Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.
Never before has the topic of amateurism in college sports coursed so pervasively throughout the sports-watching community. It’s not just writers and intellectuals weighing in, but also fans and players, all of whom seem to believe the system is somehow unfair, or headed for change, or at the very least won’t survive the impending Ed O’Bannon lawsuit without some type of meaningful update. Coaches are sharing their thoughts too, and in the past week, two of college basketball’s most prominent head men have spoken up about the changing athletic climate revenue-producing Division I athletes inhabit today. Florida coach Billy Donovan understands the apparent paradox baked into amateurism’s core philosophy. When athletic departments are guzzling at the fire hose of football and television-related revenue, and student-athletes receive nothing more than the thousands covering their room, board and tuition, a disconnect is not only obvious for outsiders. It’s difficult to reconcile even for the student-athletes, who for years accepted college sports’ wage-fixing mechanism as an ironclad part of the collegiate athletic experience.
“There is a feel by a lot of families that here you have these huge athletic departments, you have arenas, stadiums filled up and these kids are told, you can’t go out and you can’t take a free meal, you can’t take anything,” Donovan said. “A lot of times for those kids, I think it’s very difficult to swallow that.”
That quote comes from The Gainesville Sun, who recorded Donovan’s words while he spoke at the Capital City Area Gator Club last week.
At a different public speaking event in Birmingham on Monday – note to high-profile college basketball coaches who have agreed to speak in a public forum, it’s best to assume every word coming our of your mouth will not only be recorded and transcribed, but disseminated across the Internet and published in tomorrow’s paper – Michigan State’s Tom Izzo gave his opinion on a more specific issue related to player compensation in college sports: the $2,000 stipend NCAA president Mark Emmert proposed, but failed to garner the amount of votes required for passage. “I think something should be done, but I think it should be done for the right reasons,” Izzo said. “I like the theory of some type of stipend and if they graduate it, they get it. I don’t want it to be where some of the local stores, like Best Buy, gives a kid more money.”