Pay College Athletes?

Tien Mao mentioned an ESPN report on the gift bags distributed at some of this years bowl games.

Both Husker and Spartan players will receive an Oakley 2.0 Crush watch, a wool letterman’s jacket with both the Alamo Bowl logo and the team logo and finally, a blue, red and yellow Alamo Bowl throwback jersey.

The Rose Bowl gift bag: Hat, Watch, Football, MP3 Player , Flip Coin, Backpack, Slider Shoes, Travel Kit, Fight Song Opener. Total Estimated Value … $276.11

The NCAA requires that all of the certified bowl games spend thousands in gifts. Each must hand out at least 100 packages worth about $300 each to both participating teams.

Despite disagreements I may have with groups such as Rutgers 1000 who seek to withdraw completely from the world of Division I athletics, I have to admit that lists like these combined with college athletes arguing they should be paid for playing sports do raise serious questions.

While it has become common practice to pay Graduate students who accept positions as Teaching and Research assistants, do student-athletes merit the same kind of arrangement? Additionally, even if there was some kind of similar arrangement, other student/employees currently enjoy relatively few of the financial benefits some athletes are anticipating. Many graduate students perform cutting edge research and get little more than a pat on the back from their faculty supervisor who’s report gets published.

Perhaps the solution is simply to abandon the whole concept of the NCAA as a recruiting ground for professional sports? With an increasing number of NBA teams willing to draft students directly out of High School, I wonder how long it is until and NBA team establishes a minor league farm team. It seems that signing on promising athletes and paying them to train full time to develop their talents could pay off handsomely 3-4 years down the road when teams have break out players signed to exclusive contracts to make up for their training costs. A similar system seems to have worked quite well for baseball for decades. Then the college athletes can stop worrying about making it to the pros, and start worrying more about college.