Frank Martin Weighs In On Paying AthletesPosted by nvr1983 on August 24th, 2011
Over the past few months there has been quite a bit of discussion about the possibility that schools might pay their athletes (legally) in the near future based on reports that the Big Ten was looking into the option. The topic has been discussed ad nauseum by administrators, pundits, and fans weighing in on both sides of the debate with the majority apparently favoring a system where players get paid. Interestingly, one group that has been noticeably silent is the coaches. Outside of a small group of football coaches in the SEC who supported paying players very few coaches have gone on the record about the topic. To our knowledge the few college basketball who have spoken out on the issue like Mike Krzyzewski and John Calipari have been supportive of the idea (ok, Calipari’s ideas go a bit beyond supportive). Today, one prominent college basketball coach, Frank Martin, came out against the idea in a pair of tweets (#1 and #2) earlier this afternoon.
Martin, who has long been known for his antics on the court, isn’t as well known for his views on policy issues, but it appears that he feels pretty strongly on the topic of paying players. While his stance may go against popular opinion, he does make a good point that paying athletes creates its own problems notably a more uneven playing field even if the more cynical (or possibly realistic) fans think that the big-money schools are already paying players while the smaller schools are left to work with the players who are happy just to get some money off their college tuition. It also could make the act of paying athletes beyond whatever the set amount is a less significant offense in the eyes of booster and program administrators creating a slippery slope where increasing payments could be seen as insignificant offenses.
On the other hand, Martin’s proposal to develop a club system creates a completely different and potentially much bigger problem: separating the athletics program from the school. On a theoretical level, it is feasible, but outside of the hardcore general sports fans it is hard to imagine that students will fill up the student section (or whatever they would be called) for a team that isn’t affiliated with its school with the passion they do for a team that wears their colors. It is true that some professional sports teams are able to maintain rabid fan bases just by their geographic location with the Boston Red Sox and Green Bay Packers being two well-known examples, but individuals who have been to big-time college and professional sporting events realize that the atmosphere is quite different between the two and most would give the edge to college sports. On a technical level college sports cannot compete with professional sports, which essentially select the most technically adept college athletes and make them compete for professional jobs. What college sports do have is a level of passion that is virtually unmatched in professional sports at least in this country. Putting a barrier between the fans and the athletes, which the creation of a club system would do, would put that at risk and has the potential to marginalize college sports to a degree that could put the entire model at risk.