Thursday, April 11, 2013

If Marie Antoinette lived in a glass house, would her pot and kettle be black?

So I'm mixing methaphors . . . and stealing one in this case. Bob Stoops, the University of Oklahoma's rather well-paid football coach, made some comments the other day to the Sporting News regarding college football players' "pay". Having read the article, I'm not nearly as worked up as I was when the comments were related to me--so much for the reliability of hearsay.

The part where I'm stealing a metaphor comes from The Oklahoman's columnist, Berry Tramel's, article. I think he gets it basically right: message wasn't so bad, but delivery including the messenger is a problem.

Stoops' message is an argument worth having: that college football players do get paid in the form of scholarships, tutoring, athletic training, etc. Of course at some point the NCAA's basic message would be in conflict with Stoops' in that all the TV ads the cartel runs keep telling us that college athletes are almost always "going pro in something other than their sport". So much for the value of the training.

I read that Stoops says he is all for stipends. So maybe we are just arguing about the form and structure of how college football players, et al. should be paid. But if he wants to argue that a scholarship is of high value to an athlete, and let's remember that value is subjective (i.e., wage value is in the eye of the laborer), then there is a simple test we can conduct. Let athletes choose between full scholarships and the comparable amount in after-tax income. Stop making them attend classes unless they choose to attend and pay for college. If Stoops is right, then not much should change in the college football landscape.

PS. To those who would invoke the silly argument that college football players would make a foolish choice taking the money instead of the education, I'd say be careful the point you raise. Are you sure you know better how adults (nearly all college football players are adults) should live their lives than they do? If college football players are so foolish or short sighted or subject to bad decision making perhaps due to adverse influences in their lives, then are we sure no one other than the people profiting off of their labor should be making these choices for them? Are you sure college is as valuable as you think? Have you read Charles Murray? Are you sure all universities are created (and continue) equal? Does the fact that 115,000 janitors hold bachelor's degrees give you pause? How would you characterize "The Great Gatsby"? Was he . . . uh  . . . great!?