Paying student-athletes may exacerbate unfortunate divisions

Below is a slightly revised version of the remarks made by Cody McDavies during A NEWSWEEK Discussion podcast about the payment of salaries for college athletes. You can listen to the podcast here:

My point of view on this is, I think it’s great that student-athletes have the opportunity to get compensation. I also think there are a lot of concerns that we haven’t taken into consideration.

That’s something that will greatly benefit student-athletes who are going to get paid anyway – the top 1 percent – and where there are student-athletes who are not among those – what we refer to as income-producing sports, men’s basketball and football – in general, they are excluded from this . College athletics generally does not change from Division I. If it changes, it changes at their expense. Now that’s a guess, admittedly. We’ll have to see how that happens, but there’s a real concern here that we’re increasing the chasm that exists between men’s football and men’s basketball and everyone else.

This is a real concern. And this is where I fall for this. I think it’s great that student-athletes are getting paid – but in general, it was student-athletes who would actually get paid. So what do we do here? Do we benefit from capitalism in college athletics?

Is this what we do? So we can have a set of get-rich-quick schemes? Is that what’s going on, or is this really about improving student-athletes? We will get into this more.

NCAA logo appears on file
The NCAA logo appears on the basketball post before the game between the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles and the Florida Gators in the second round game of the 2021 Men’s Basketball Tournament at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum on March 21, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
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I imagine most schools at Power Five conferences can pay. This is speculation – I haven’t – but maybe $20,000 to $50,000 for a student-athlete per year. That would push it, again, because you’re talking about at least 300 student-athletes per program.

And we’ve seen, in connection with the pandemic, that schools in the Power Five, like Stanford, have been cutting a lot of sports because they’ve been constrained in their income. We have seen it. Will they be able to pay athletes over a long period of time? I do not know. It’s all guesswork, but over 300 schools in Division 1, there’s no chance that they all can do that.

This is where Sean talks about, whether there should be an option to sign up for paying athletes. If there is a choice they can make, there are some nuances. I’d like to take a step back and say, well, keeping up with Jones’ mindset is very real in college athletics.

If you want to be an athletic director, if you want to be a coach, it’s all about pushing the envelope, right? Bowling Green doesn’t want to stay at Bowling Green forever. Bowling Green wants to be Ohio State. And to do that, they have to recruit athletes—which means they have to find some way to motivate the three-star athletes who could be five-star athletes to come to them (instead of becoming a fifth man on the Ohio bench). Meaning, they would have to offer some kind of financial incentive, similar to what Ohio does – although they would never be able to do that. There are a lot of questions that come out of that.

Cody McDavies is a former Division I basketball player at the University of Northern Colorado.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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