Pay for play is a fun topic here on Bull Run. We are fortunate to have three contributors with different opinions and different perspectives. The guy who has always just been a fan, a former student employee, and a one time UB scholarship Athlete.
It's led to some fun debates on the controversial topic of player compensation. Recently though I came across what I consider to be the foundation of the best all around solution to the problem.
Pay-For-Play Sports Can Be Compatible With Universities - Team Speed Kills
Frequently, people refer to this kind of setup as the Olympic model because it's basically what Olympic athletes have. What I described, call it the performing arts model, is actually a bit beyond that. College baseball players would be able to sign contracts with minor league teams and get paid for playing the game away from school during the summer. I have no doubt it would cause conflicts between the college and pro teams, but non-athletes must balance their schoolwork, jobs, and extracurriculars. Why should athletes not have to do the same?
This is a must read over at Team Speed Kills. Putting aside his notion of player endorsements which I believe would throttle some mid majors ever further into oblivion one finds a great comparison to other students using their skills for profit while students.
The part that really got me thinking was his comparison to performance artist. That model is a spectacular nugget for keeping College amateurism alive yet letting the players earn money.
The NCAA should allow scholarship players to get paid off season to trade their craft and here is how it could work.
Let NCAA players sign a one year deal with minor league teams to play between the end of the college season and the beginning of the next. If the Batavia Muckdogs want to pay Matt Pollock for a few months of work why should it concern the University? There is the risk of injury but these players are all adults, albeit young ones, who should be allowed to make such decisions.
The win for the Muckdogs is access!
Batavia would be the chance to get the use of out Athletes who's training expenses are largely picked up by UB. For nine months of the year Pollock trains using UB weights, coaches, and facilities.
The win for Pollock is a chance to earn money plying his art.
I used my training in engineering to earn money while still working on my degree. There is no reasonable reason these players should not be able to do the same. It would also give student athletes the chance to develop some career networks for future employment in any facet of the sporting industry.
The win for the UB Bulls
Pollock would have a chance to up his game by playing with professionals during the off season. More than that it provides a way to handle the pay for play issues without hitting the budgets of Athletics departments.
It also nicely puts the issue to title IX to rest. There would be no stress on the Universities to worry about what paying your football players means for you're field hockey team. The current debate is clouded by Title IX because the specifics of it's implementation an entirely political process, not a legislative one. The players who "earn money" for the school are usually boys so usually the focus has been just paying your football and basketball players.
A big challenge though would putting up an appropriate veil between agents, players, and universities.
I am not advocating no contact because that is not a realistic expectation when all three share a common interest. But you can surely limit the length of an agent contract with a player and cap the agents compensation. Just do enough to stop a kid form being some agents payday while he is still a student nine months a year.
What About football & hoops
This is one of the challenging parts, more so for football than basketball because the NFL greatly profits from the current arrangement. Basically the NCAA spends four years taking care of the NFL's interest by scouting, training, and proving the top 18 year old in the nation.
Nobody likes the NFL and NCAA draft policy more than than the National Football League.
So to accommodate football one of two things would have to happen
The creation of a late spring and early summer developmental league for the NFL would be ideal but not in the NFL's interest. The only way to drag the NFL into setting up some regional development teams to play during the summer would be by forcing their hand. How could you do that?
Let the NFL know that if they don't pick up a farm system you plan to approach the UFL about moving their schedule with the promise that if they do they can hire and pay College players. Or just open it up for the world and let the market take care of it.
There are a lot of small semi pro leagues out there that could pay more than their current stipend if they have some big name college players. It might also make for better semi pro ball than we see today.
The NCAA would also have to make some adjustments.
They would, for examples, have to guarantee scholarship Athletes that off season months are free from any responsibility to their programs. No meetings, no unofficial *wink wink* seven on seven ball. Just close down player access to all coaches save maybe the departments conditioning staff during that time.
This might push the NFL and NBA to drop the silly requirement that a player complete three years of college before entering the leagues which would be a winner for everyone. No more free training to leagues awash in money.
It's is actually quite similar to what college athletics was like at the turn of the last century so you can please the purist like me who are admittedly coming at this from a more idealistic place than the pay for play crowd.
One can go back to UB football's undefeated 1897 season to find several student athletes who were also playing baseball for money during the summer. It might even help erase some of the draft bias against mid Major players by giving them a chance to show what they have for two or three years before the NFL comes calling.
This would be an elegant compromise between the players getting paid, as some feel is necessary, and a way to preserve the amateur nature of the sport.