Michael Lewis, author of "The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game," has a terrific op-ed piece in the New York Times titled "Serfs of the Turf." Oh, how college football players are getting screwed. Writes Lewis:
"At this moment there are thousands of big-time college football players, many of whom are black and poor. They perform for the intense pleasure of millions of rabid college football fans, many of whom are rich and white. The world’s most enthusiastic racially integrated marketplace is waiting to happen.
"But between buyer and seller sits the National Collegiate Athletic Association, to ensure that the universities it polices keep all the money for themselves — to make sure that the rich white folk do not slip so much as a free chicken sandwich under the table to the poor black kids. The poor black kids put up with it because they find it all but impossible to pursue NFL careers unless they play at least three years in college. Less than one percent actually sign professional football contracts and, of those, an infinitesimal fraction ever make serious money. But their hope is eternal, and their ignorance exploitable."
Lewis lays out an argument for college players being paid. Using a rough formula, he says Texas would have paid Vince Young roughly $5 million for the 2005 season. "In quarterbacking the Longhorns free of charge, Young, in effect, was making a donation to the university of $5 million a year — and also, by putting his health on the line, taking a huge career risk."
Lewis writes that under this system, those players who wish "to enjoy the pure amateur experience can continue to play for free."
On a sidenote, here is a link to an interview last year with Lewis, Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders and the Wiz on the Public Radio International show "Open Source With Christopher Lydon."
Thanks to Greg and Kevin of We Are Penn State.