College Athletes Should Get Paid, but How?



In "The Shame of College Sports," Taylor Branch argues that college athletes should be paid. Agree or disagree.

How to Fix College Sports I agree. Philosophically Branch has reached the right conclusion. But the how is the extraordinarily complicated part of this. Where Branch is absolutely correct is that there should be no shyness regarding the concept of providing greater compensation, in whatever form, to NCAA student athletes. All of the amateurism reasons that some collegiate sports leaders and enthusiasts deliver are a sham. I once interviewed David C. Young, the author of the aptly named book, The Olympic Myth of Greek Amateur Athletics in order to better understand the role of amateurism and the difficulties being encountered in regulating the sports agent business. He admonished me, "whatever you do, please don't blame this on those poor dead Greeks."

There are reasons not to pay student athletes, and the leading one is equity issues related to Title IX. More broadly, as Branch points out, is who gets paid what? The logistics are head exploding if you reflect on it too long. Branch tells us essentially, to just let the markets determine who should receive what (the star quarterback vs. the high jumper vs. the top WNBA prospect). Is that too American? Not really, but it would be radically chaotic in its implementation.

Bear in mind his core conclusion is correct. There is no reason not to focus efforts on figuring out how to redistribute the profits to labor, because if you are basing the nonpayment on some vision of ancient Greeks celebrating amateurism, you are wrong. According to Young again, "Ancient amateurism is a myth ...The truth is that 'amateur' is one thing for which the ancient Greeks never even had a word."