Well, it’s football season and already the news is rife with scandals, none of which are the subject of this rant. If you want to hear about the violent actions of men who are paid unimaginable sums of money to be violent, please look elsewhere. I’m more interested in the recent debates concerning college football, specifically whether college athletes should be paid.
Now, I have looked at the subject in an unbiased manner, ignoring my deep loathing for professional sports since that particular emotion need not apply to this situation. The deal is, as far as I understand it, students are bringing in money for their colleges through ticket sales and merchandise yet they are receiving none of the benefits of said profit. And I mean a lot of money, especially down south where college football is king. Students want a cut. Schools don’t want to give it. The debate gets pretty involved and, as with all debates connected to football, the sides are extremely polarized.
I think they are missing a major factor in this debate. Let’s look at professional football like it is a real job for a moment. There is no way to become a professional football player except through college football. Well, okay, there are many jobs out there that require higher education in order to be a competitive applicant. If you want to become a teacher, you major in education. If you want to become a professional musician, you major in music performance. If you want to be a pro-football player, you major in, um, business? Oh, that’s right. Football is an extra-curricular activity, not a major. There are no classes on game strategies, optimal exercise programs, and how to manage the millions of dollars you’re going to make so that your aren’t bankrupt two months after retiring at the ripe old age of 35.
I am not suggesting colleges start creating degree programs for sports. What I am suggesting is that college should be for higher education and job training, not for pursuing a hobby that may or may not land you a career. What football needs is a minor league, and I don’t mean arena football or anything similar. I mean, there should be a way for athletes to become pros without going through the college system. Because, frankly, they don’t need a four-year institution to teach them how to play football. They know how to play, they just need experience and training. Athletes who are serious about their sport should be allowed to focus on it and be paid for their work. They shouldn’t have to pay $40,000 for classes they don’t want to take if the real focus is practice and games. To put this in perspective, let’s compare football to a similar career choice: Ballet. Both are physical, take a great deal of time and training, and have only short durations for careers. You can go to ballet academies or major in ballet at many four-year colleges. But football has neither academies nor majors. Yet athletes get scholarships to attend college in order to play football, on the condition that they pass their classes.
There are many athletes out there who want to go to college for educational purposes because they acknowledge the unlikeliness of a professional career. However, there are also athletes who have no inclinations in that regard. They want to play. They could care less about school and only attend because it is the only way they can play. Players get drafted based on their skills, not on how they did on finals. No scout is out there asking if a player is good at writing essays if he just returned a 90-yard touchdown. I’m not saying that higher education isn’t useful to athletes, because it can be useful to those who seek it. I am saying that it isn’t necessary and forcing kids to shell out tuition money and attend classes they have no interest in has created an unsavory educational environment. In many of those big-name schools football over-shadows academic achievement so that students are passed in order to keep that talent on the field. That’s not fair to those kids and it’s not fair to everyone else who did the work. And what about athletes who want to play but can’t afford tuition? There are only so many scholarships. Is it really right for the already bloated college system to demand more money just so a kid can participate in an extra-curricular activity and hate his way through classes?
No. No more scholarships for non-degree programs. No more making money hand-over-fist off students. No more lost talent because of scholastic failings. Unless you want to start making everyone play sports in order to graduate. Then we’d all be in the same boat, eh?