Reader Response: NCAA Jersey Pay Debate

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On Friday, I wrote that elite college football players whose jerseys are being sold in school bookstores should get paid. I noticed that Chris Olds of the Orlando Sentinel disagreed with me on his great sports memorabilia blog.

So I wrote him to ask if he'd elaborate further -- and here's what he told me:

"It's definitely a gray area, but I think it's best to just not pay them for anything -- including jersey sales.

"After all, a full-ride scholarship in football often means full tuition, housing, food plan, books, free academic support, etc. for most players on the roster -- not just the stars whose jerseys could be sold -- and that's more than a very large percentage of academic scholarships where just tuition is covered. That's also quite different than other sports, say baseball, where partial scholarships are commonplace (if even available as numbers go down).

"I guess my logic is that, while they are making plenty of money for their schools they are also getting a pretty good deal as it is, too. Then, the other question would be what sports do you do that for -- just football? In some places, there would be demand for particular jerseys, but not in others. There would have to be more NCAA regulations just to decide whose jerseys would make the cut."

Here's my response to Chris: There are only a few players that are single-handedly making money for their universities. These athletes include a total of maybe 75 football and basketball players. We all know who they are -- the schools know who they are, the NCAA knows who they are, the bookstores know who they are. It's not fair to directly exploit those players without compensation. If you want to talk with me about putting the money into some escrow account, I'm fine with that.

But a "free education" and "free books and lodging" doesn't really apply when the coaches, the schools and the athletes themselves know that they aren't there to attend school. They are there to help them win football and basketball games.

Questions? Comments?