I love to watch my two favorite sports of professional football and college basketball.   There is nothing more exciting to me than the Super Bowl and the “March Madness” of the NCAA Basketball Tournament.

Even though I understand that big time sports generate big time money, I still like to believe that the athletes play for the love of the game.   Of course, I know that this is no longer as true as it may have once been in the world of professional football; however, I resist the idea that college players should be paid as if they were professionals rather than college students.

I have read the arguments that colleges and universities with major sports programs generate a ton of money from their student athletes and that these athletes should be financially rewarded beyond the standard scholarships.  These arguments are presented both under the guise of some new fairness doctrine or with racial undertones based on the fact that many of the student athletes are minorities.

I suppose that the premise behind these arguments is that a free college education is an insufficient reward given the amount of money generated from these sports programs.   The implication is that the college or university benefits from the sports program disproportionately to the amount of money spent on scholarships.  The ultimate conclusion of these arguments is that the sports programs at colleges and universities should be looked at more as a separate business rather than as an integral part of the school experience.

I simply can’t subscribe to that argument.   First, I believe that a free college education is vastly more valuable than the marketable skills of even a fine athlete as you cannot put a price on knowledge or the benefits of having an educated mind.   Further, I believe that the money generated by successful sports programs with skilled athletes is a great way to subsidize the costs of operating, particularly, private colleges and universities.   This extra money allows them to engage in such things as research, extending merit scholarships to gifted students, giving financial aid to needy students, funding all the other less glamorous collegiate sports programs, and all the other ways that great institutions of higher learning help their communities and our country.

If the major collegiate sports programs were run like a business, you could imagine the day when they try to outbid each other for the best athletes and we see student athletes commanding million dollar paydays to play college sports.   This is a path we should not venture down as there is no telling where it will take us.  I do think, however, that the system can be improved and made more equitable.  The schools should try harder to make sure that student athletes receive a meaningful education instead of just warehousing them.  Also, if the athlete is injured playing his sport, his scholarship should continue so that he can complete his education and, perhaps, there should be disability benefits offered for physical and vocational rehabilitation.

Let the skilled student athlete be first and foremost a student who contributes to the well being of his school and the community.

On Wednesday, Joe advises to beware of the false pretenses of others and instead to seek the truth in “The Emperor Has No Clothes”.