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What's the downside of paying college athletes?

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Pro football players are going to be rolling in cash starting later today. Perhaps this is a good time to ask why college athletes aren't paid again.

Donald Miralle

Happy Tuesday, Bills fans. Welcome to today's Morning Joe!

It's been over a week since my last confession, and I have sinned.

No seriously, I had some good stuff lined up for you all, but this has been a busy week news wise for the Bills, and the last thing I wanted to do was post something that takes away from the daily coverage that Brian and Matt offer. However, some time has passed, and hopefully the Jairus Byrd situation is out of your system - at least until it all starts up again later today.

Today's Joe! is a topic that is very near and to dear to my heart. I don't know why, since I wasn't a college athlete, but there is something about young kids being taking advantage of that really gets underneath my skin. What's even worse is when you have adults who refuse to recognize the injustices, or they simply refuse to admit that there is a problem at all.

I often ask myself, "how can anyone honestly feel that college athletes shouldn't get paid?" Is their reasoning purely for the sake of preserving the college football game as they knew it growing up? I wonder if there are legitimate reasons why they believe that kids who are responsible for generating millions of dollars, shouldn't be adequately compensated - or at least be able to explore other avenues to earn money.

I realize that this is the wrong attitude to have; that if someone doesn't agree with you, they must have some deep rooted issue. That's why I'm hoping that after today, I can get some real legitimate reasons why college athletes shouldn't get paid, even if it means someone playing devil's advocate.

Before I hear you guys out, let me make my argument first. I'm going to create a fictitious, yet realistic scenario, and hopefully after I'm done it will change some of your minds about college athletes being adequately compensated. All I ask is for you to put yourself in these kids' shoes for once, or maybe in the shoes of one of their parents. Try to ignore any biases that you currently have about this topic, and read the scenario with an open mind. If you're still not convinced, feel to poke holes in my scenario, but make sure you're prepared to defend your stance as I will look to rebut any statement that is false or misleading.


Kid's perspective

You're 18 years old, you live in the "not so nice place" part of town. You're poor and so is your family of six. Your dad is gone and it's just you, your mom, and your four siblings. On your way home from football practice, you walk through this crime infested neighborhood, and in the front of your house you see an all-black Mercedes Benz parked. As you enter, you are automatically introduced to the richest person that you have ever met; lo and behold, it's the highest paid college coach in America, the $7 million dollar man himself, Nick Saban. Coach Saban stands up and greets you, shakes your hand and you notice the gold and diamond encrusted national championship rings on his fingers. He smiles at you, and his perfect all white veneers are gleaming. You then notice his modest but expensive Rolex watch, a watch that you only saw in magazines or on your favorite entertainer. Coach exudes confidence and wealth, you can actually smell the money on him, but it's not money you smell, it's the $865 bottle of Clive Christian cologne.

Coach sits you down and begins telling you all these great things about you. Great things that you have never heard before, things that your own father who you never knew never told you. He tells you that he needs you, the University of Alabama needs you, and the thousands of fans and alumni needs you. Here you have one of the most powerful and influential men in Alabama begging you to attend his university.

He tells you that you will be loved by millions, you will play on national television every week, and beautiful coeds will be at your disposal. He shows you pictures of the school and the athletic facilities, but you can hardly make out the images, because the lights from the candles are too dim, as your electricity has recently been turned off. He says one day, you'll we be one of the all time greats. As you try to soak all of this in, you look around and you notice the shadow from the candle that the roach is casting on the wall; and you're hoping that Coach doesn't see it. But he has to notice that god-awful reeking smell coming from the back room. The toilet isn't working properly, and it has been backed up for days. "Damn, I wish Mom would pay the electric bill and get the toilet fixed."

Mom's perspective

"Who is this knocking at my door? I wish they would've called first. I hope they're not trying to sell me anything, because I'm not buying."

As mom goes to door, she looks out of the window. It's just way too dangerous to look out of the peep hole, too many people have gotten shot that way. She notices an all-black Mercedes Benz parked outside of her home. A car she's only dreamed of owning one day. As she looks to the left, she notices a handsome, very nicely dressed man waving at her. She jumps from the window and starts fixing her clothes and her hair, and tries to straighten the house up a little bit before opening the door. It's been a really long time since she had a man in her house, especially one that is as handsome as this one that's standing outside of her door. She opens the door and this man introduces himself in a southern monotone voice.

"Good evening, I'm Nick Saban from the University of Alabama, may I come in?"

She invites him in, and asks him if he wants anything to drink. She then realizes that she doesn't have anything fancy to serve the beverage out of, realizing that a man of his stature has to be used to the finer things in life. As she awaits his decision, she's hoping that he says no thanks, because the sheer embarrassment will be too much to bear at this point. Luckily, he says "no thanks." They sit down on the old couch that was given to her by her late mother; it makes a loud screeching noise. Mom hopes he doesn't notice.

After the pleasantries and the usual flirting which is common for these recruiting visits, Coach then proceeds to compliment mom on the job she has done raising her son. He empathizes with her and shares his own struggles as a kid growing up in West Virginia. He then proceeds to tell her that her oldest son has an opportunity to get an education from one of the most prestigious institutions in America. He will be offered a free education, room and board, and will have the opportunity to showcase his talents on the largest scale.

As Coach Saban is speaking, mom drifts off. She starts to imagine her oldest boy leaving this neighborhood and doing something positive with his life. She knows that too many young kids that grew up with him are either dead or in jail. She's hoping that he'll be the first person in her family to ever attend and graduate from college, and hoping that he can be a role model for his younger siblings. Mom finally snaps out of it as her son walks in the door.


Coach Saban has successfully pitched both mom and son. It's official: he will be taking his talents to the University of Alabama. He will be leaving behind the crime and the poverty of his neighborhood, and will be pursuing a degree in basket weaving. The guidance counselor at this university recommended that he takes up this major, because she knows that he doesn't have the educational background to take up anything more challenging. Her job is to make sure he stays eligible. But thanks to the NCAA Clearing House, student athletes coming out of high school aren't faced with the same admissions requirements as other students. In other words, standards are lower for student athletes.

This is okay, right? The kid is attending one of the top schools in America, and he's a getting a free education. I know what some of you are thinking: no one told him to take up basket weaving. True. However, this kid, and many others like him in this same situation, are reading at a fifth grade level coming out of high school. The quality of education that they received in their schools isn't the same quality of education as some kids are receiving from more affluent neighborhoods. It's just the reality of the situation. What good is a free education, if the kid isn't prepared to take advantage of it?

So the boy is in school pursing "higher learning." This is his first time ever being away from home, and like any teenager he's missing home. As the oldest child, he helped his mom with his younger siblings and worked odd jobs to help support them. His mom called him and told him that she is behind on some of the bills, and now her and his siblings are facing an eviction. Being the only man in the house for all of those years, he takes this situation on as his burden. Unable to work due to potentially violating a NCAA rule, he's left with very few alternatives. The stresses of being away from home, and not being able to support his family, is taking a toll on him. On top of all that, he has Coach riding him at practice. He's not used to the type of discipline that coach is bestowing upon him, and his play is suffering. Not having a male figure in his household is really taking its toll.

Freshman year is over. It's been a trying year. The team won the championship, but he didn't play much. Mom has been evicted and needs $500 for a deposit on a new apartment. He goes to his coach, the man that promised his mom that he will look after him and be the male role model in his life, who now tells him that he can't help him. He can't risk getting caught and face NCAA sanctions.

So he calls up a long time friend of the family for help. The media refers to this person as the "street agent" or the "hang arounder," but in all actuality he is just a guy in the neighborhood that helped out the little kids with lunch money, tennis shoes, etc. This friend of the family gives him the $500, and in exchange he wants a signed jersey. It seems like a good deal, so the kid obliges.

Fast forward

Sophomore year is over. The kid is an All-American, his jersey number is the top selling jersey at the school store. Mom is doing well, and this basket weaving major is pretty easy. Life is grand, right? Not so fast. See, something is wrong with this picture. How can a poor kid from the "wrong neighborhood," with his background, be able to go such a prestigious school like Alabama?

So you have that guy, you all know who I'm talking about. The guy who hates to see someone who was less fortunate than them become successful. He hates the fact that this kid from the "ghetto," who reads at a fifth grade level, will make more money in two years than they will ever make in their entire life. There is this jealousy and arrogance, that comes from a very dark place. They try to disguise this hate and cover up their insecurities, by coming up with baseless arguments and cockamamie reasons on why this kid shouldn't be paid. The only problem is, this guy actually has a pen and a platform. He's going make it his personal mission to find something that this kid did wrong, in order to bring this kid back down to his level. It's this twisted "crab in a bucket" mentality that really bothers me.

So this guy does the research. Finds out about the deal between the friend and the kid. He exposes this story, and the kid's character and public perception is ruined. The kid is suspended by the NCAA and the university. The public humiliation was too much to bear, and his game suffered because of it. The kid had no one to turn to, and the coach that promised him the world has distanced himself from the situation. He can't afford (literally) to get caught up in such a mess. This situation can cost him money, his job, and his reputation. He has boosters, alumni, and the administration coming down on him to do something about this kid. He does what all of these coaches will do in this situation; he turns his back on him.

The free education that was promised to that kid, is no more. See, that free education that was promised to that kid, came with certain stipulations. As long as you make me and everyone else around me millions, your free basket weaving education is free. The car you saw me drive in, you'll never get; the cologne I wore, you'll never own; and those pure white veneers that I smiled at you with, you'll never be able to afford them.


This is the story of many kids who enter school with nothing, but are promised everything. They leave the harsh reality of their home life in pursuit of brighter days, but unfortunately there is no escaping their reality. Bills at home still have to be paid. The roof over their family's heads still have to be maintained. Their siblings still have to walk those gang- and crime-infested streets. These kids are expected to act like professionals, and are held to the same standards as the pros, but are treated like amateurs. They aren't even held to the same standards as their fellow students. The NCAA is providing these kids with no solution to these immediate issues. The rich are continuing to pad their pockets, as the poor or the unfortunate continue to be victimized. These student athletes are slaves to the system that the NCAA has in place, and change is needed.

Okay all, I'm curious to read some of your responses. Sorry if this was too long, but I'm kind of passionate about this topic. Hopefully this will hold you over until free agency officially starts.