The recent LeBron James flap has reignited talk of paying college athletes. Ok, maybe I’m a starry-eyed idealist, but count me dead set against.
The fundamental argument for paying college athletes is that they produce a lot of revenue for the college and the athletes should share in the bounty. I think the math on this topic is quite suspect and that once the cost of facilities is included most football programs and many basketball programs lose money.
Let’s ignore the money question and take a look at the participation numbers for football and basketball. There are over 300 Division 1 mens basketball teams, over 100 Division 1 football teams and only 29 NBA teams and 30 NFL teams. Keeping in mind that a Division 1 roster is about twice the size of an NFL roster, fewer than 10% of these college athletes will make a living as a professional. To my way of thinking that means that over 90% are student-athletes not athletes (whether they know it or not). And letting the needs of the athletes outweigh the needs of the student-athletes is letting the tail wag the dog.