Feb 112003
Authors: Luke Cornish

Is it just me, or is LeBron James getting the media attention usually reserved for overweight interns with dirty dresses and a fetish for cheap cigars?

I mean what’s the big deal about a 6-foot-8, 240-pound high school kid who can dunk from the free-throw line and fills seats better than Jerry Seinfeld? So what if he’s dissing the time-honored tradition of letting your athletic prowess get you a free ride through college?

Well, his decision to pick a shoe contract instead of a dorm room has opened up a new can of worms, much to the delight of the afternoon sports show hosts. Should college athletes get paid?

The number of journalists lining for both sides of the argument would make the line outside Sundance on a Tuesday night look like a pro-Bush rally in Iraq. The fact is there are plenty of reasons on both sides.

Pro: Universities make mucho dinero from their athletic programs. Asides from the television rights and ticket sales, the schools that get the most alumni support coincidentally also have the best athletic programs.

Con: Getting a free education can be worth more than $60,000 for an out-of-state student who stays the whole four years (add on more if, like most CSU students, the athlete stays for their fifth or sixth year).

Pro: With the lure of the big cash from the majors so tempting, schools are going to have to reimburse their hardworking student-athletes just to remain competitive.

Con: The universities are giving free training and national exposure to these soon-to-be superstars who will indubitably end up earning more in a year than most of their co-students will earn in their lifetimes.

I’m not here to argue for one side or the other; I just think that if it is going to be done (and it might have to be) then this is how they should do it.

Money should be put into four separate accounts for each sport, one for each graduating class. When the graduating class walks, they get to split the cash from their tenure at the university. This would reward those who aren’t going to skip out on school early and sign multi-million dollar contracts with big name teams.

This is where it might get a little complicated, bear with me. The money should be split as a function of how much the athlete played, how many times they lettered and how much they started. How’s that for adding a little more competitive pressure in the now all-to-friendly practices?

In all honesty, none of the universities are in a hurry to start paying the students what they’re worth. It’s not like I am being rewarded adequately for my God-given writing ability.

There’s just one thing that has failed to be mentioned: Where’s the money going to come from? It’s not like the athletic departments and the universities have a mattress under which they store all this extra cash.

Truth is, in these tough economic times, that sports teams are lucky to be a priority that will continue to be funded through steep higher education budget cuts.

Luke is a senior journalism major.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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