Paying College Athletes

Here’s a video of a top-ranked high school football player choosing his college on live tv. The upshot is that he is from Louisiana and his mom voices discontent of his choice of Alabama over LSU.

Ben Casnocha says: “pay the athletes”

I say that impossible:

To get paid, the players will immediately form a union. Here is going to be their list of demands:

1. Pay us (fine).
2. Don’t make us go to school (uhhhh).
3. Let us play longer than 4 years (what?)

Here’s the student body response:

1. These aren’t students
2. I want to play football (or basketball) for my alma mater
3. Set up a parallel system for me to play in

The problem with this system isn’t that student athletes aren’t getting paid. The problem is that the NBA and the NFL don’t have a feeder league system like every other major professional sport. This means that the NFL and NBA are less popular than they otherwise would be.

Think about the difference between fan followership of college football and basketball vs all the other lower-tier sports leagues on earth. Orders of magnitude larger. Why? Because they’re piggybacking on college support. These are fans that would otherwise pay more attention to the pros.

The winners in today’s arrangement are, first, sports administrators and, second, sports fans. The losers are the NFL, NBA and lower-tier college athletes.

One interesting possible externality of sports administrators winning so big is that sports administration and so sports itself probably wins. Gigantic sports facilities support more than football. I bet you that the quality of the US Olympic team would decline demonstrably if you killed the college sports money machine.

And paying the athletes would kill it.

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This entry was posted in economics, Pet Theories, sports. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Paying College Athletes

  1. Sean Breslin says:

    I honestly don’t see how college athletes can be paid. It’s nice in theory, but it would bankrupt programs.

  2. DW says:

    Unions are probably smart enough to demand a wage that doesn’t kill the system on its own. We’re probably talking tens of thousands (a la CFL) rather than multi-millions.

    My point is that the macro effect of that decision takes everything down.

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