COVID-19 has upended the globe in ways I never thought possible just five long months ago. The pandemic canceled schools, brought athletics to a halt, and has a worldwide death toll of more than 550,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.
With all that’s happening, now is probably not the time or place to talk about paying college athletes. But why not?
Look at the carnage that’s been leveled on college athletics in recent months, beginning with the cancellation of the beloved March Madness basketball tournament. That cancellation resulted in universities losing about $375 million from money that was not distributed to them by the NCAA.
While not as big of a fan attraction, the College World Series wasn’t played either. That resulted in more lost revenue.
Whether a result of this, or merely a coincidence, Stanford announced Wednesday it will be eliminating 11 of its 36 sports programs as the university’s athletic department is in a financial freefall. Also on Wednesday, the Ivy League announced it will not be competing in any sports for the rest of 2020.
The Ivy League said it was making the determination out of health concerns and would have to find ways to deal with the economic impact, whatever that may be.
The power conferences like the SEC and the ACC have not been so aggressive in announcing the cancellation of sporting events, especially football. With 80,000-seat stadiums to fill and lucrative TV contracts on the line, you can bet canceling any football game would be a measure of last resort for SEC schools. There’s too much money at stake.
The COVID-19 pandemic, more than ever, magnifies what a pot of gold athletic programs can be for their universities. Forget about a Fountain of Youth. Big-time college sports are a Fountain of Funding.
Logic would dictate these players should be compensated fairly for their services. A full scholarship is nice, and I can say that more than ever knowing the cost of having a sophomore at MTSU, but top-notch college athletes deserve more than that.
If Zion Williamson had been able to earn some money, he might have graced the college basketball floor with more than one year at Duke. Maybe Kevin Durant would have played more than one year at Texas and LeBron James would have been encouraged to play college ball instead of skipping straight to the NBA.
Think of all Peyton Manning did for the University of Tennessee during his years as a Vol. It’s doubtful his athletic scholarship was fitting payment in return.
We’ve gotten just a small glimpse of what happens to higher education without college athletics. If the pandemic lingers, we will get a more painful look.
It’s time for college athletes to get paid. Their value is obvious.