ItâÄôs a running joke here at the Minnesota Daily that the cumulative grade point average of the newsroom is lower than that of the football team. I wouldnâÄôt be shocked if this were true. IâÄôve often seen reporters and editors work endlessly until midnight or later.
But what separates the Daily from the football team is that we are paid for our work of generating news clips and businesses cards for future employment.
Athletes, on the other hand, risk arm and limb, playing on a grandiose stage for literally no change in their pocket, and the chances of them striking it rich in the big leagues are little to nothing. No offense to the gymnastics or cross-country teams here on campus, but when IâÄôm talking about Division I athletics, IâÄôm talking about big money âÄî basketball, football and hockey.
It bothers me to hear that the NCAA pockets billions of dollars from television rights, while no student-athlete receives any of that money, essentially making them slaves to the system.
I know itâÄôs hard to be on the side of the student-athlete. They are one of the most scrutinized demographics on campus, probably because of their larger than life figures and their flashy mo-peds.
But behind this love-hate relationship, as students, we are essentially the same. While athletes spend hours a day in the weight room and on the field, most of us will be studying while some are working a job to support themselves. But for the athletes who know there is a meager chance of making it big after college, playing ball and hitting the books doesnâÄôt bring in any money to support a lifestyle that is often portrayed as rock star caliber.
A few months ago, I caught the highly-anticipated ESPN documentary on the University of Michigan basketball team of 1991, nicknamed the Fab Five âÄî the five freshman players shocked the NCAA with their high-tempo game and youth.
Progressing through the documentary, it was apparent that playing basketball wasnâÄôt footing any bills or putting any more food on the table.
Most of the Fab Five knew they would be drafted in the NBA, so it was only a matter of time before they would leave school to start making money for the wins they produced. Several years after the group disbanded, the news broke that some of the players had been receiving illegal benefits from a booster, resulting in several vacated wins as well as federal charges against one player.
For me, itâÄôs hard to imagine that the Fab Five received anything more than a few dollars now and then for gas or a couple bucks to go out on a date. But according to the investigation, over $600,000 was given to players by one booster, and according to allegations, the booster expected a favor or two down the road when the player made the pros.
ThereâÄôs no denying that thereâÄôs plenty of underground transactions happening right now in collegiate athletics, but the problem is that students arenâÄôt receiving the compensation for their sacrifices.
I dare the NCAA to start paying student-athletes a fixed monthly stipend of, say, $500 for basketball players during their season.
Compensating athletes modestly âÄî and I stress modestly âÄî would allow them to stay in school, practice hard and not worry as much about the money for their living expenses. Do this and I bet you there will be less crime and fewer jeans stolen from the mall.
And maybe Royce White would actually be playing for the Gophers.