JOHN L. PITTS: College athletes already well paid




Lots of people are taking about the need to pay college athletes, but judging from the stories you see lately, it seems like many of them are getting paid already.

This seems another example of trying to create a special class out of certain people while arguing about fairness.

Johnny Manziel makes a lot of money for Texas A&M, so isn’t it fair that he should get some of it? Ah, but he does already, without regard to his hobby of selling autographs.

He’s getting a college education – have you priced one of those lately? – and a nice place to live and three meals a day and the best medical and physical therapy care available. And the chance to be Big Man on Campus, which is priceless.

This is part of the terms of his employment.

My job is no different. If I have a million-dollar idea for my employer, what do I get? Well, I get to keep my job and try to have another good idea.

That was part of the terms of employment when I signed up.

Ask my wife, that doesn’t seem like such a bad deal.

Invariably, the people arguing to pay athletes will gloss over how it’s to be done. But there are a lot of little devils in those details – Will starters get more? Will stars get more? What about athletes in the non-revenue sports?

Will the NCAA have to “vote on it to find out what’s in it?”How’s that working out in federal health care reform?

In a universe where Alabama and LSU can openly pay players, where does that leave schools like Ole Miss and Mississippi State?

Pay players? Just say no.

Random thoughts

• Remember how BenJarvus Green-Ellis (Ole Miss) had never lost an NFL fumble when he was with the Patriots? He’s lost 3 in 18 games for Bengals.

• Seems to me ESPN picked the Memphis Grizzlies as their “ultimate pro franchise” because picking the San Antonio Spurs again would be boring.

• I heard a scanner call the other night in Lee County to “get a dog’s head unstuck from a couch.” I hope that dog is OK.

John L. Pitts ( is sports editor of the Journal.

Click video to hear audio

  • the_rocket

    The Rocket reads a LOT of uninformed and naive statements on the DJ, but this has got to be near the top. To compare the admittedly high cost of a college education with the hundreds of millions of dollars these institutions are making off of these kids is ludicrous.

    You can commit a felony and get the same deal that most of these star athletes get: a place to live, 3 meals a day and your education payed for. But your still a prisoner.

    • Kevin

      “You can commit a felony and get the same deal the most of these star athletes get: a place to live, 3 meals a day and your education payed for. But your still a prisoner.”

      Typos aside, that’s the honest-to-God truth there. You said it, man! Big time college athletes leave their civil rights when they sign that letter of intent. The NCAA is the Justice Department, coaches are the wardens, and the schools are the prisons. Anyone interested should read Murray Sperber’s book Beer and Circus: How Big Time College Sports Undermines Undergraduate Education. He basically shows how the NCAA and current system is a farce. College athletes are semi-professionals, but treated like doo-doo.

  • Kevin

    I agree with the_rocket here. Anyone wanting to hear an argument about why college football and basketball players should be paid should read Taylor Branch’s article in The Atlantic Monthly entitled “The Shame of College Sports.” Now on to my critique of Pitts’s sad argument above. First of all, he claims college athletes as a categorical–pay then all, even the swimmers and rifle team members. Nobody is suggesting that–only paying the revenue sports participants–football and men’s basketball, and phasing in women’s basketball and baseball over time. Why should only football players and basketball stars get paid? Well they have to do somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 to 80 hours a week on average preparation for their sport. So even in the off season there are “voluntary” team meetings and practices and training sessions. If the player doesn’t attend, the school in question yanks his scholarship, so that’s why “voluntary” is in quotation marks. Second, factor in the season and when does the athlete have time to study. Moreover, athletic department staff determine in many instances what a football or basketball player can study. Want to take pre-pharmacy classes? Hell no, they’re there to play their sport, not study. There are institutional barriers to football and basketball players actually getting an education. This is why most major in gimme subjects like sociology, criminal justice, kinesiology, etc. Let me ask Pitts this–if he gets hurt on the job or even off the job, does his employer kick him to the curb? No. That’s a big difference with NCAA revenue sport athletes. If they get a season-ending or career-ending injury, there goes the scholarship and room and board, etc.

    Pay the players, it’s the American way. Honest pay for honest work.

  • Winston Smith

    It is a shame that these athletes aren’t getting paid for their work. And what’s an even bigger crock is that they can’t even make money off of their own name while they’re in college! So say I become a famous football player during my stay at a given college, I don’t get paid for my work, but I get a free education, exposure, etc. etc. I’M not allowed to profit off my famous name BUT the school that I attend IS! That’s a pretty messed up double standard in my opinion.

    Collegiate sports are a billion dollar industry built on the backs of athletes who don’t get paid.

  • the_rocket

    And here’s the best part:
    Your education tax dollars are paying for the base training farms these colleges recruit from in the form of high school football.

  • ostrogoth

    Disagree. Most folks assume that, for example, a football player gets a full 4 year scholarship, regardless of what happens. It’s year by year. If a guy shreds a knee or shoulder, they can cut him off. It’s the same as being fired from a job. College education is no longer what it used to be, and does not mean you’ll get a great job, which the hard truth, but that is how it is.