Paying college athletes would shortchange smaller programs

Johnny Crawford • Atlanta Journal-Constitution • TNS/File

NCAA president Dr. Mark Emmert

SAN DIEGO -- Not that I'm some altruistic, head-in-the-sand, Baron De Coubertin amateur rabble-rouser. The bleeding hearts pretty much have gone the way of the Romanovs and bled out.

But I find myself firmly against paying collegiate athletes -- although I know no one foolish enough to believe sugar daddies aren't handing out candy to those providing muscular thrills for their alma mater dears.

Common thinking is that giving an athlete a paycheck would only be fair, because their exploits in our arenas make millions for some universities, and "all" they get in return is a free ride to the station of higher education.

But that's the problem. It wouldn't be fair.

The U.S. collegiate athletic system is very similar to the U.S. financial structure. About two percet control the wealth.

If the playing field were level, maybe I'd have different thoughts. But it's about as uniform as a Himalaya.

If athletes are paid, the rich may not get significantly richer, but the poor will become poorer. It almost certainly would guarantee the small fish will be forced to live in the shallow area of the big pond until eventually becoming extinct.

As it is, it's hard enough for those schools (such as San Diego State) shunned by the big boys to compete on the field and recruiting. And more slimy characters are going to be involved.

Introduced is the California Play for Pay Act, and, if approved, student-athletes in this state would be allowed to earn money through endorsements, appearances, autographs, all that stuff, beginning in 2023.

NCAA boss Mark Emmert has threatened to eliminate all California colleges pursuing this practice from NCAA Tournament play.

Of course the day probably is coming when all California universities -- and everyone else, somewhere down the road -- will secede from the NCAA.

It's a bad bill. But Emmert bluffs. Trump can afford to lose this state. He can't.

"As drafted, the bill threatens to alter materially the principles of intercollegiate athletics and create local differences that would make it impossible to host fair national championships," Emmert says. "As a result, it would have a negative impact on the student-athletes it intends to assist."

It's not every day I link the NCAA and principles, such as fairness to all, but Emmert isn't wrong.

I have never seen an athlete under scholarship starve while attending an American university. These kids are not living in poverty.

If you're on scholarship, you're getting paid a lot of money -- scholarship money.

It's hard to imagine us being led further astray than we already are. But that doesn't keep us from trying.

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