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Letter to the Editor: Give some of college football’s obscene millions to the players

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

It may be time to start paying college football players. Not college basketball players, though. They have it easy, by comparison.

College basketball generates huge money, like college football. But basketball players don’t take the beating that foot ball players do. Also, college basketball stars can turn professional after one year of college.

“One and done,” it’s called. All the big-time programs have athletes that go that route.

For football, it’s different. Footballers have to be three years out of high school before they are eligible for the pro draft. Of course, the NFL teams could sign players early and develop them instead of letting the colleges do that for them. But college football is popular, and fans love the sport.

As it is now, college football serves as a minor league of sorts for the NFL. But with one key caveat – college players don’t get paid.

College players are rolling the dice, so to speak. They are gambling to a large degree on a pro career at some point.

Maybe a pro career happens, but maybe it doesn’t. Nothing is guaranteed.

Yet, what about all that moolah the college ball teams generate? Who gets that cash?

At present, the loot is distributed to the colleges themselves. All the cash goes to build magnificent, state-of-the-art training facilities and opulent athletic housing. Oh, and a good bit of the loot goes to pay coaches.

Jimbo Fisher just signed a $75 million contract to coach the Texas A&M Aggies. That’s obscene, yet that’s where we are.

Top assistants earn upward of $1 million a year. Crazy. College football used to make sense. It doesn’t really make sense any more.

College players used to be regular student-athletes. They played ball in season, but during the off-season they hung out. They attended class. They went to university functions. Mostly, they lived in athletic dorms, but those dorms were spartan. Today at the big-time college football programs, the players are pros-in-waiting. Or future pros-in-training.

If the NFL wants to pump millions into a farm system and start paying elite players at age 18, that would be OK. But again, college football is popular with the masses. It’s entertainment for regular folks.

Would a college system that required players to become actual student-athletes again and attend college all four years be as popular? What if the caliber of pros suffered greatly? What if the very best players were all toiling away in the NFL’s developmental league? What then?

Clearly, what exists at present is not only unsustainable long-term, it is grotesque even now.

Twenty million dollars on campus dining halls like what exists at Alabama is but one example of the grotesque nature of college football. These are 18-, 19- and 20-year-old young men. 

They shouldn’t dress out in $10 million locker rooms. Give me a break.

Yet all the cash has to go somewhere. The rules are the rules. The rules right now are laughable, really. Pay the players and get it over with already. Pay them 3 grand a month or 4 grand a month or whatever.

Put them in ordinary dining halls of the sort used by ordinary students. Also, house in them in regular dormitories of the sort that regular students use. 

If the players want to send the money home to Mama or if they want to drive around campus in a Jag, that’s their choice. 

It’s ridiculous, for sure. Still, where we are is ridiculous already. It’s swapping one ridiculous scene for another. Pay them and get it over with.

ROBERT PEELE

Rocky Mount

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