Gary Pinkel, perhaps riding the wave of public discontent toward the NCAA, took to his blog yesterday to advocate for paying college athletes.
The Missouri football coach joined a growing chorus around college football and specifically his school's new Southeastern Conference that support paying student athletes some kind of stipend. Pinkel doesn't elucidate on how much college athletes should get paid.
As justification, Pinkel pointed toward the billions of dollars pouring into college athletics. But most of those dollars don't reach student athletes after the cash has been filtered through the deep pockets of athletic department administrators and coaches like Pinkel himself.
Pinkel has a guaranteed salary of $2.35 million a year through 2017. Pinkel at least acknowledged that football players get full-ride scholarships to play football and attend classes, not an insignificant form of compensation given the runaway rise in college tuition rates and the fact that most other college students rack up burdensome levels of debt to get an education.
"You know, the billions and billions of dollars that are out there. And I think that football and basketball at most universities at our level - the BCS level - most pay for the entire athletics budgets," Pinkel said on his blog. "And our players are getting room and board, books, tuition. Which is fine. They are certainly getting their education, which is important. But I think also we can give them additional money per semester or per quarter to help them and pay them back for all their sacrifices. Back in the day, players would get summer jobs, wouldn't work out year round. Our guys work out year round, and they're going to school to get their degree. But certainly I think we should give them more money."
Pinkel timed his comments in a year in which the NCAA has wallowed in bad public relations. The organization that oversees college athletics has been clinging to the notion that student athletes should retain the amateur status, even though it's clear that the NCAA has been caught making money directly off the backs of student athletes themselves.
Perhaps the most infamous example came when ESPN college basketball announcer Jay Bilas was perusing the NCAA's online store and found that if he typed "Manziel" in the search bar, the website would take you to a bunch of Texas A&M football jerseys emblazoned with the number 2 (the same number that current Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel wears) for sale for various prices.
The episode was a major embarrassment for the NCAA, which shortly thereafter decided to stop selling college sports jerseys, for two reasons. One, it showed that while it doesn't want student athletes profiting from their performance on the football field or basketball court, the NCAA didn't mind making a buck off those athletes for itself. Two, Bilas' disclosure came right around the time the NCAA was investigating Manziel for pocketing money from autograph brokers (the NCAA later punished Manziel, ordering that he sit on the bench for the first half of Texas A&M's season opener against Rice).
Incidentally, Manziel ended up on the cover of the current edition of Time magazine under the subheading, "It's time to pay college athletes."
Anyway, Pinkel's comments perhaps make him feel more at home with his SEC brethren. South Carolina University football coach Steve Spurrier said in 2011 that college athletes should get paid. SEC commissioner Mike Slive repeated that charge earlier this summer.