The Times West Virginian


December 23, 2012

Alston talks about the life of a college athlete



There have been any number of heated debates over the years about this topic, and there are valid points against paying athletes, although they seem to be losing steam.

They note that if it were just men’s football and basketball it would be challenged in court because of Title IX requirements, which is a difficult matter to get around.

Over the years, too, they have argued that most athletic departments operate in the red rather than in the black and could not afford it. These, it is pointed out, are athletic departments that pay coaches more than $1 million a year, that jump from conference to conference for a better payout, who build luxury suites and sell jerseys made popular by players without those players getting so much as a nickel of it.

The other argument is that non-revenue sports would have to be cut because of insufficient funds, funds that wouldn’t really exist if the main sports didn’t take in so much revenue.

Should one football player who sells out the stadium and his body go hungry so someone can row on the rowing team on what is, essentially, an extra-curricular activity not different from band or the WVU rugby team.

Over the years these arguments against have been elegantly made and distributed by public relations professionals hired by the institutions which can’t pay the players.

“The NCAA historically has been against pay for play. I couldn’t agree more with that position,” former NCAA President Myles Brand said. “If you start paying student-athletes (other than assisting them through financial aid), you essentially ruin the integrity of the college game.”

“Even if born of the best of intentions, pay for play is the worst of ideas, ranking right up there with the Edsel, Enron accounting and the notorious Vietnam rationale, ‘We must destroy the village to save it.’ ... If we begin to equate a student-athlete’s play with the recompense pocketed every month, we have skidded to the bottom of a very slippery slope,” NCAA Division I board of directors chairman Robert Hemenway, chancellor at the University of Kansas, said to the NCAA News last year.

But the fact of the matter is that the money is there, the need is there and to give college men’s football and basketball, and perhaps women’s basketball, although they don’t pay their own way in nearly every school, a say $5,000 a year stipend would be doable, even if the coaches might have to give up their country club memberships or the media has to pay for the meals it is served at games.

Email Bob Hertzel at or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.

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