Sweetness And Light
7:58 am
Wed April 2, 2014

Deford: Paying College Athletes Would Level The Playing Field

Originally published on Wed April 2, 2014 12:04 pm

For many decades, baseball had a reserve clause, which essentially tied a baseball player to a franchise in perpetuity. The statute fell into legal jeopardy, and a few wise men amongst the owners said, maybe we ought to toss these players a bone, before we blow the whole scam.

But the owners were arrogant and stood pat, and, soon enough, the reserve clause, kit and caboodle, was outlawed as, essentially, un-American.

So, now, let's send a telegram to the NCAA –– which stands for 19th Century Athletic Aristocracy –– and let's text all college presidents: Now you're in about the same place with regard to the antediluvian concept that college football and basketball players should not be paid.

History, as the baseball owners learned in 1975, is simply not on your side anymore. Sometimes –– the issue of gay marriage seems like a perfect current analogy –– cultural attitudes and the law suddenly shift.

Click on the audio link above to hear Deford's take on the issue.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Commentator Frank Deford wants college administrators to give something up, not just for Lent but forever. It's the practice of not paying student athletes.

FRANK DEFORD: For many decades, baseball had a reserve clause which essentially tied a baseball player to a franchise in perpetuity. The statute fell into legal jeopardy and a few wise men amongst the owners said: Maybe we ought to toss these players a bone before we blow the whole scam. But the owners were arrogant and stood pat. And soon enough, the reserve clause, kit and caboodle, was outlawed as essentially un-American.

So, let's send a telegram to the NCAA - which stands for Nineteenth Century Athletic Aristocracy - and let's text all college presidents that now that you're in about the same place with regard to the antediluvian concept that college football and basketball players should not be paid.

History, as the baseball owners learned in 1975, is simply not on your side anymore. Sometimes the issue of gay marriage seems like a perfect current analogy - cultural attitudes and the law suddenly shift. The courts' informed opinion and, as I've moaned for years, a little thing called what's-fair-is-fair, are taking command.

Last week, you see, the first solid penny was dropped when the National Labor Relations Board ruled that football players at Northwestern University can form a union. Oh sure, there'll be appeals and the NCAA president continues to say, with a straight face, that the overwhelming majority of student athletes play for the love of their sport. But it's only a matter of time before enforced amateurism goes the way of the reserve clause.

Besides the Northwestern case, two other suits against the NCAA and the big-time colleges' quote unlawful cartel are also in the pipeline.

And please, would the disingenuous NCAA president and his mouthpieces stop the umbrella references to student athletes, and refer specifically to football and basketball players? That's the subset we're talking about here, not some wrestlers or field hockey goalies who happily perform before a few family friends.

And just to emphasize how greedy colleges can be, I am informed by Referee magazine that at this year's college football championship, each team's conference made $23.6 million. The game officials were each paid the paltry sum of $2,100. Can you believe that? Is there no shame in college sports? Never mind the pathetic NCAA. Are you college presidents without a shred of empathy? Of honor?

GREENE: You can believe it, commentator Frank Deford is on the program every Wednesday.

You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.