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Ole Misc.: Football Players Should Receive Greater Compensation [Cue Shitstorm Debate]

The topic of whether or not NCAA football, basketball, and even baseball players should receive more compensation is a rather contentious one.

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

This past week at SEC Media Days, Bo Wallace remarked that football players only get stipends of roughly $1,000 a month, and that many of them do indeed forego meals as per Shabazz Napier's now infamous remarks that he, an NCAA basketball champion, goes to bed hungry.

As per the usual, when a player makes these kinds of remarks, people in two distinct camps emerge to offer their opinions. There are those who think these players are more-or-less whining, and need to suck it up because they already get more than enough as NCAA athletes - they get a scholarship, access to world-class health and fitness programs, the opportunity for fame, and all because they're talented at playing a damn game. These people are vociferously opposed to the other camp, which argues that "a scholarship" or "an education" isn't just compensation for what these players do, which is essentially work a full time job, if not more so, in an enterprise which generates eye-popping revenue amounts for their schools, conferences, and the NCAA itself. The organizations in control, these folks would argue, are taking advantage of the incredibly hard work of these young people and not giving them just compensation for it.

Fro the sake of full disclosure, I (along with Ross Bjork and Hugh Freeze, for whatever that may be worth to you) am pretty firmly in the latter camp. I think that what we give players should, at the very least, legitimately cover the costs of attendance and living where these athletes choose to play. I'm tempted to even take it a step further and say that players should be given a minimal cut of the revenue generated by ticket sales, television deals, merchandise sales, and so forth. After all, they are the reasons those tickets are sold, televisions are tuned to football, and jerseys are sold.

And, to clarify Wallace's "$1,000 a month" remark, it's important to note that all of the things that you think are included in these scholarships - housing, books, living expenses - are a part of that one grand. They aren't a separate expense for the financial aid office, at least not at Ole Miss. As someone who was on a full scholarship and then some at Ole Miss, I have first-hand experience with the financial aid and scholarship checks the school cuts. Basically, the formula is something like this: The Scholarship is awarded, and what is owed to the University, i.e., tuition, is subtracted. Whatever is left is cut as a check to the student. Your "room and board," your "books," your "living expenses," they're all counted as that remainder.

For some people, it works out just fine. But for others, such as football players, it can get pretty tight. One grand a month is still not a terrible deal in rural north Mississippi, but it's not as if all of that is extra spending money. They've still got to make rent on their apartments, pay their utility bills, put gas in their cars, buy school supplies, etc. Certainly, one could make that work, but I don't believe the purpose of student athlete compensation should be that which provides them just enough to "make it work." It should be better than that, in my view.

This position is, of course, contentious. There are all sorts of ideas and reasons for this, and I could go deeper and deeper into the intricacies of the "should we pay players" debate, even including some of the more ridiculous arguments made by either side - most notable among which is that the NCAA is akin to child labor or slavery - but ultimately I think what it comes down to is this*: there are people who want an NCAA where the players are in control, and they're at odds with people who want an NCAA where institutional administrators hold most of the power.

That, or some of us really do take the notion of amateurism very seriously.

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*Of course this is a gross generalization. Don't get bent out of shape over it.