A Sporting Solution
By Patrick F. Cannon
As recently as October 17, I came up with what I thought was a sensible solution to providing additional income to the downtrodden college athletes who were forced to get by with full scholarships and all the free clothes they could wear and the juicy steaks they could consume.
Pay them minimum wage for their mandatory practices, I suggested, which should provide them with all the pocket money they might need. This sensible idea was in response to California legislation that would permit athletes to hire agents and earn the income from endorsements that now go to their schools. After my piece appeared here, the NCAA announced they would indeed consider such a policy. Sportswriters, who mostly live in a parallel universe, applauded this development, while conceding that only a handful of the most talented athletes would actually benefit.
I won’t here explore the shockingly low graduation rates at some college football powerhouses; or of the elite basketball programs that knowingly recruit players they know will only play for one year. I will, however, put in a word for the majority of scholarship athletes who make up the supporting cast, but whose names and likenesses will never earn them a buck.
I played organized football for several years, but never at the college level. I was a lineman, primarily because I was big for my age, and maybe a bit on the slow side. I learned how to block and tackle. Even in high school, it was the quarterbacks and running backs who made the girls swoon and got their names in the local paper. But those headlines only came because we grunts did our jobs – made holes for the running backs and kept the barbarians from sacking the quarterback.
Thus it is at all levels of the sport. When you watch Ohio State, you see mostly the starters. At any given moment, there are 22 players on the field, 11 on each side. But because some players rotate in and out depending on their position, there are probably more like 30 regular players. But here’s the thing – a major college can have as many as 85 players on scholarship. What do they do?
Many will someday become starters. In the meantime, they will labor on practice squads, providing opposition to the starters, often emulating the known plays and defenses of the next opponent. Others will be on “special teams,” who play only on kickoffs, punts, and field goal attempts. Many others will only get in actual games when the team is far ahead (this is true of other sports as well). But all will do their part in making the team successful.
Which brings me to my typically elegant solution of whether or not to permit athletes to benefit financially from endorsements. By all means, let the stars sign endorsement deals, but with all proceeds from all revenue sports going into a fund to be shared equally by all team members. After all, why should the Heisman Trophy candidate get all the dough, and not the muddy, bloody bruiser who paved the way?
As you know, these stars always say they couldn’t have reached the dizzying heights of glory without their team mates clearing the path. Well, here’s a way to prove they actually mean it.
Copyright 2019, Patrick F. Cannon