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Pay For Play in College Football? The Great Debate is On

Pay for Play in College Football? The Great Debate is On

Your two senior writers debate the merits of college athletes, in particular, football players, being paid to play college football. There are good arguments on both sides of this debate and we at Touchdown Alabama Magazine would like to know your opinion in the comment section below.

No Way on Pay for Play

By Larry Burton

Pay for college football players? I don’t think so. There are three types of guys who play college football, one is the sports guy who just loves to play but knows once college is over it’s time to go on to other things, two is the guy who just wants to impress the girls by being on the team and three are the ones who want to make it to the NFL.

And none of these groups should receive money for playing college football and here is why.

Groups one and two are getting everything out of their college experience they wanted. They didn’t sign up to play for pay and for many of them; they may not have come to college at all, especially at a school like Alabama, without that football scholarship.

And group three? Let’s face it, college football is and will always be the “farm team” system for the NFL. Call it what it is.

Now if it is a farm system and we all have to agree that for the people who make it into the NFL it is one, let’s compare this to baseball’s farm system. If you don’t know, a baseball play in play in the A league, the lowest of the farm team system, makes $850 a month. That’s $10,200 a year.

Terrible comparison? Alright, a Triple A ball player, playing in pretty big stadiums just under the big time of major league baseball, pays an average of $25,800 a year, plus a little road trip meal money. They toil for years in this system hoping for the shot to make it in the major leagues just like the boys in college football toil for years to make it in the NFL.

The cost of attending just two semesters at the University of Alabama that football players receive is worth over $40,000 a year. They get living quarters, food, parking decals, the best medical care money can buy, books, supplies plus tutors. But the big thing is, when they’re done, they have a college degree if they wanted one.

I’ve known minor league players and they say they are lucky to live through a season with a penny in their pocket because they are paying their own food, rent and such. Many can’t live through a season without a family member helping them with living expenses during that time.

But what football players at Alabama are getting is worth twice what the average Triple A player is making and almost four times as much as an A league player.

A player that doesn’t make it into the pros in minor league baseball leave at the end of a few years with nothing except usually some unpaid debts and broken dreams. A player who doesn’t make it into the NFL after leaving Alabama leaves with no debts and a bright future thanks to a very expensive college degree.

But we still haven’t talked about all the “other” benefits a college football player can get at Alabama.

Let’s start with the Pell Grants. If a college football player gets a Pell Grant, and many do, there’s almost another $6000 a year. And for those who don’t know, Pell Grants don’t have to be repaid. That extra $500 a month can make a car and insurance payment on a car or any other college related expense and he leaves college not only with a degree, but a paid for car. Semi pro baseball players in the minor leagues don’t get that either. Nor do they get an athletic facility to “hang out” in with all the latest video games, pool tables and other fun distractions for them. They also don’t get to live in a place with swimming pools, adoring females, bowl game “gifts”, national TV exposure and a network of alumni who will help open other doors for you if your professional football dreams don’t come true.

So for all those people who say college football players don’t get any money for playing football, ask a minor league baseball player if he’d like all those things instead of getting a fifth the value for their sport, which is several dozen games a year instead of just 12 to 13. Ask them if they’d rather fly in a chartered jet, stay in a first class hotel to play in front of 80 to 100 thousand people and a few million TV viewers or take a second rate bus ride, stay in Motel 6 and play in front of maybe on a good day, a few hundred people at most in Hoboken.

If you look at it in this way, they are already benefiting more than any other minor league sports athlete. To open the door of paying for play, you start down a slippery slope. Do players at Alabama make more than players at Slippery Rock? Does a starter make the same as a fourth team bench warmer? What about players at Jr. and Community Colleges who feed major college teams?

What about basketball players, the baseball team and other sports? Try telling a female gymnast that a football player puts more time in their sport than they have theirs.

What other problems could arise? A ton of them. A union? Worker’s Compensation claims? Unemployment benefits if they get cut? No, paying a player is too slippery slope to go down.

So when you look at what college football players get for their “semi pro” careers, it’s much better than what minor league players get and unlike baseball players, they have a bright future ahead of them if their big dream doesn’t come true. If they make it into the pros or not, they’re winners for all they received for their years in college football. Even if they fail at their “big dream” the alternative is a career to use their college degree in.

Yes, Players Should Get Pay for Play

By: Stephen Smith

Getting a scholarship to play for a Division one school is great; however, the scholarship only pays for tuition. College football athletes, especially those at Alabama, may have the free tuition, clothing swag and best of food choices, but these are only for school purposes. When you strip away the shoulder pads, jerseys and helmets, football players are just like everyone else.

Like regular college students, college football athletes need money for gas fare. Most of them have girlfriends and will need money to accommodate them. Though no one likes to get injured, injuries are a part of the game. The main reason why student athletes play football is to accomplish their dreams of one day getting into the National Football League.

Injuries, especially major ones, halt the aspirations of college athletes because instead of playing the game they love, they are stuck getting surgery and going from rehab to rehab in trying to get back in shape. Believe or not, surgery and costs money. When that hospital bill hits the table, those doctors are expecting what’s owed to them.

Another reason why players should get paid is for commercialization reasons. Many of us are either playing video games now or have played them in our time. It doesn’t matter what video game console it is, a lot of us have played NCAA College Football. Despite the creators of the game using more generic names, we know who the actual players are on each team. College football players should at least get a stipend or a percentage of funds being used on these video games because it’s their jersey number being marketed.

Even though the NCAA says college athletes can’t take money from boosters or collect funds from autograph/merchandise signings, players should get paid because it’s their merchandise that people want to buy. It’s just like if Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise were in a movie together, the box office would be jam packed because everyone would pay to see it. The same manner applies to college sports.

People idolize sports figures and they want to purchase items of their favorite sports icon. A perfect example for this case would be the Fab Five. Though football and basketball are different sports, the same issues still apply. When the Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Chris Webber, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson stepped on the University of Michigan’s campus in 1991, they were looked at as the best recruiting class in college basketball.

Just like football players, the Fab Five had free tuition, clothing swag, plenty girls and all the food they could eat. Did they have a lot of money? No, because they were just like everyone else. They were regular college students who came from middle class/lower middle class working families.

In ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary of the Fab Five, the players talked about how they became cogs in a money making scheme. From shoes and socks to even cologne, whatever the guys wore Nike sold it to the consumers. Before the Fab Five stepped foot on campus, Michigan made $1.6 million in royalties.

While the players attended Michigan and even after they left, the Wolverines royalties increased to $10.5 million. The Fab Five didn’t see a penny of that money and it’s wrong. If players have the mindset to be the best and play best each game, the least people can do is give them a stipend for their efforts. If players were to get paid, we would probably see less of the “one and done” deal. With funds provided, we would probably see more college athletes’ finishing school and obtaining degrees.

Now you tell us what you think in the comment section below.

Larry Burton is a member of the Football Writers of America Association (FWAA) and was the most read SEC and Alabama football writer during his time at Bleacher Report. He has been credentialed by all the major bowls and the University of Alabama. Larry provides some of the best insight in the business through his "Larry's Lowdown" segment with TDA.

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