When Johnny Manziel appeared recently on the cover of Time magazine -- striking his Heisman pose with six simple words, "It's Time To Pay College Athletes" sharing his space -- the most universally agreed, yet universally debated, issue in all of non-professional sports returned to the front of the national discussion.
Yet the beauty of the debate is once again lost because the foundation of the argument sits on a fault line. There is no system of payment that can be put in place that is fair across the board to all students, all sports and all schools that participate in college athletics.
At this point, the debate over whether college athletes should be paid really doesn't change ...view middle of the document...
Athletes know what they're signing up for when they decide to play for a school. John David Mercer/USA TODAY Sports
Is the business of college athletics unfair to the people who play the games? Sometimes, yes. Unless there's proof that colleges and universities are improperly using athletic revenues, where is the real problem?
Every student who signs a letter of intent or agrees to accept a scholarship to play a sport knows going in that the school's job is to make the most money off of his or her efforts. They agree to that. It's no different than a professional athlete signing a contract.
The success of the program while that student is there is not guaranteed. But if Texas A&M stands to make an estimated $72 million alone off of branded merchandise in one year (as reported in Time magazine) connected to the success of Manziel and the football program, why is that a problem? Manziel and his family knew and agreed to the rules of the game when they chose the Aggies as the program they wanted to use to put the child-prodigy in position to get paid once his college career is over?
We need to stop looking at college as it relates to athletics as an educational aperture and look at it for what it has become: a business platform. One where going in, the laborer knows that he or she will be under-compensated and one that greatly benefits ownership, but one that has the mandatory training program that all must go through in order to financially capitalize on their own talents.
The bottom line is that athlete's should not be paid a salary. They should get something more than what they are currently getting for making their school loads of money. But if you compensate student-athletes monetarily, how do you decide who gets paid? Is it by performance or position? How do you fix one disparity without creating another?
We need to stop looking for fairness in this because there is none and there never will be. There are very few businesses that are fair across the board to the people who work for them. The business of college sports isn't one of them.
I spoke with a retired financial manager who has had some dealings with the NCAA, and he shot down my theory of the answer to the "pay for play" dilemma in college athletics. I suggested: Just treat all students on scholarships the same, give them all the same...