College Player Unions: A Slippery Slope

Syracuse University
(Photo: SU)

One of my gifts is knowing what I don’t know. I know. Not exactly resume material. But still…as a writer, it’s one of my greatest assets. Aside from my wit – ha!

There is much I don’t know about being a student athlete. I struggled juggling sorority life and academics during my days at Syracuse. And that wasn’t nearly as demanding.

Except for this one time…my friend Gina and I hung out at a fraternity house until everyone was asleep, swiped their composite picture off the wall, carried it down Comstock Avenue, and propped it up on the fireplace in our sorority house to greet the sisters of AZD. Our house boys (from the same fraternity) arrived the next morning freaking out about it – while it was staring them in the face from our living room. After much giggling, they eventually figured it out and returned it to its proper place.

Why did I tell that story again?

Oh, ya…

Not exactly the perils of training, travel, and competition. Along with demanding academic standards, depending of course, on which school you attend (not pointing fingers).

I’m sure going to college on a sports scholarship is a lot like going to college with a job (full or part-time). Which, a lot of people do. Because they have no other choice.

Student athletes have a lot on their plates. But they receive a lot in return. An education that is paid for (in whole or in part). The chance to shine on a national stage. And the unique opportunity to be drafted to play the game they love and make millions doing it.

In turn, athletes create opportunity for their schools in attendance, naming rights, and jersey sales. All of which generate money. Lots of money.

It’s a win – win.

Which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s fair.

In an effort to represent themselves and their unique issues, football players at Northwestern University formed the College Athletes Players Association (CAPA) and won the right to do so through a regional National Labor Relations Board. I have no problem with players organizing to lobby the NCAA on behalf of college athletes. If anything, I applaud their leadership.

Nutrition is just as important as training, so if athletes say a healthy meal plan needs to be part of their scholarship package, I have a hard time arguing with that. Kind of seems like a basic need to me. Expenses like books, transportation and such are also frequently touted.

There is a fine line on some of that stuff. But there’s also a not-so-fine line: payment to players outside of school-related expenses. This is a whole different ballgame. To me, amateur athletics have a unique and sacred place in sports. One I would hate to lose altogether.

Where this goes from here is anyone’s guess. And how the players organize and lobby on behalf of themselves is part of it. But one thing is sure: It’s a slippery slope. One that could permanently alter the landscape of college athletics. And one that needs to be navigated very carefully.

Colleges are academic institutions. They are not training grounds for professional sports. They are not minor league ball clubs. Even if athletics do generate a majority of  the income at some schools.

Students should appreciate college for all that it is. And all that it’s worth. Which is, a  lot. No matter who pays for it. And what you end up with, an education (and some stories to go along with it), will last you far longer than your chosen career, whether you work in an office, a studio, or a stadium.

XO

Disclosure: I do not condone theft. Especially theft of items that value more than $1,000, which constitutes a felony in the State of New York. Besides, the last time I checked (which was a long time ago), Zeta Psi had their composite pictures screwed to the wall. And upon further investigation, I found that the Zeta Psi fraternity is no longer active on the Syracuse University campus. But no one can ever take away my story. Or my education.

One comment

  1. Troy says:

    To me the influx of money (ESPN, ABC, etc.) has precipitated this situation and it’s opened a Pandora’s box that will have no easy answer.

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