In response to Matt Brown's article, which was in turn in response to one of my earlier missives, I would like to respectfully defend my original position. This is partly because we're in the doldrums of summer and partly because I grow frustrated when I see this issue framed in this particular manner.
To the average person, being a major college football player isn't a very raw deal. For most, playing a children's game in front of national audiences would be icing on a cake which already included a debt-free education. The problem is, major college football players aren't average people.
The whole game changed when TV money began raining down on the college football scene. Companies are throwing billions of dollars around like they're drunk in a strip club with their father's bank card. Over the last twenty years, that money has trickled down everywhere except into the hands of the actual laborers.
In a perfect world, a CEO of a company would be able to perform every task he'd ever ask of anybody else. Now tell me.. how much would the average person pay to watch teams of people like Jim Delany or Mike Slive play 48 minutes of football? I might watch once for comedy's sake, but I doubt a team made of geriatrics would draw the same numbers we see across the country in the fall. (If this makes me a cynic, then that's something I'm willing to take a quick ride upstate for.)
We say things like "The annual cost of an out-of-state scholarship for Ohio State is $35,000" without realizing how grossly inflated that number has come in the last twenty years, before even realizing these are on-paper amounts. I mean, the idea of an 18-22 year old conjuring $35,000 a year of their own money is ludicrous. Unless of course that 18-22 year old is a major college football player.
Worst of all, the money is already there. Ohio State can conjure $8,000,0000 worth of PR-spin for "Tattgate", but the idea of giving somebody like Braxton Miller $100,000 a year is ludicrous?
These guys are generating cash for universities in a way that only a handful of people can, they're the coal in which this billion dollar industry burns, and we can't pay them because Americans have some contrived notion of the purity of its "student-athletes"? They should be shacked by arbitrary NCAA rules because the government has allowed a monopoly like the NFL operate without a viable alternative? Please.
Compared to regular students, yes, student-athletes get compensated better than average. But if you look around -- it's not like students are getting compensated for shit these days. They're athletes involved in multi-billion dollar businesses, and compared to others involved in the same, NCAA student-athletes are under-compensated, under-represented and fragmented.
Does somebody in China making $5 a week by knitting together iPods in some polluted sweat shop live better than some of his countrymen? Indeed they do, but it doesn't mean they're getting a fair shake. Exploitation is still exploitation, no matter where it occurs.