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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

January 6, 2014 at 6:23 PM

Paying college athletes: NCAA’s a cartel, college not a minor league and the role of scholarships

Auburn's Tre Mason runs during the first half of the NCAA BCS National Championship college football game against Florida State Monday in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Auburn’s Tre Mason runs during the first half of the NCAA BCS National Championship college football game against Florida State Monday in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

On Monday, guest columnist Richard O. Zerbe wrote, “Colleges should be allowed to pay athletes. The players risk injury, devote considerable time, may forego earnings while playing and will not, in most cases, be able to play professional ball.” This prompted quite a few readers to write in with their perspectives:

NCAA is a cartel

Editor, The Times:

Richard O. Zerbe was persuasive about the economic case for paying college athletes [“It’s time to pay NCAA athletes,” Opinion, Jan. 6]. And beyond economics, there is justice.

Consider this hypothetical: suppose manufacturers who use skilled engineers and machinists to build airplanes agreed among themselves to systematically underpay those employees — in effect diverting more profits to the company. Notice that if all manufacturers joined in such a cartel, highly specialized engineers and machinists would have limited employment options elsewhere.

Obviously, we would be shocked at such an arrangement, and, it would plainly constitute a felony under antitrust laws. It is a fair question to ask why we should allow universities to use the skills of our young athletes to entertain the public, but to agree among themselves (through the NCAA) not to pay those athletes? This diverts to the universities (and TV networks, coaches, etc.) the significant profits that result.

William R. Andersen, UW School of Law, Seattle

College not a minor league

Missing from Richard O. Zerbe’s guest column is an understanding of the function of a university.

Something must have changed in the years since my collegiate experience. Then a university’s purpose was to educate and prepare young students for productive, intelligent futures. This always included those participating in athletics as well.

The idea of paying athletes for services is ludicrous. A university is not a minor league for professional sports. Athletes should be held to the same standards as other students and should be respected for their skills on and off the field.

Acquiring a degree while participating in athletics is not an easy task, but it does prepare a student for the rigors of post-collegiate life. Those seeking careers in professional sports should pursue training in minor leagues, leaving the university positions open for students.

John Lell, Seattle

What about scholarships?

In Richard O. Zerbe’s reference to the National Championship Game, he states, “The NCAA will make money on the broadcast rights, the networks will make money from ad sales and the schools will make money on ticket sales. The players won’t be paid.”

I find it interesting that the cost of an athlete’s scholarship is not considered as any form of “payment.” As the expenses to obtain a higher education continue to go up, I would think that the value of a full ride is worth something.

Dick Rosenwald, Mercer Island

0 Comments | More in Sports | Topics: college football, NCAA

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