IT'S HIGH TIME WE PAID VARSITY ATHLETES

by Ben Kleinman

Varsity Athletics deserves capital letters. It should be accorded the respect given other institutions of similar magnatude. Compnaies like IBM, icons like Coca-Cola, and behemoths like the Federal Government are capitalized, and rightly so. For there are some institutions that wield so much influence on our cultural and financial landscape that to not capitalize them is to ignore their potence. And Varsity Athletics is one powerful entity.

But these giants recognize that they are not self-sufficient, that they are reliant on the work of individuals. And those individuals that work for giants are rewarded -- they are paid. Yet Varsity Athletics refuses to acknowledge the role of the varsity athlete, and remains obstinate in its self-styled protection of 'amateurism.' This duplicity damages the athlete, the NCAA, and the schools. It should end.

The only remuneration athletes currently receive are sholarships. Better reffered to as jockgrants, these payments have nothing to do with scholarly activities. I'm not saying athletes don't attend class, I'm saying that they are not receiving money because of their academic ability. Face it: hundreds of schools, Tulane among them, spend money so that athletes can play games. Shame on you Eamon Kelly for ever condoning such activity! This is a slap in the face of everthing a University stands for. Tulane is here to educate people and provide an environment conducive to research and learning. It is not here to provide entertainment to Joe Schmo watching the Green Wave on ABC.

Don't misineterpret -- Tulane should not drop all its athletic teams. It should just stop paying scholarship money to stock them. That money would be much better spent on faculty, equipment, or even knocking down our 5% tuition hike.

Yet the fact remains that for most schools (and perhaps thorugh some miracle even this one) Varsity Athletics brings in moolah. It must, since football coaches are paid more than professors. And the individuals who work to bring that money in are denied all access to it. Heck, the NCAA has it rigged so that once you lose your amateur status, you can't play a varsity sport again. Ever. And that is what is wrong with the entire situation.

As a computer science major, I can use any natural talent I might have and any skill that I may have learned while at Tulane and use them to acquire money. The past two summers I have done just that, and I'll go right on ahead and do it again next summer. I'm not forfeiting any special status or giving up any privileges when I work, I'm just asserting my UN given right to earn an income. (That's one of the few things the UN has done right lately. Damn it, why don't they just shoot the Serbs.) But a football player can not utilize football ability to earn a penny. Coaches may be able to hawk shoes and atheltic directors and university presidents may be able to earn a buck by forcing players to wear certain cloths, but those freshly bedecked athletes won't ever get a peice of the pie.

I've already said that I don't think university money should go to athletes and I stand by that statement. If the entire student body is entitled to make use of a stadium or a gym then fine, go ahead and use the endowment to bankroll construction. But Eamon, don't spend my money on enhancing the power ranking of our football team or enticing that shiney new Prop-48 prospect to our basketball team.

If a school fields a varsity team and receives the windfall assocaited with television and radio deals then it has the obligation to remunerate the athletes. Or does it? What other university activities bring in money? Government or corporate sponsored research. Millions of dollars worth of grant money flows into this university, and is spent, at least partially, on research assisstants. If athletes are contributing to a profit making activity, they deserve a share of the profits. On the other hand, I'm entirely and unceasingly in opposition to the concept of paying club officers or even ASB officers. While they may (or may not) do marvelous work, they don't bring in money. And frankly, I am truly undecided as to whether or not any university money should ever go to any athlete.

Regradless of whether or not athletes ever receive any university money, they should be released from the too real chains of a too real bondage imposed by an artificial concept of amatuerism propounded by the pompous officials that compose the NCAA. Why can't an athelete receive money from a booster? What business is it of anyone else if some uninvolved party pays an individual money to attend a particular school. As long as that individual was accepted at that school based on an academically oriented set of criteria (which should definitely include but definitely not be dominated by extra curricular and athletic activities) then let him or her attend the university and particiapte in whatever activies he or she desires.

Professional football and basketball have forsaken a minor league farm system in favor of leaching off of American colleges and universities. Like more traditional employers, they take people straight out of college and put them in positions of true importance to the company. But unlike IBM, Texaco, NationsBank, or innumeramble other companies, sports clubs don't pay athletes while they are in school. For that matter, they don't even help to subsidize the training these athletes receive. Why? The NCAA forbids it. Wouldn't it make much more sense for athletes to be able to receive money from future employers than to receive money from cash startved schools?

Traditionally, the purpose of college has been to turn out educated indivduals who are prepared to survive in and improve upon society. It's a fine tradition, and the last time I checked that was still at least the nominal raison de etre of Tulane. Spending school money on athletes becasue they are athletes does not jive with this scheme, and is a practice that should be stopped. But as part of doing so, the practice of maintaing an amateur status should also be stopped. Any individual who can make money from athletic talent and ability while meeting academic standards should be encouraged to do so. To do otherwise is foolish, unjust, and plain wrong.


Last modified: 1995-96 academic year?