Steve Spurrier must have seemed like a seven-year-0ld on a sugar rush at the SEC meetings in Destin as he scrambled to get other coaches to sign up for his pay-the-players plan. But there’s a way to go about this, and a meaningless piece of paper isn’t it.
There are valid arguments on both sides of the pay-for-play issue. The “don’t pay:” Student athletes already receive a valuable scholarship. The “pay”: The dollars in college athletics and contradictory messages from the NCAA have grown out of proportion relative to the concept of amateur athletics. Therefore, it’s time for the athletes to share in the wealth.
My view is somewhere in the middle: I’m certainly not for handing football players $300 paychecks every game, as Spurrier is proposing. Finding a fair and workable salary system that fits into Title IX regulations would be nearly impossible. But I do think it’s time to look into giving student-athletes a small percentage of the peripheral income that a university’s athletic department makes off a a team or player’s name, whether that’s the sale of jerseys, T-shirts or video games.
Georgia coach Mark Richt put it best when he told our Chip Towers: “The spirit of wanting to get more financial help for our players is unanimous. But how to go about it, I’m saying that wouldn’t necessarily be the best way to do it. I didn’t sign [Spurrier's proposal] because I didn’t want to say that’s how I felt was the best way to get it done. … In no way shape or form was I saying I didn’t want to help student-athletes. I 100 percent do. … But how do you do it without hurting amateurism? How do you do it without tax implications? Maybe it’s through the scholarship becoming more valuable.”
Finally, let me add this: A sweeping change like this is not going to made because Steve Spurrier got Houston Nutt and Nick Saban – the biggest oversigning abusers — to sign his little petition. Nor is it up to the SEC, the Big Ten or any other conference. This is an NCAA decision.
But I’m happy for Spurrier that he’s so excited about this and was able to hold court with the ravenous media in a hotel lobby. Guess it beats answering questions about Stephen Garcia.
What are your thoughts on pay-for-play in some form to college athletes?
By Jeff Schultz