jubb hosting a tennis clinic on the South Carolina campus? Acting as if only marquee players from the two biggest sports would be able to benefit from this legislation comes from the same lack of innovation that has the public's perception of the NCAA crumbling before its very eyes.

"But these kids get access to a free education that others pay student loans for!"

Yeah, and how many people turned the TV on to see you cut the fetal pig in your Biology 1000 lab? The point is the eyeballs on college sports have reached an all-time high, especially thanks to the advent of the conference-specific networks. And while you may think that the degree holds such a high regard, think about it from the standpoint of players who would rather quit before graduating because of their family situation. Josh Belk, the Clemson-turned-South Carolina lineman, was offered the opportunity to stay under a full scholarship and earn his degree at South Carolina, but instead chose to go home because he felt the need to earn money to support his family. Belk medically retired because of a debilitating back issue, and failed to earn any dividends on the work he put through at both universities. The NCAA says repeatedly in its messaging, "just about all [of our players] go pro in something other than sports". All the more reason to allow them to earn money on their name, image and likeness that they might not get at the pro level. Let them earn the value on their name while it still exists.

"But this will create inequity among teams and the richest teams will get richer!"

Another naivete manifested. The teams with the most prestige will always get the most coveted players. It's an adage as old as the game itself. You have to prove your worth before you can sit at the table of plenty. This is why the onus has to come away from the schools itself, and instead be thrust onto local businesses. Put the power in the hands of the fans. You have a business? Use the student athletes to help promote it. You want to put on an event? Pay a student athlete to show up and drive up attendance. There's nothing in the near future that will keep the NCAA and its member schools from stuffing their pockets with greenbacks to further their own prosperity. If the money that boosters donate to the schools instead went into the hands of athletes, then maybe we wouldn't have such drastic movement by athletes in things like the transfer portal. Maybe if the athlete felt they were appreciated by the community, they wouldn't be subjected to the kinds of decisions that force them to have to think of their own needs as opposed to the needs of the team.

While all opponents of the issue continue to ask these same questions about something which seems more like an eventuality than a possibility, I still have yet to get an answer to my one question when it comes to this issue:

"Where's the harm?"

 

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