Last week, college football players from Georgia Tech, Georgia, and Northwestern donned the letters APU on towels, tape, and game worn gear to raise awareness for player rights, such as concussion testing and research, likeness issues, medical expenses and food, and my bad, I almost forgot, compensation. The letters stand for "All Players United", and were worn most notably by Georgia Tech starting quarterback Vad Lee, and Northwestern starting quarterback Kain Colter. The "pay for play" dilemma in college athletics is at an all time high, especially with the ongoing Ed O'Bannon lawsuit and a guy we like to call Johnny Football. I understand the desire to pay these athletes, but Vad Lee and Kain Colter, two of college football's leaders in this movement, should be more thankful for the opportunity they have.
My guess is that these two don't pay tuition and are on scholarship at their respective universities. Northwestern happens to be ranked #12 by US News and World Report, with Georgia Tech being ranked #36. Both get to lead two successful college football programs on to the field each week, probably living a life long dream to get to play football at the highest collegiate level. You have vast access to academic support structures that most students do not have. Both will leave college, even if they do not get drafted, without student loans and debt because of their scholarships. And oh, I almost forgot again, they probably didn't have the grades most NARPs (non athletic regular people) had to get accepted into that school.
I'll put it in more simple terms. Both go to one of the top universities in the country, hell you could say the world, for free and get to play the game that they love. Isn't that pretty good compensation? In a non revenue producing sport like wrestling, it's easier to understand the amateurism the NCAA preaches, but even for these athletes in a major college football program, I see the movement as somewhat unnecessary.
Only two percent of college football players will get a chance to play in the NFL, or National Football League, or "Not For Long". They have been given the opportunity to prove they can play at the next level by getting to play at a NCAA Division 1 institution, but if no team comes calling, they only get a degree from an outstanding university. That Northwestern degree will really hurt Colter's chances of finding work if he can't play in the NFL.
The key is that most college football programs give kids the opportunity to go to schools they might not be able to attend otherwise, for free, and walk out with a degree. Yes, some players have family situations where they feel the necessity to help out. Yes, players with injuries can lose scholarships. Yes, there are dangers to playing college athletics. These issues do not involve "pay for play". The player whose family needs the money, well they just sent their child to a remarkable university for free. The player who loses his scholarship should still receive that scholarship money if the injury was football related, so that rule should change. The danger...you signed up to play, so you understood that already.
Johnny Football's don't grow on trees. For every Johnny Football there are countless others who quietly play four years and graduate with a degree, never to play again. Texas A&M gave Johnny Football the opportunity to play. They thought he could be good, but they think every recruit they bring in can be good. The fact of the matter is that most of those recruits won't play again after college. That degree and having four years of football will go a long way towards getting a job and future opportunities they might not have had without that institution taking a chance on them.
Maybe they should consider how getting paid would affect the chemistry student at their institution doing independent research, who takes on loans to go school and needs institutional aid to complete his study. Maybe that kid is a future Noble prize winner. Maybe he helps come up with better solutions for the energy crisis. Or maybe the money you're getting paid, which some of will get wasted by players who aren't genuinely thankful to receive it, will prevent him from getting all the necessary materials to complete his study, or maybe it prevents him from going to school at all.