Should we pay college athletes?

Scandals, hypocrisy are too big to ignore

Maybe soon the charade will end.

For far too long, the people who run college sports in America has driven a fictional narrative about humble “student-athletes” playing for love of the game and nothing else. Fans bought it. The media bought it. We all wanted to believe it.

Then the cold truth trickles out. Billion-dollar contracts for that basketball tournament in March. Million-dollar coaches making far more than any professor ever will. Conference shifts containing no human sense, except for the involved parties and their offended sensibilities.

And throw in the scandals – oh, those scandals. Shady recruiting, extra benefits ranging from tattoos in Columbus to lap dances on South Beach, test scores inflated to maintain a player’s eligibility – you could fill this column with the allegations.

Or you could just read a pair of devastating pieces, dropped in the same week, that both expose the whole NCAA system as something close to slavery.

Taylor Branch, author of a landmark trilogy of books about the civil rights movement, put together a remarkable article in The Atlantic that puts the whole NCAA mess into a historical context.

Meticulously, Branch lays out how the NCAA gained enormous power, preventing the “student-athlete” they care so much about from gaining any legal rights. He also explains how the major universities are rank hypocrites, celebrating amateurism while, at the same time, raking in the television millions offered for football and men’s basketball.

Ultimately, Branch concludes that the athletes should be paid. And one of those former athletes concurs with him in a report just as enlightening and thoughtful.

Ramogi Huma, who played at UCLA in the 1990s, leads an advocacy group of more than 14,000 former college athletes. He, along with professors at Drexel University, put together a study that says a major-college football player would be worth $121,000 if valued in professional terms, more than double that ($265,000) for basketball.

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