The New York Times’ opinion section published an extraordinary piece today. What’s extraordinary is not the content, which is dull and dulling and dishonest, and has been published in basically this exact form for the better part of the century. What’s extraordinary is that we now have hard evidence that the Times’ sports opinion pieces can be every bit as terrible as their political counterparts. I know, I’m shocked too. It was a high bar.
The argument, by Cody J. McDavis, a law student at UCLA who played hoops for Northern Colorado a few years back, is presented under the headline, “Paying Students to Play Would Ruin College Sports”—now’s not the time, but to some of us that sounds less like a threat and more like a promise—and you don’t even really have to read the piece to know what’s in it, because it’s the NCAA’s own argument, made and trumpeted by the those (executives, coaches, administrators, media bootlickers) whose paychecks benefit directly from the fact that revenue sports’ biggest revenue-earners don’t get to share in those profits.
Without the money that comes in, how would schools pay for non-revenue sports, goes one trite line of reactionarism in here, completely ignoring that plenty of schools without any revenue sports field functional athletics programs. (Never mind the fact that if the big-revenue programs decided to stop spending millions on assistant coaches, and tens to hundreds of millions on fancy weight rooms, there’d be more than enough to support everything.)
There’s maybe only one relatively novel line of defense in here, and I’m going to blockquote it:
Paying student-athletes might sound like a fairer way to treat students who generate so much money and attention for their colleges (not to mention the television networks that broadcast their games). But paying athletes would distort the economics of college sports in a way that would hurt the broader community of student-athletes, universities, fans and alumni. A handful of big sports programs would pay top dollar for a select few athletes, while almost every other college would get caught up in a bidding war it couldn’t afford.
I don’t know how exactly to put this without it sounding insultingly obvious, but: This is already how things are.
College football and college basketball are already the playthings of a handful of elite programs—a dozen or so, in each sport, in divisions populated by hundreds of schools.
But, let us assume for the sake of The Discourse that this is a bad thing. That this accurate description of reality as it currently exists is something that should be avoided. To that end, I demand that the cowards at the New York Times opinion section publish my op-ed, “Paying Coaches and Administrators Is Ruining College Sports”:
Paying [coaches and administrators] might sound like a [fair] way to treat [the employees who recruit the athletes] who generate so much money and attention for their colleges (not to mention the television networks that broadcast their games). But paying [coaches and administrators] [distorts] the economics of college sports in a way that [hurts] the broader community of student-athletes, universities, fans and alumni. A handful of big sports programs [already do] pay top dollar for a select few [coaches and administrators who recruit the athletes who make the programs successful], while almost every other college [already doesn’t] get caught up in a bidding war it couldn’t afford.
My proposal, under which these folks would be forced to enroll in their universities’ continuing education programs and be reclassified as unpaid “student–head coaches” or “student–athletic directors,” would have the added bonus of preserving the purity of what, I’m reliably informed, was never meant to be about financial gain. And the NCAA’s executives can serve in strictly volunteer positions. Let’s make it about the love of the sport again.