The Royal Heffernans

Quite possibly the best family ever

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Manti For Heisman*

Mug shot of 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Football

Okay, I could take this post down the path that the title suggests, and you all think I will. I could detail Manziel's run-in with the law that almost got him kicked out of A&M before his Heisman season. I could focus on the endless series of questionable choices and decisions by Manziel since the season ended. I could complain about how unfair the media treated Te'o following his catfish incident. BUT I WON'T!

Instead, I'm going to use Manziel's latest incident (which may get him ruled ineligible for the upcoming season) and discuss the notion of paying college athletes.

For anyone who hasn't watched or read any sports in the last week, Manziel is in hot water because he allegedly was paid 5-figures to sign a batch of memorabilia at the BCS National Championship Game in January. The NCAA was right on this because a FLOOD of Manziel items hit the market on eBay all at once, looking very suspicious. Of course, all parties are very quiet right now as the investigation proceeds at a rapid pace. All except an anonymous memorabilia guy who says Manziel's "handler/friend" told him that Johnny Football would no longer be signing for free.

I don't know what will happen to Manziel, and I don't care. The issue at hand is that of paying NCAA athletes. As you listen to the radio or read articles, all the discussion on the Manziel incident has focused on:

A) How stupid he was to do this and get caught
B) How stupid it is that an NCAA player cannot sell his own likeness for money

While I whole-heartedly afree with point A), I think people are absolutely ignorant if they support point B).

Let me give you a little example. The NCAA says it will allow athletes to sell autographs, as long as they don't have any school logos. Just autographs with your picture or on a generic ball or shirt. Seems reasonable on the surface, right? So what happens when South Carolina has a booster who owns a memorabilia business. All the Gamecock players are shuffled over and get between $500 and $1000 each to sign for an afternoon. Great source of income. Over time, coaches could casually mention this when recruiting players. Now South Carolina has a significant recruiting advantage. 

What happens next? Do I even have to say it? Alabama sees this. So they find a rich booster to start his own "memorabilia" business. However, he pays star players $100,000 to sign a few items. Totally legal, because he's just paying for an autograph or picture. Now, USC has a booster who works in Hollywood producing films. He gets a couple guys from the Trojans to have small parts in his new movie. They are paid for their own work based upon their likeness and recognition. Also totally allowed.

Can you see how this works? Any tiny little crack in the door will blow the whole damn thing up! It's really all or nothing with college sports. Either you pay them or you don't. If you don't, they'll find ways to cheat, and the better cheaters will have an advantage. That's the SEC right now. Don't believe me? Ask Urban Meyer about how recruiting works in the SEC. If you do pay them, there will be even more of an advantage for the richer schools who can pay more and offer more extra benefits than other non-traditional powers.

I really don't think paying NCAA athletes is a good idea. Sure there's so much money in the newer TV contracts, but these athletes do get full rides to college that are worth anywhere from $100,000 to $300,000. I think a reasonable step would be to allow Division 1 athletes a stipend to support cost of living. I think this would have three great results: 

1) Athletes would be less tempted to cheat and make a dumb decision to get extra cash.
2) It would be standardized for all D1 athletes in all sports. This would level the field for all schools.
3) Current D1 schools that are not making the big bucks would have to drop to D2, thus filtering out the glut of schools who really shouldn't be D1 anyway.

*I still think Te'o was robbed and should be retroactively awarded the Heisman when they strip it from Manziel!


ian said...

My main takeway from ESPN's profile on Manziel - he's a borderline alcoholic with rage issues that are compounded by extreme family wealth and the worst kind of enabling parents. Johnny has always gotten what he wants and he's never done anything wrong. Everyone is just jealous and out to get him. And I LIKE watching him play.

As for paying players, you had it right before talking about stipends - it's all or nothing. If you give them $2500, they'll ask for $5000 in 2 years. Then $10k. I like what Stanford's coach had to say on the topic. To paraphrase, college is to teach these kids HOW to make a living, not to actually BE their living.

Teddy said...

I agree Ian. However, these athletes are not allowed to have jobs like normal students to earn extra cash. Tuition, room/board and books is not enough for college. While you'd think the parents of said athlete could cover a $200 allowance every month for their kid who got a free ride to college, I guess that's not always the case. At least if a stipend is standardized, it can be controlled.

Choosing between ALL, NOTHING or STIPEND, I choose NOTHING, but I would prefer STIPEND over no holds barred paying players.

ian said...

Student-athletes can absolutely have jobs. It's a little more strict because they want to ensure athletes aren't getting paid by boosters to do nothing, but it's certainly not forbidden. It's also a little more difficult to hold a job given practice and other athletic commitments, but you can do it.

It's hard to dig through all the noise to find what's actually permissible because searching for "NCAA jobs" returns ten million op-ed pieces on why athletes should be paid.

One interesting page I found was this one that lists all the money available to student-athletes. They can get by just fine, or, at least, as well as most other students scraping by on massive loans and working 20hrs a week to earn financial aid, as I did.