After a Philadelphia policeman tasered a teenager running around the outfield during a Phillies home game on May 2, there was a suggestion that perhaps the Phillies and the other 29 Major League Baseball franchises should just go out and hire college football players and have them near the field in the event someone decides to trespass during a baseball game and that a beefy college football player would know what to do with an interloper and would deliver the same sort of punishment to the person as a running back looking to pick up a few yards.
It was a better alternative than tasering a teenager looking for a moment of fame.
But there is a major problem with the hiring any athlete from a big NCAA sports playing school for an 81 game baseball season even at minimum wage. You can only pay that athlete up to $2,000 a year, anything more and that athlete risks losing his or her scholarship. The National Collegiate Athletic Association, an organization that runs commercials talking about how much they care about "student-athletes" and education, is so concerned about the welfare of athletes that they impose a limit on an athlete's wages during the calendar, not the school year from any line of employment.The term "student-athlete" was invented by the NCAA after the University of Denver lost a workman's compensation case in 1953 in the University of Colorado v. Nemeth. A Colorado Supreme Court determined that a full-time enrolled student and football player was an employee injured in the course of his employment and was therefore entitled to workers' compensation benefits. The NCAA thought a subtle change in nomenclature to "student-athlete" would shield schools from claims by injured students who were hurt while playing sports.
There are major differences between athletes on scholarships playing sports at big time schools and the rest of the student body, even those on other types of scholarships.
If someone in the school band, who is attending a college on a band scholarship, wanted to work during the school year and was able to pick up paying gigs or got a job giving music lessons there would be no cap on earned income.
The stars of the sports shows, the athletes — who play the games and get a scholarship which pays for school, room and board and incidentals like books — cannot even get a part time job that pays more than an average of $40 a week during their years of sports eligibility. On the other hand, big time college sports programs have invested huge sums of money for tutors and academic advisors to keep the students eligible with a minimum of a 2.0 GPA.
Those are the rules and Duke University's Men's Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski cannot even let his players coach and speak at his basketball camp unless they make under $2,000 in salary for the year.
Everyone gets a shot at big money at big time college sports schools except the athletes.
Sumner Redstone's CBS television network, the Disney Company (the ones that make family friendly programming for TV and the movies) and the Disney operated ESPN and ABC television networks, General Electric's NBC TV, Rupert Murdoch's FOX over-the-air and regional cable TV networks and Time Warner's Turner Sports are forking over billions of dollars for rights fees, marketing partners are handing colleges who engage in big time sports hundreds of millions of dollars in sponsorships, sneaker companies are buying off schools with multimillion dollar contracts which outfit the coaches and the school teams in that label's products and boosters are flooding the market with dollars. The players are glorified in video games, although not named, with their images complete with their number of their nuances. The players get no compensation in return (there are two lawsuits dealing with college players, their images and who controls a players likeness before the courts now).
The NCAA allows the schools to literally sell the shirts off the backs of the superstars in football and basketball and the superstar does not see one cent of the revenue derived off of his talent.
The real stars of the show — the athletes — play under a salary cap in their off time.
"There are still are (restrictions)," said Krzyzewski picking up on a conversation that started about a decade ago when he complained that he could no longer hire Duke Blue Devils basketball players at his camp. "I don't think the NCAA has kept up to date with what we do for the student athletes. I think we should do more for the student athlete, especially the student-athlete in revenue sports.
"They have more asked of them. They have more commitments made for them. But that could be done in certain allowances without actually paying a student athlete like just giving them money. There is a thing called the scholarship-umbrella where you have benefits whether it be books, board, tuition or whatever.
"We have to look at that and see how we are able to help them and to unveil some summer opportunities. For the last 15 years or more, our kids can't go and speak in camps. I think it is a bad thing."
The NCAA is raking in billions to run programs and there is no thought of paying "student-athletes" for their time for practice, sports classroom study and games not to mention the "involuntary" voluntary practices in the off-season. But the NCAA doesn't even want "student-athletes" to get a job and earn money because the august body that supervises the college sports industry is afraid that some appreciative booster will take care of a player with a cushiony no-show job with a satchel filled with cash that no one knows about except the booster and player.
Krzyzewski is of the opinion that paying players at his (and others) camps would accomplish two things.
"That is a way they can be missionaries and ambassadors for our sport while actually earning money and being able to speak publicly. But because there was one abuse or two abuses then all of a sudden, it was just taken away," the coach explained. "To keep looking for ways to help the student-athletes, I am in favor of it.
"A kid cannot actually work during the school year. We should not have it where kids try to make money during the school year because going to school and doing your sport is work enough. But during the summer months and sometimes you have as many as four months, you can make some money and get good experiences."
Krzyzewski can get his players at his camp but he isn't paying them enough money so they can do things paying for a date. Krzyzewski is not the only big-name coach who has even voiced an opinion that the NCAA has to back off the salary cap. Penn State football coach Joe Paterno and long time college basketball coach Rick Majerus have been openly vocal about the NCAA's draconian rule.
"We can hire our players to work our camp if they are paid at the same amount as another high school coach but you don't make much money doing that and it is tough to do that while they are in summer school but speaking at camps would be a better way of doing it."
The NCAA is the overseeing body on all that encompasses college sports. But there are so many fiefdoms within the college sports structure that the NCAA President does not have the final say in what is a de facto salary cap. Do coaches lobby the NCAA President or do they lobby college presidents and chancellors or do they go to the conferences. When it comes to making TV deals, there is the NCAA and then the conferences. There are a lot of turfs that are being defended within college sports.
"Who do you go to?" said Krzyzewski. "There is a maze of how to get things changed in the NCAA and a coach does not have a vote and most of the time doesn't have any voice. So somebody has to take that who is at an administrative level, whether it be a conference, a conference commissioner and stuff like that to be an advocate. For coaches to change things, it would be impossible."
College sports is constantly under the scrutiny of either the House of Representatives or the Senate. Most of the recent Congressional hearings dealing with sports have centered around how the Bowl Championship Series is executed and how BCS teams get big dollars for being within that exclusive group and that the rest of the college football playing schools are on the outside looking in when it comes to generating the same revenues as BCS schools and playing for a national championship.
Congress will probably also bring up the topic of why there is not a college football championship again while deftly forgetting a number of topics that relate to the "student-athlete" including the salary cap for outside work.
Congress has held periodic college sports hearings even though the United States is fighting two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the unemployment rate is high, the economy nearly melted down in September 2008 and immigration was left on the table during the Bush Presidency.
"I wish, Congress should be running our country and we should do a better job of running college basketball. I think if there was a single entity in charge of college basketball---there is none. Like who is in charge of college basketball? It is a committee, we need somebody who is following it on a day-to-day basis where you have pinpoint responsibility, this is happening in this sport what about it Mr. So and so or Mrs. So and so and we don't have that and as a result, it gets diluted and you go through a maze.
"It is a maze.
"Our sport is a billion dollar sports which funds over 90 percent of the activities of the NCAA and it should be run by a group under the NCAA umbrella and have a person who is totally in charge. Football has a different, their rules are governed by the NCAA but the money is all with the BCS. So they have a greater chance at changing rules because you can pinpoint who is in charge of the BCS right now and they are kind of running college football, you cannot do that with men's college basketball.
The money train is picking up steam as conferences make plans to grow in size and hand out big fees to people like Paul Tagliabue and entertainment companies like Creative Artist Agency to come up with strategy so that they can generate even more TV, broadband, marketing and sponsorship dollars. Everyone gets a shot at money except the entertainers — the "student-athletes" — the real stars of the show.