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Jason Douglas Lewis - HBO Real Sports: Paying college athletes

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HBO Real Sports: Paying college athletes

NCAA Sports makes billions of dollars, but none of those funds goes to the athletes, who are pretty much the product that are being sold.  Photo by Jason Lewis



Please do not argue with the Sports Editor.  It’s like thinking that a free education is not good enough.  It’s just doesn't make sense.  Illustration by David Brown


Article originally published by the Los Angeles Sentinel. www.lasentinel.net


By Jason Lewis

Sentinel Sports Editor (2010-2013)


The never-ending debate over paying college athletes was recently the focus on HBO Real Sports.  Many viewers came away from the show with an even stronger sense that these athletes should be paid, especially after it was noted that Alabama made $125 million in the three seasons that wide receiver Tyrone Prothro played there, and now Prothro is a bank teller who never made a dime off of his talents. 


After watching the show I still contend that paying college athletes will never work and I think that there is a much larger issue at hand. 


The two college sports that produces the most money is football and basketball.  Actually, those two sports are usually the only two that make a profit.  Black athletes heavily populate those sports.  


These athletes receive a full scholarship to school.  Tuition, books, housing, meals, tutoring.  Pretty much everything that they need to live off of and receive an education is paid for.  


But for some reason people think that the free education is not good enough.  That the players are not there for the education, so they should get something other than that. 


Well that is the problem right there, and it is a major problem in the black community.   


We, as a community, do not value a college education.  There are certain groups and individuals within the black community who value an education, but as a whole, we do not.  


Just look at the horribly low numbers of black people, especially men, who attend universities.   


Many of these black athletes are not taking advantage of a free education.  It becomes even more of a problem because many of these black athletes will not have a professional sports career, and the ones who do make it to the pro level, their careers more than likely will not be very long.  


Since these black athletes will more than likely not see the riches of being a big time professional athlete, it is even more important for them to not only receive their degree, but to also make the most of obtaining it. 


Prothro, who received his degree from Alabama’s College of Human and Environmental Sciences, is working as a bank teller.  It was not stated on HBO Real Sports why he is working as a bank teller, or what his future plans are, but his employment certainly does not match his degree.   


Another player featured was Stanley McClover, who played at Auburn before foregoing his senior year to enter the NFL draft.  He played two seasons with the Carolina Panthers before being released due to injuries.  


It appears that his playing career is over.  He is now jobless and he does not have a degree, while having to take care of his family, which includes his young child.  


McClover may have a very tough road ahead of him because he did not take advantage of what was given to him.  He did not go after a degree, even though he was a college student with everything paid for.  


Are we supposed to feel bad for a guy who does not take advantage of, or value a great opportunity?  At what point are these players going to be held accountable?  


What is throwing money at them going to really accomplish?  So paying a college athlete six figures for a few years is going to solve the problem?  McClover made that while playing in the NFL, but he still may have long-term problems because he does not have a job or degree.  Lets see how long that money lasts him.  


Lets be real, giving a young black man, in his late teens or early 20s, six figures, is not going to set him up long term.  What are the chances that he doesn’t go out and buy a car, and then put the latest sound system and televisions in it?  


Once paid, what are the chances of that athlete going to class?  He’s paid, see you later!  


You know what can set him up for the rest of his life?  An education.  And not what these athletes and some of these universities are calling an education.    


One major problem that is going on at some of these universities is that the athletic departments are just pushing the athletes through school.  There are no real efforts to get the athletes to obtain a degree in something that they can have a career in, and in many cases, there is no effort to keep the athletes on track to even receive a degree.  


In order to keep the players academically eligible, coaches and councilors push the athletes to easier classes, and sometimes tell them to change their major so that classes do not interfere with practice time.  


In those cases the universities are using these football and basketball players to generate billions of dollars without giving the players anything of value in return.  


Instead of paying athletes, the NCAA should crack down on universities that are not ensuring that these athletes receive a proper education.


Now there are exceptions to the rule.  HBO Real Sports interviewed Rigo Nunez, who played basketball for UMass.  

Nunez used his degree to obtain administration jobs on the university level.  


Nnamdi Asomugha, who attended Narbonne High School and now plays for the Oakland Raiders, is another exception to the rule.  Asomugha said that all the football skills in the world would not have gotten him anywhere if he did not have an education. 


Asomugha appears to be an athlete who will continue to excel after his playing career is over, while there have been reports that 80% of NFL players are either divorced or bankrupt within three years of their playing career being over.       


If Asomugha did not take his education serious while at Cal Berkeley, where he received his degree, he could end up with the same issues that many pro athletes have when their playing careers are over. 


If there were more athletes like Nunez and Asomugha, who value their free education, then there would not be so many athletes complaining that they were used and have nothing to show for it. 


And really think about it, where is all of this money coming from to pay these athletes?  People love to point out all of these millions and billions of dollars being made, but there are 460,000 college athletes.  If a small group of them gets paid, then they all have to be paid.  


Because of Title IX, there is no way that certain men are going to get paid without women getting paid.  And all of those millions of dollars become much smaller when the bulk of college sports teams lose money. 


UConn’s women’s basketball program, which is the premiere program in women’s college basketball, lost over $700,000 last year.  That is from a winning program.


According to data obtained by Bloomberg through the Freedom of Information Act, 53 public schools in the six largest conferences lost $109.7 million from women’s teams in 2010.  This while the men’s teams at those same schools in those same conferences had operating profits of $240 million, according to Bloomberg.


All of this money that football and basketball make, a good amount of it goes to support all of the other athletic teams at those schools.  That money supports the baseball team, the softball team, the men’s and women’s track teams, the men’s and women’s swimming teams, the soccer teams.  


A good amount of that money also goes back to the universities for operating costs.  That new library was paid in part because the football team made millions of dollars.  That new math and science building was built in part because the basketball team made it to the Final Four.  


All these players complaining need to see the big picture.  The system cannot pay them nor should it.  They need to value what they are getting for free, which is an education.  A degree without being six figures in dept like many college students sounds like a great deal to me.  


If these athletes do not like it, then do not play college sports.  Football players can go play semi pro for three years after high school and then enter the NFL draft.  Lets see how that works out for them.   Basketball players can go play in Europe for a year after high school and then go into the NBA.   


It is a shame that so many of our black youth are blowing off such a valuable opportunity.  


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