One might think that after comparing “The Saviors,” the group of violent extortionist bad-guys on “The Walking Dead,” to the government and, then, exposing the propaganda of the beloved Dr. Seuss’ children’s book “The Lorax,” that it would be hard to get much more controversial.
But I have done it. This will be the most controversial essay yet.
MAJOR COLLEGE ATHLETES SHOULD BE PAID MARKET VALUE.
We’ve just finished watching approximately 212 college football bowl games on television, all of which were sponsored by Jennifer Garner and Samuel L. Jackson. By now, we should all know “what’s in our wallet.” (Fiat currency, of course, but that’s for another day.)
And there is nothing more American than college football: Full length raccoon coats, pennants and sideboards on the ol’ jalopy. Okay, I’m not really THAT old. In my day, football games meant khakis, button downs and lace-up shoes we called “bucks.” And flasks, of course. The vendors hawking Coke and Sprite in the student section at the University of North Carolina called out “MIXERS! GET YOUR MIXERS HERE!”
I filled my flask with Bacardi 151 once. Just once. Don’t ever do that.
Speaking of America, at least according to Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, there is nothing more American than the exploitation of labor.
In the case of college football, they are right.
“HERESY!” YOU SAY. “COLLEGE ATHLETES GET A FREE EDUCATION!”
“They get a scholarship!” you say. Indeed, they do. But hold off on tarring and feathering me, at least for now. We’ll get back to that.
Let us back up. Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of economics understands why minimum wage laws are bad policy. If a person is willing to work for a set price and another person is willing to pay that price, a minimum wage law potentially serves to invalidate that mutually agreed upon price. And whose business is it if two other people reach an agreement? Not mine. Not yours. Not the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s.
Now let us apply that same sentence to college athletics. If a person wants to pay a football player to come to his school, and the player agrees, why is that anyone else’s business? Well, right now, if someone wants to give a football player an airplane ticket home to attend a funeral, that’s considered an “improper benefit” by the governing body of college football, the NCAA.
The voluntary exchange of that airplane ticket subjects the player and the school to sanctions. And that is un-American.
Now, about that scholarship that includes free tuition and room and board. And even books! Free!
IF SOMEONE WANTS TO PAY ‘EM, LET ‘EM.
Let us look at Stanford. Denver’s own Christian McCaffrey, after starring at Valor Christian High School, accepted a full ride to Stanford to play football. His sophomore year, he finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting. So, he’s pretty good. He just finished his junior year at Stanford. He is forgoing his senior year so he can play in the NFL. And, of course, get paid.
Kind of like his head coach, David Shaw, who is the highest paid Stanford employee with an annual salary of $4.1 million. And that’s awesome. Shaw is undoubtedly worth the money. Major college football generates income. And that is American, baby! Income generation should be cheered. And I cheer it. The labor, however, should get more than just tuition.
According to the official Stanford University website, the annual cost of attending the school, including the $47,331 tuition, is $66,696. That’s a lot of money, no doubt.
But Stanford made that back on the first handoff in the first quarter of the first game McCaffrey played. In 2015, as a member of the Pac-12 Conference, Stanford received $25.1 million just from the conference revenue sharing. Stanford just played in the 2016 Sun Bowl and received at least $2,125,000, the amount the bowl paid out to each team in 2015. These numbers are just the tip of the revenue generating iceberg.
But the revenue generated by labor, like McCaffrey, is not the point. The point is that the NCAA maintains price controls on what that labor can receive. It is hard to see how one can advocate for free markets and wage controls at the same time.
So, yes, the last exploited labor in the United States are those prohibited from accepting all the compensation someone is voluntarily willing to give them.
EVERYONE SHOULD BE PAID WHATEVER SOMEONE WISHES TO PAY ‘EM.
That’s how free markets work. Would it change things? Of course. Lifting wage and price controls on college labor would drastically change college sports. They might even disappear as we know them. And that’s okay.
Full length raccoon coats disappeared, too. And we survived.