The NCAA is a mess on several levels, and college football is emblematic of it all, especially right now during pandemic times. Since college baseball and hockey have the right models—with college basketball starting to drift that way as well, with the help of the NBA—it’s time for the last of the four major sports to get with the program.
While MLB, the NHL, and now the NBA have legitimate minor-league opportunities for high-school athletes to turn pro at a young age, the NFL does not. And it creates a mess for college football and its “student athletes” who want to “get paid.”
The thing to do is this: A group of amateur football players must sue the NFL for access. That would force the NFL to adopt a model resembling what the NBA does for basketball players who do not want to go to college, who choose instead to go professional right away.
The reality is that college athletes already do get paid: They get a free education, via scholarship, which can be worth up to $250,000 over a four-year stay on campus (including tuition, books, room, and board). That’s a lot of value there, something that millions of non-athletic students go into debt for every year to get their education at the same schools.
Studies have shown the value of a college degree to be worth well over $1 million in the course of a lifetime, too, based on workplace-earnings comparisons with those who did not go to college.
If college athletes do not value that currency (possibly more than $1.25M over the course of a lifetime), then maybe they shouldn’t go to college and then demand to “get paid.”
It is not the NCAA’s responsibility to provide professional opportunities for its students: The same reality exists for students with different extracurricular activities. College is like an unpaid internship for all students, and the university profits off those unpaid interns just as masters profit off their apprentices in the real world.
Athletes are not special: So again, if they want to be professional, they should skip college and go pro right away. The NFL, therefore, needs to provide those opportunities for them to go pro—not the NCAA.
Are you listening, Roger Goodell? We know that’s not one of your strengths.