August 16, 2013
No one knows what the outcome of the Johnny Manziel NCAA investigation will be. Manziel is being interrogated about signing over three hundred autographs in a room filled with sports memorabilia collectors over the course of a few hours and allegedly receiving upwards of $10,000-$20,000 for doing so. Taking money or gifts from any person other than a close family member for almost any reason is a violation of the student athlete agreement that allows college athletes to play in the NCAA. If Manziel is found guilty of breaking that agreement, then he could lose his college eligibility and cost his school, Texas A&M, any games that they won while he was playing for them after committing the offense. No meaningful evidence has arisen in the media that proves that “Johnny Football” has accepted money for those autographs, however the amount of time that he spent in the room and his unsubstantiated motivations for being with the collectors leave plenty of room for speculation. And unfortunately, this is not Manziel’s first poor public foray with the media. His father recently spoke with media about his concerns with the younger Manziel’s drinking. He is known around Texas A&M as much for his partying as he is known for being the first and only freshman to win the Heisman Trophy. Publicly, Johnny Football comes off as a spoiled entitled brat who was given an award that might have pushed further into the limelight than he was capable of handling. But, the Johnny Manziel public case of allegedly taking money for his autograph brings us to an issue that has been discussed for at least a decade in college sports. Should college athletes be paid?
Supporters of the NCAA believe that college players are being paid with their scholarships. They believe that a $40,000 to $160,000 scholarship (depending on the tuition of the school) is worth the service that these young men give to the school. They would say that the education that these young men receive serve them well after they leave the hallowed walls of their institutions. And, for the last twenty recipients of scholarships on the football team and the last three scholarship athletes on the basketball team those supporters of the NCAA would be correct. The players that never see the field are well taken care of by the NCAA. They get the best training for their bodies, they get front row seats for games, and never take the wear and tear that the rest of the athletes take throughout a season. But, the rest of the scholarship athletes, specifically the starters for any NCAA football or basketball team, are making decidedly less money than they are worth to the school. In most Division I universities, the football and basketball teams make up most of the revenue for the entire school. The government funding, the tuition that regular college kids pay, and all other fundraising pales in comparison to what is generated by those two sports. The University of Texas made $93,942,815 and Texas A&M made $41,915,428 last year solely with their football programs. That is well over one billion dollars for twelve weeks of a sport, and the all the athletes at those schools receive about 1% of that money in scholarships despite producing the entertainment that creates the revenue. Even the most lucrative corporations put almost 10% of the company earnings into paying their workforce.
Johnny Manziel will have made a huge mistake by taking money for his signature if he is guilty of what he is being accused. He compromised his integrity, he held his teammates hostage with his selfishness, and he jeopardized his own football career. But, for once, the self-absorbed idiot athletes are right. Manziel should be able to capitalize off his own name and ability on the field. When fans of the Aggies buy a no. 2 Texas A&M jersey, they are buying that jersey because Manziel wears that number for the Aggies. People invest their money into schools because of the athletes that play for those schools, not solely for the school’s name. When teams perform well because of great players, revenue spikes. And when the teams lose with inferior athletes, they crash. People watch televised games to see the stars of their sports. Student-athletes are the driving force behind colleges, but they are not compensated accordingly. And, college educations are quickly becoming less valuable than they were in the past even though they are more expensive than they have ever been. Twenty years ago, a college degree insured that a graduate would find a respectable, fair-salaried job, but today more Americans are working in jobs that are outside of their field of studies and for less money than ever before in history. So, a college education is useless when facing candidates for a position who have experience in the field or training that is specific to the position. College athletes are essentially working for nothing.
There is no simple answer to the problem of paying student-athletes, but the current system is not working. Every three to four years, a story breaks about a former player who received large sums of money and gifts while he played at a university. Every two to three years a college athlete gets caught taking money and loses his eligibility. And, every year a some athlete is caught taking some form of improper benefits and he gets suspended. When the same offense keeps happening over and over again you have to question the integrity of the players, but you also have to question if the system that governs the players is fair. Maybe the NCAA could start a trust fund for players that takes and holds a percentage of their jersey sales until the leave college. Maybe college athletics should create a payment plan where the players with higher win-shares make more money yearly. Maybe the NCAA should just increase the stipend for players all its players. But, the one thing that the NCAA can not do is allow this problem to fester. Right now, the governing body of college athletics has to decide if the best player in its most lucrative sport will be allowed to play this season. Johnny Manziel has proven himself to be immature and self-centered, but if college athletes were making a sum of money that was near their actual worth to the game, then the NCAA could have possibly avoided this situation and many more like it.