I’m a college professor and former high school basketball coach who has taught many college athletes over the past decade. I’ve recently listened to two books that I highly recommend, books that have got me thinking a lot about what reforms might be needed when it comes to men’s college basketball and football or any other sport that generates significant revenue for its university.
- The System: The Glory and Scandal of Big-Time College Football by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian.
- Indentured: The Inside Story of The Rebellion Against the NCAA by Joe Nocera and Ben Strauss.
Three Ideas for Reform
- Negotiated Player Contracts: These contracts could be anything ranging from partial one-year scholarships to full rides with monthly stipends in the thousands of dollars. These contracts could include the sort of healthcare provided or scholarships that are honored even after professional careers have ended. For many schools and most athletes, nothing would change. There’s nothing about being a student that means you can’t earn money. That some football and basketball players would get paid wouldn’t disrupt parity. There’s already nothing equal or level about the college football programs at places such as the University of Texas compared to Bowling Green. Title IX? Check out Alabama’s football coach’s salary versus whatever the volleyball or softball coach makes. The main problem here is that billions of dollars are being made on the hard work of and talents of 18-22 year olds while they get very little in return. If all the sudden the University of Kentucky basketball players were earning $1,000 a month stipends, I don’t think this would make their fans any less enthusiastic.
- Freshman Sit Out Their First Year of College: While I’m all for the athletes who bring billions of dollars to their respective conferences earning some of that money, I also think they ought to be students. I don’t think players have any business coming through school for a couple of months before not even finishing their second semester in college to turn pro. I don’t blame today’s current players. They are doing the best they can within the current system. For those students who are going to represent their colleges on the playing field or court, they ought to be students at those institutions. For athletes who really want to be students too, that first year will be an important step to getting off to a strong academic start. The requirement would also discourage those players who aren’t interested in being students from ever showing up to college in the first place.
- Continued Development of Professional Minor Leagues: I don’t think potential professional athletes should have to wait a year after high school to turn pro. I don’t think young people who are only interested in playing a sport should be pushed hard into going to college. I’m excited for young basketball players to have something such as the NBA Developmental League where they can continue to develop much in the same way young baseball players have for decades.
I hope this post can be the start of a thoughtful conversation in this digital space about what might work best when it comes to NCAA sports, revenue, and the working conditions of college athletes. Thanks for taking the time to read this post, and I hope you’ll be willing to contribute to the conversation.