Most college football fans believe that somebody paid Cam Newton or his father over $100,000 as a signing bonus to improve Auburn’s football team. Good for the Newton family. It’s time the NCAA quit taking advantage of young people, legalize signing bonuses for franchise players, and allow the rest of the country to compete with the underground practices of the Southeastern Conference (SEC).
First, the one-sided scholarship contracts between schools and student-athletes are scandalous. Student-athletes risk death, brain damage, and other permanent disability for one-year’s worth of tuition, books, and room and board. However, the schools have a two-year hold on students. If the coach reneges on his promise to play the student, the student cannot just transfer to the next school and play. No, students must wait a year. If the student ruins a knee, ankle or other critical body part? Sorry. No scholarship for you next year. At least that’s what happened to one of my clients.
Second, despite Title IX mandates, all sports are not equal. Football fans around the United States know that LaMichael James is a great football player who won a Pac 10 championship in football last year. Did you know he also helped Oregon win a Pac 10 championship in track and field? What school won the last women’s NCAA water polo championship? No, college football differs from most other sports.
Football success such as that enjoyed by Auburn and Oregon lifts the spirits of entire states and regions. It generates uncountable millions in sales of tickets, apparel, alumni donations, hotels, restaurants, etc. Cam Newton’s likeness is everywhere. If he were allowed to sell his likeness to, say, Nike, he’d have $20 million or more in his pocket tomorrow. Everybody is using him, but all he may receive is tuition, books, room, board, and incidentals.
$100,000 for Cam Newton? $200,000 for Cam Newton? That’s an f***ing bargain! If that pay to play happened, then whoever engineered it is a genius. At Oregon, our success is due to a brilliant coach who is redefining how to play football as much as Dick Fosbury revolutionized the high jump. For that, Chip Kelly was rewarded with a $20.5 million contract extension. He deserves it. He does not coach lacrosse, he coaches the Number 1 football team in the United States and is generating dollars and goodwill. At Auburn, it is Cam Newton who deserves the millions.
So what’s the answer? Legalize pay to play. Authorize each school to pay signing bonuses up to a certain cap each year. Let schools decide to pay it all to one superstar or spread it around to two or three stars.
Don’t give me any nonsense that pay to play will make the rich schools richer. The rich schools already are too rich. If anything, this will level the playing field. In the future, when a very talented teenager happens to come from a poor family, he will have more options. If Auburn and Alabama have already spent their budget, maybe he’ll attend Indiana or Illinois.
Some families need and deserve more than tuition in exchange for risking disability to earn millions for others.