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Also on NPR...



I think we have to be honest with ourselves here, until they go pro, athletes are systematically exploited in America. High school and college popularity are no substitute for stability and preparation for the future. It's especially tragic because athletes are typically also academically least prepared as students. We should all watch "Hoop Dreams" again.


I think the biggest detriment to no restrictions on paying student-athletes is the safety of the players and boosters.

For example, what happens if booster A gives player A $10,000 before the big bowl game. Then player A cost his team the game with seconds left. I'm pretty sure booster A, and some of them are white collar Suge Knight-types, wouldn't be happy.

Similarly, what if booster A promises $10,000 to player A if they win said bowl game and he's the MVP. Then player A, being a Maurice Clarett/gun-toting-type, decides after the game that he wants $20,000.

Will there have to be contracts in place for these types of rewards?


The purpose of the NCAA is not to ensure competitive balance but to build a firewall between the academic purity of the ivory tower and the messy and ethically questionable world of big money college sports. Let's not forget that the NCAA is run by school presidents and chancellors -- we've met the enemy, and it's us, in other words.

The future model for the men's college football and basketball is men's crew. Men's crew is not an NCAA sport (women's crew is) -- Men's crew has its own association (the IRA). The University of Washington men's crew, for instance, is supported by donations from boosters, including all scholarships. Those scholarships do not count against Title-IX, since men's crew is essentially a self-supporting club sport. There is nothing stopping men's football and basketball from following the exact same course.

That could open up the ability to pay fair stipends to players, in that player scholarships would be paid directly by boosters, not the school. You could allow agents to pay players starting in their second or third year (sophomore eligibility), which would alleviate the need for boosters to pay them.


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  • I'm a writer for the New Yorker magazine, and the author of four books, "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference", "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking" and "Outliers: The Story of Success." My latest book, "What the Dog Saw" is a compilation of stories published in The New Yorker. I was born in England, and raised in southwestern Ontario in Canada. Now I live in New York City.

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