Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 4/10/13
The idea of paying college athletes for their services has grown a great deal within the last couple of years. To make it simple, the argument is that the term "student-athlete" was created by the NCAA a long time ago as a way of ducking labor laws, and it should no longer be able to get away with that because in reality all it's doing is keeping the most valuable laborers in a multi-billion-dollar industry from getting fair compensation. Ok, well, Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops was asked about the whole issue, and he took the position that basically the players are getting fair compensation. Stoops, as told to AOL: "I tell my guys all the time," Stoops says, "you're not the first one to spend a hungry Sunday without any money." "You know what school would cost here for non-state guy? Over 200,000 for room, board and everything else," Stoops said. "That's a lot of money. Ask the kids who have to pay it back over 10-15 years with student loans. You get room and board, and we'll give you the best nutritionist, the best strength coach to develop you, the best tutors to help you academically, and coaches to teach you and help you develop. How much do you think it would cost to hire a personal trainer and tutor for 4-5 years?" Interesting points, but even if you accept the argument that room and board is a form of compensation, you have to acknowledge that what the schools are doing , in effect, is converting the actual U.S. currency they receive from ticket sales and television rights deals into "NCAA Bucks," spendable only at select NCAA Institutions. You see? A player isn't given U.S. dollars so he can go shop around for the best value on a trainer or tutor or apartment, he's being given the only trainer, tutor or apartment available to him and then being told how much it's worth after the fact. But according to whom? Would you consider that acceptable compensation from your employer? The tools and training necessary to do your job, plus living quarters of your employer's choosing? This issue is far from simple, and nobody yet has come up with a way of compensating college athletes in a way that is fair, non-hypocritical and not damaging to the sport or ripe for corruption. Many of the benefits of being a college athlete are qualitative rather than quantitative, and that will never change. A college athlete, generally speaking, is a very desirable thing to be. If the deal was bad, people wouldn't be dying to take it. And if all Stoops is trying to say is that it's not like these guys are given nothing for their services, it's a reasonable argument. But he seems to be implying that the school actually provides these athletes with trainers and tutors because it feels it needs to compensate them for their work. But, no, it is the work. It's just part of the big machine. Oklahoma needs its players in tip-top shape and academically eligible in order to beat Texas or whoever and get on the big TV games. It's nice that the player benefits from it personally, but we don't count "getting to work with a producer and good microphones" part of the compensation package of a pop star. "Getting to see the countryside" isn't considered part of a trucker's salary. "Gym access" doesn't have to be negotiated into NBA contracts. All that stuff Stoops mentioned is just the stuff that is necessary to keep the machine running. The question isn't whether or not the machine is expensive to run, it's whether you have to pay the help.
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