The phrase "pay to play" is used idiomatically to reference a form of bribery.
The term "pay for play" has recently come into use to mean that athletes should
be paid for their performance-especially if admittance fees or other compensation
to someone else is involved. Yet there are situations in which athletes have other
duties which require them to have "amateur" status-that is not receiving
compensation for their athletic performance.
This issue is most sharply in focus in collegiate athletics. Those arguing
for "pay for play" point to the substantial (some say "obscene") income
received by some colleges and universities from athletic contests. It is
patently unfair, they claim, that the athletes do not received a share of
this compensation. Those who feel that "pay for play" is not right point
to the "amateur" heritage of collegiate sports, to the reported infractions
which have occurred, and to the fact that most student athletes are
already compensated with "free-ride" assistance which includes tuition,
room and board, and supplies (including textbooks).
The intensity of the dispute between these viewpoints has grown in
recent years. On the "pay for play" side, there is the O'Bannon lawsuit
claiming a legal basis for compensation, collegiate players testing whether
they can form a union, and a general feeling among the public that
student-athletes should be awarded stipends ("spending money"?)
in addition to their other benefits. On the other side, it is pointed out
that the group of student-athletes is already by far the most financially
assisted student group on campus.
Additional fuel has been added to the flames by recent nationally
reported incidents in which accepted standards of conduct were
violated by the institutions that were part of the group to advocate the
standards. See my blog "Tarnished Idols" immediately following this post
which tracks how Jim Tressel at Ohio State University and Joe Paterno
at Pennsylvania State University got caught in the twin pressures of
"loyalty" and "honor." They are not unique, of course. A situation at the
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill is developing. And a quick look
at recent history of the NCAA reveals several other occasions of
institutions with fingers in the cookie jar.
Proponents of "pay for play" tend to say that these incidents result from
trying to enforce an arbitrary and unworkable standard. Their argument
is similar to the pro-marijuana argument: decriminalize it. Those who
oppose "pay for play" maintain that the problem goes much deeper, and that
re-expressing the standards does not address the underlying problem, but only
buries it more deeply.
The original intent of the regulations regarding student-athletes was to
keep the focus on academics (since even then it was recognized that
athletics might easily swamp academics). Times have changed but underlying
principles are unchanged. Let us keep the "academic" in "academic institution."
I am a faculty member of a university which does not have a football team
but which competes in Division I sports-including basketball. Over the
years I have had a number of student-athletes in my classes. I have had
good relations with my Athletic Department and feel they are doing what
needs to be done to comply with the rules.
My personal attitude on the issue of "pay for play" is that athletic performance
on campus should not be a source of compensation. If laws or rules determine
otherwise, then higher education should drop intercollegiate sports. Perhaps
this would lead to a more complete minor league system to the benefit of the
players in all sports (as now exists in baseball and hockey).
03:54 PM ET 01.29 |
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