Student-athletes need an agent

Amateurism in college sports is a myth! It may have been real decades ago, but the economic impact of the revenues generated by TV, licensing and other deals have created a multi-billion dollar juggernaut. When a large percentage of those dollars gets invested back into coaches salaries, facilities, alumni luxuries, amenities, stadium improvements, conference TV networks, digital platforms, scoreboards and weight rooms, it’s all a result of big business transactions to make even more money. While revenues are exploding, the cost of the labor remains relatively flat and little or no investment is made back into the student athlete.

When universities start acting as free agents to align themselves to the richest conferences, that’s big business.

When the powers that be are willing to just throw away long time rivalries like Nebraska vs. Oklahoma, Texas vs. Texas A&M, Kansas vs. Missouri, and Utah vs. BYU for a chance at more revenues, that is big business folks. These games are the DNA that make college football so successful.

When top college coaches are earning $4 to $5.5 million a year, that’s big business.

When two schools can kill the history, the tradition and the stability of a conference by moving on, well that’s big business too because every university is doing what is in the short term interest of their revenue stream.

PAC12It's only a matter of time until this logo is outdated.

College football or basketball has not stopped to ask all those players who are currently playing and have played in the past if they moves are okay with them. They haven’t asked the guy who just committed to playing in the Big 12 back in January if its okay to start playing in the SEC or PAC12. They didn’t ask him if its okay if his parents have to travel across six states now instead of one to go to their away games. They didn’t ask the kids at Oregon State or Washington State, who may sink down to the bottom of the conference if Texas and Oklahoma join, if the addition of those schools are okay with them.

Do not be naive, college sports is selling out for the almighty dollar right before our eyes and the players who we watch won’t share in the revenue, won’t have a say in conference movement, and their families will bare the cost of traveling great distances to support their son, if they are able to afford it.

With such a dramatic change in the economics of college sports, especially football and basketball (the revenue generators), it’s now time for college student athletes to unite and hire someone to look out for their best interests. Now is the time to have a voice to address their grievances and gain more of the revenues being produced by their talent, hard work, sacrifices and dedication.

Outside of outright paying college athletes, there are several ways to increase their compensation and have them share in the revenue they help produce.

Cost of living

When a student athlete is offered a college scholarship, he or she cannot negotiate the terms of the deal. He or she cannot ask for special circumstances. It’s a take it or leave it deal. Issues like travel expenses, the preference to live alone or with just one roommate and even the amount of food an athlete consumes are not individually addressed.

A scholarship offer from Hawaii, San Diego State, Rutgers, USC, Cal, Texas, Boston College or Stanford comes with a dramatic cost of living expense. Those Universities may offer a higher monthly cost of living stipends but they rarely ever reflect the real cost of living. An athlete works, that’s right, works, about 30 to 45 hours a week for his basketball or football team during their season. They have to stay the summers and work out and have spring ball as well. I say increase stipends dramatically not just a few hundred bucks. Provide more student-athlete dorms and more dining options. Give student-athletes and their parents annual travel allowances that they can use any way they please.

Health benefits and future medical care

If you played four years of college football your body is jacked up for the rest of your life. Just ask any NFL GM and/or team doctor and they will tell you that 90% of the kids they see at the combine are beat up pretty bad. Early age arthritis, concussions, separated shoulders, bulging disks, narrowing of the spine and dislocated fingers are standard for those who played football. There needs to be better medical care given to players during and after their college career. There is currently no recourse for players who are suffering from years of weight lifting and pushing their bodies past its limits. There should be a perpetual medical benefit program for those who served. You get that from Boeing, UPS, the armed forces, the NFL, the NBA and from 50 states if you worked or served for them for 4 years, why not college football?

Improved educational support

Most athletes struggle to handle both the load of college and the demands of their coaches. Most get by but at the expense of taking the path of least resistance in the classroom. Universities need to spend more money on tutoring support, and should offer a graduate degree for free as part of the scholarship package. If a student-athlete needs an additional year to complete their degree, it should be done so at no cost. Universities also need to offer more life skills training resources to offset the adolescent environment that college sports can produce.

The bottom line is that the NCAA is more like a dictatorship when it comes to the rights of the players. Student athletes need a seat at the table and they need a voice. Yes, it is a privilege to play college sports but it’s also the responsibility of the universities to start spreading the wealth, banish the free labor system and treat the players with more respect. The conundrum for the student athlete and their parents is that there is a lot of intimidation to speak up about the issue. Here is your chance!

Follow me on Twitter: @jackbechta

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