It Is No Longer A Game

 “Every time I call it a game, you call it a business. And every time I call it a business, you call it a game.”

North Dallas Forty

First, I love college sports.  I went to UNC Chapel Hill and have loved college basketball since 1982.  It is a part of my DNA.  Second, I believe in education for education’s sake.  I think you education opens your world to many things, some of which can’t be measured by money.  I certainly disagree with the current governor of North Carolina that universities are glorified vocational schools.  Having said that, over the last year or so I have come to believe that, barring a complete dismantling of the current structure of college sports, college players should be paid in some form or another above their grants-in-aid.

Notice, I did not call them college athletes or student-athletes or any other Orwellian term coined to hide the fact these are indentured laborers.

If coaches weren’t becoming millionaires and athletic departments weren’t basically for profit businesses and conferences weren’t billion dollar corporations, athletes would be regular students who used their God-given abilities to get an education.

However, the world where this is true no longer exists for football players and college basketball players.

The fans, the media, the coaches/administrators, and the athletes all view sports differently.

Fans sometimes think of the football team or basketball team as the university and forget that there is an institution of higher learning supposedly represented by those teams.  The attitudes of many of these fans is a paternalistic (and maybe something else) attitude that the athletes should just be happy to get the opportunity to play for Old State U and their legendary god-like coach.

Media members are caught in a maelstrom of loving the sports and most of the people involved in the sports and watching a ridiculous system lurch towards its own demise.  Most of the coaches and administrators are good people caught trying to make this lurching, belching, and dying system function in some semblance of logic.

Then there are the athletes who remind me a quote from the book Dune:  “He who can destroy a thing has the real control of it.”

Should athletes be paid above their scholarships?  In the strictest sense, no they should not.  However, when the highest paid state employee of many states is the head football or basketball coach of a state university maybe they should.  When EA Sports and the NCAA make money on video games using the likenesses, jersey numbers, the athletic profiles, and statistical profiles of players from the immediate past and sometimes still active, but then claim they aren’t using that player’s likeness because they changed the name, yeah the athletes probably should get something for their troubles besides having to write a paper on Beowulf.

We are passed the “should stage”.  Once the NCAA v. The Board of Regents of University of Oklahoma case was decided and schools/conferences could control their own television contracts, the floodgates opened.  Money is flowing to everyone except the individuals upon whom the whole system is based.  It has taken 20 years, but those individuals are starting to understand their power in this situation.  They are starting to understand that without them the system may not collapse, but its value will be greatly diminished.  Now that, that is happening the whole system will change regardless of what the decision is in the O’Bannon case.

College sports is no longer a game, it is a business and like most businesses with shady labor practices it will have its reckoning.

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