The Tuition is Too Damn High (and that makes college athletes doubly lucky)


(Oklahoma Sooners football coach, Bob Stoops)

Just wanted to flag an especially cogent criticism of the claim that college players *are* already getting paid, and getting paid well.

Jason Kirk, at SBNation, quotes Oklahoma Sooners’ football coach Bob Stoops about what a great deal the players are getting:

“You get room and board, and we’ll give you the best nutritionist, the best strength coach to develop you, the best tutors to help you academically, and coaches to teach you and help you develop. How much do you think it would cost to hire a personal trainer and tutor for 4-5 years?”

Kirk responds:

American colleges are overpriced almost across the board, so what about the value-conscious education shoppers among college football players? What if we whittled that number down to the actual costs of providing education, not the number the University of Oklahoma gets to charge? Are cheaper schools closer to doing players wrong because their intangible numbers are closer to zero?

What about the costs of developing football players, those coaches and trainers and nutritionists? Oklahoma isn’t providing those as a charity. That’s roster development, which is a boost for players, but it helps bring in all those millions of dollars.

Don’t act like every Sooner is a quarter-millionaire just because college costs are farcically bloated. You can’t eat a degree. You can’t trade one for something to eat, either. You can’t use college credits as loan collateral while your impoverished family, if you’ve got one of those, waits three or more years for your first NFL contract. Education is wonderful, but it has never paid a bill.

One could quibble with the last sentence and whether education pays bills. But one can’t really argue with the rest of it, especially when, as is often the case, guys use up their eligibility without getting a degree.

Sometimes, defenders of the system provided even more bloated estimates of the value of a scholarship, by dividing all of a program’s expenses by the number of players in the program and then adding that to the tuition. By this method, if the football coach gets a million dollar raise, and there are 85 scholarship players at one time, then each player has just magically got something like a $12,000 raise.

These programs are running big money sports programs and they have expenses associated with those programs. It’s not charity and it’s not complicated. And let us not forget that it’s only for essentially indefensible reasons – that players can’t enter the NFL until three years after they graduate from high school, a restriction that exists in virtually no other labor market in the United States (there are no such age restrictions in the NHL, and much different and less onerous ones in MLB and basketball). You can go off to fight a war when you’re 18, but not play pro football. And the NCAA, with an enormous financial stake in this restriction, has long colluded in it. There are plenty of players who are grateful for the opportunity that a college scholarship affords. And that’s fine. But that doesn’t change the fact that when guys like Bob Stoops – who is making $4.5 million a year, plus lots of other benefits – talk about how lucky his players are that they are not going massively into debt to play for him, it’s still self-serving claptrap.


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