Accompanying those ceremonies is the seemingly annual debate about
pay-for-play for college football players. Former Florida mentor and
current University of South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier and every
one of his SEC colleagues are in favor of it.
In a world of haves and have-nots, the debate continues to rage. Only
now, it seems to be gaining some momentum.
The ole ball coach makes a strong argument for paying a nominal
stipend to offset player expenses. It would entitle them to a little
more than room, board, books and tuition. “We think they need and
deserve more. It’s simple as that,” says the Gamecock boss.
A case could be made that all the SEC coaches are playing to future
recruits, whether this is approved or not. By saying they support the
position it certainly won’t hurt them in the eyes of potential
On the flip side, every five star athlete in America is clamoring to
get into the SEC where the best football in country is played. A few
more bucks won’t sway them to come but supporting the position doesn’t
hurt either, whether coaches truly believe it or not.
For almost every school in the SEC, a college education is easily
worth $100,000 per year for an in-state recruit to over a quarter
million for out of state players. At Vanderbilt, it’s a whole lot
With most taking nearly five years to graduate, an argument could be
made that athletes are getting nearly a million dollars worth of value
for being able to “Clowney” a running back.
Add to that the fact that the rest of us who don’t tackle as well will
end up paying punitive interest rates on student loans for years to
come and you get the picture. Talk about piling on… that’s what’s
happening with student loans.
Yes, pay-for-play has merit. Many of these kids are among the most
impoverished in school today. They come from poor homes and parents
can’t afford to give them walking-around-money and many can’t attend
games themselves because of the cost of travel and housing. I get it.
Oh by the way, there is something called a Pell Grant. An athlete or
any other college student who comes from a low-income home already
gets up to $5,500 per year in federal Pell Grant money that does not
have to be repaid.
Opponents of pay-for-play point out that these celebrity athletes
enjoy fillet mignon for dinner and have the benefit of a personal
trainer and a personal tutor for 4-5 years.
Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops says “I’ve always said that college is more
about proving you can make it on your own… proving you can go
through the process and come out on top and be ready for the world.
The typical student here leaves our university with a boatload of
student loans to pay back. Our players leave not owing a dime to
When you say that fast it sounds good. The fact is universities are
enjoying billions of dollars of income from these athletes. Some would
argue that if these kids had to pay their own way, many couldn’t
because they come from poor homes and many others couldn’t even
qualify to pass the entrance exam.
True enough but then a brilliant kid who studies microbiology or
engineering isn’t bringing in a boatload of income on Saturday
afternoons to their university. It comes down to being fair with the
money that comes in.
Rules regarding extra compensation for athletes have not been changed
for years and Spurrier and his colleagues correctly point out that
these kids can’t hold jobs or generate income any other way.
Perhaps it’s time to compromise. A kid should be able to take his
girlfriend out for a hamburger after a game. The current college
athletic economic diet encourages agents and alumni to sweeten the pot
illegally for these kids. All the noble claims about how valuable an
education is for a kid fall on deaf ears when you’re swooning your
favorite girl on Saturday night.
It’s time for pay-for-play. Just be reasonable.
Michael Aun is a syndicated columnist and writes a weekly column for
this newspaper. To contact Michael Aun, email him at