If you can’t decide how you feel about pay-for-play after all the effort ESPN has put into the subject, then you simply aren’t good at making decisions.
Seemingly every commentator in the ESPN arsenal has weighed in on the subject, and the whole shebang is aggregated on one big pay-for-play page.
Of all that was written, I thought Pat Forde drew the best conclusions. In his column “Myth of Exploited, Impoverished Athletes,” Forde made the following points:
- “Most revenue-producing football and basketball programs are largely populated with guys … who are unlikely to make a long-term living playing professional sports and understand the value of a cost-free education.”
- “For those who feel compelled to monetize everything in college athletics, don’t forget to factor in the cost of four years of schooling. At a lot of places, that will run about $200,000. Most students emerge from college saddled with debt that will take years to pay off, but scholarship athletes are exempt from that burden.”
- “Most college sports fans identify more with the school than the players. They root for the place they attended, or grew up with — the old front-of-the-jersey cliché. If that weren’t the case, minor-league football and basketball would be more popular.”
One of his most important observations, however, had to do with how women factor into the discussion.
Writing about options that would compensate basketball and football student-athletes while stiffing non-revenue athletes, including women, Forde wrote: “If Title IX doesn’t squash that notion, campus politics and simple fairness would.”
We do female student-athletes a disservice when we act as though the law is the only factor working on their behalf. Indeed, as Forde states so well, their interests are strongly underwritten by political and ethical considerations. To portray women as an inconvenient, and likely irresolvable, legal obstruction to paying male football and basketball players puts them on the defensive, a position they have occupied for most of the four decades since Title IX was made into law.
There are many reasons to tread carefully in the pay-for-play waters, and the treatment of non-revenue athletes – including women − certainly is a factor.
But as all of the conversations play out, everybody would do well to get their sequence straight: Think first about what’s fair, and then consider what’s legal.