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Letter to the editor: College athletes should get larger stipend

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OSU vice president and athletic director Gene Smith in an interview with The Lantern on Jan. 29. Smith said in July that while he doesn’t support treating student-athletes as employees, he is in favor of covering the cost of attendance beyond just tuition. Credit: Lantern file photo

OSU vice president and athletic director Gene Smith in an interview with The Lantern on Jan. 29. Smith said in July that while he doesn’t support treating student-athletes as employees, he is in favor of covering the cost of attendance beyond just tuition.
Credit: Lantern file photo

Letter to the editor:

College sports are about to begin a new era. Recent court decisions have cleared the way for player unions and the potential of pay-for-play (Editor’s note: Pay-for-play commonly refers to paying student-athletes and treating them as employees). A coin toss could determine which way changes will go. If heads prevail, colleges will rectify wrongs created by onerous NCAA regulations. No athlete should ever go hungry practicing or attending class past dorm cafeteria hours. Money for laundry, dry cleaning and new clothes are genuine needs. While other students can earn spending money working summer and after-hours jobs, today’s athletes don’t have spare time, plus the NCAA strictly regulates everything they can do for pay.

The new policy ought to be if you make the team, you get a monthly stipend — not an exorbitant salary but enough to cover real needs. Profit-sharing ought to be considered. Schools could pool a percentage of numbered jersey and memorabilia sales and give every sport team member an equal share. Don’t allow envy and greed to balkanize our college teams. Unity needs reinforcing. Spread the spirit. Colleges, if you do right by your athletes, you will earn their loyalty. Don’t ever abandon in loco parentis (Editor’s note: In loco parentis roughly translates from Latin to “in the place of a parent” in English, referring to the legal responsibility of some organizations to act as a parent).

On the other hand, if the coin toss turns up tails, look out for unintended consequences. If athletes get pressured into forming unions, will college sports become closed shops? Will union reps and lawyer teams negotiate the contacts? Will walk-ons then be considered scabs? How long until your favorite college team opts to strike for more pay? Please say it ain’t so, jocks.

When colleges face litigation over money matters, in loco parentis will be the first casualty. Institutions will argue their own sets of demands come bargaining time. One of the first will address players who leave for the pros before their eligibility is up. Schools will surely demand scholarship repayment. When athletes become mere employees, won’t their employers be able to fire them for failure to perform? You think sports agents are a problem for amateur athletes now? Wait until college dollars expand the agent market exponentially.

Major changes in college sports are right around the corner. Let’s hope cool heads initiate wise reforms that benefit both sides up front. May college sports never devolve into an arena where only money dictates policy. Most college fans still value education and the degrees athletes ought to be earning, especially since few who play college sports ever advance to professional careers. Most will rely for the rest of their lives on the degrees they earned. Woody Hayes used to tell players to come to Ohio State because he would promise them a great education. Ask any of his players. They all say he never talked football to their parents. He did promise a degree. Let’s keep that spirit, that principle alive. If the coin toss mentioned before does happen soon, let’s hope both sides choose heads and Ohio State leads the way.

Fred Strine
1970 All-Big Ten (Baseball walk-on)
OSU 1971, B.S. English education
fstrine@comcast.net

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