Friday, April 11, 2014

College Sports, Corruption, and Unions

Recently there has been a move by student athletes at Northwestern University to unionize.  They argue that they are really employees of the university who bring in billions of dollars for it in television revenues, alumni donations and gate receipts. While there is certainly a lot of merit to the argument, it still leaves in place the paradox of the student athlete in big time college sports.  New Late show host Stephen Colbert has a good discussion on this issue with former college player and union rep Ramogi Huma.  Jon Stewart also rightly skewered the NCAA for it's hypocrisy on college sports.

The comment I have is that the issue of corruption in big time college sports may not be adequately addressed.  The players are supposedly there to get an education but many are really there chasing dreams of playing in the NBA and NFL.  The NCAA has instituted SAT and GPA guidelines for athletes but many get around them with few skills.  Corruption is likely to occur when there are paradoxes between stated intentions and real intentions combined with lots of money.  Unionizing would help with the players situations but not with this paradox.

Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League have farm club systems where players are often taken right out of high school and given a salary to develop their skills in hopes of making it to the top tier.  There is also college baseball and hockey which does not get the same television exposure as football and basketball but I seldom hear the same stories of corruption in the former sports compared to the latter ones.  At least the farm club system is honest and removes the pretenses.  In the long run the NFL and NBA would be better off creating their own farm club system and letting them unionize.  If the players at colleges deserve to be unionized, so do other student employees.  Some graduate students now live on food stamps.

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