The pay-for-play issue is a touchy one. We think the current system is outdated and almost completely favors the schools, who have made zero qualms about chasing every penny for themselves. That problem gets worse every year. But we do see both sides of the pay-for-play argument.
Bob Stoops does not. In an interview with The Sporting News, the Oklahoma coach blasts the idea of paying college football players.
“I tell my guys all the time,” Stoops told TSN, “you’re not the first one to spend a hungry Sunday without any money.”
Before we move on to the rest of his comments, here are a few interesting facts about Bob Stoops, all from the Tulsa World. His bonuses in the past year include $71,500 for playing in a non-BCS bowl (which Oklahoma lost), $55,000 for finishing in the Top 15 of the Bowl Championship Series standings and $88,000 for winning at least a share the Big 12 championship. That's $214,500 in bonuses alone. His salary escalated $200,000 on Jan. 1, as it does every year, and on June 1 he gets a $700,000 "stay bonus." The extension he signed in 2011 was for eight years and $39.4 million. He'll make $4.55 million in 2013.
Stoops, who stands on the sideline and watches his players collide against the opponent in a violent way every Saturday during the fall, says the $29,924.50 per year for out of state tuition, room and board and books is more than enough for the players. Stoops, whose biggest physical threat is pulling a hamstring while he jogs out on the field every Saturday, has a salary that pays him roughly $24,931.50 every two days, or a stone's throw from the value of what each of his players gets over a full year. His $700,000 bonus that he gets simply for not leaving Oklahoma is more than the value of what 23 of his players – basically his starting offense, defense with one guy left over to come off the bench – receive for a full year.
OK, now back to Stoops' rant to Sporting News about how college athletes shouldn't be paid.
“You know what school would cost here for non-state guy? Over $200,000 for room, board and everything else,” Stoops said. “That’s a lot of money. Ask the kids who have to pay it back over 10-15 years with student loans. You get room and board, and we’ll give you the best nutritionist, the best strength coach to develop you, the best tutors to help you academically, and coaches to teach you and help you develop. How much do you think it would cost to hire a personal trainer and tutor for 4-5 years?
“I don’t get why people say these guys don’t get paid. It’s simple, they are paid quite often, quite a bit and quite handsomely.”
Says the man who makes five figures per day. In the TSN story he also says about not giving the players any more compensation, "Sometimes we have to feed them some perspective."
Stoops is wrong on the math – even if you stretch the college experience out to five years, as Sporting News helpfully did, it comes out to just less than $150,000. And of course, an athlete can have that scholarship pulled at the end of every year if the coaches find someone better to give it to.
The argument would be much easier to digest if colleges weren't so transparent with their greed. Ticket prices rise, seat license fees are due, all while many schools are elbowing each other out of the way to get to a new out-of-the-way conference like parents fighting over the last hot toy at the store before Christmas. And while they're doing that, conferences are telling networks that $1.2 billion for television rights isn't nearly enough. That's what makes it tough to accept. The NFL and college football are both multi-billion dollar corporations with both eyes on the bottom line at all times. Only one of them acts like it isn't.
We're not saying Stoops doesn't make any valid points. But when all of FBS football is unapologetic about willing to do whatever it takes to make every single dollar available, often at the expense of old rivalries and any of their fans' wishes, why should the players have to be held to a different standard?