Friday, March 20, 2015

Why We Don't "Pay" the Kids

I have a question for you today: If Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker, Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig and Josh Gasser played on a Second Division professional team called the Madison Mudpuppies that was coached by General Manager Bo Ryan would you watch their games?  Would you be excited to watch them perhaps face the Lexington, Kentucky Lynx--the top farm club of the Philadelphia 76ers with their ten guys who will all likely be called up to the big club next year--in the semi-finals of the National Minor League Championship Playoffs?  I bet you wouldn't.  I bet you would have no interest in watching any of the 63 knockout games that would played to determine the best non-NBA professional team in the country if such a tournament existed--even if they had cool brackets that allowed you to make picks beforehand and teams that maybe didn't do so well in their own league beat higher-rated teams from other leagues and they gave it a catchy name like March Mayhem.

I bring this up because the issue of paying NCAA basketball players is going around again following a hilarious skit by John Oliver last weekend on his HBO show Last Week Tonight where he takes the NCAA and the Men's Basketball Tournament to task for producing billions of dollars of revenue that do not result in any direct cash payments (none that are legal anyway) to the players themselves:

When you consider the billions that NCAA basketball generates (and even more coming in from football), don't you think some enterprising private sector entrepreneurs would have figured out a way to get at least a share of that?  Where are the 15 or 20 money men who get together and say "Let's get these very same guys to come play for us, where they can make some money, not have to pretend to go to classes and never have to worry about being suspended because their coach wanted to buy them lunch"?

Well I can tell you why that doesn't--and likely will never--happen: When it comes to intercollegiate sports, the name on the FRONT of the jersey is the only one that matters to fans.  And given the choice of watching--and paying to watch--non-NBA and non-NFL teams made up of paid athletes signed by a team or teams made up of unpaid enrollees at a school--the unpaid enrollees are going to win every time.  And if you don't think that is true, then name for me three players on our "hometown" minor league baseball team the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.  Or three players the Milwaukee Bucks have under development contracts in the D-League.  Most of those guys could still be playing collegiate ball--but they wanted to get paid cash for their talents--and so they toil away in relative anonymity.--where any of the NCAA athletes who feel that the current system is "unfair" to them can also choose to work anytime they want.

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