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May 26, 2018

9/8/2017 7:29:00 AM
Opening week of college football exemplifies reasons for not paying players

Nick Sabato
River News reporter

Opening week of college football exemplifies reasons for not paying players

College football returned last weekend and it was as fascinating as ever. Many of the games delivered exciting games, and obviously Wisconsin fans got a treat on Friday night.

One of the burning debates in the sport right now is the question of whether college players should be paid or not. Some think they should based on the revenue generated from major college football. Others think a degree, room and board are sufficient enough, along with a ripple effect of the payment for other sports as football foots the bill for the other sports in a school's athletic department.

Supporters for the latter have an opportunity to bang the drum each year during the first weekend of college football and they often fail to do so. The first week of college football always coincides with the final week of the NFL preseason and cut-down days.

By Saturday, roughly 800 NFL players were left without a job and nearly 225 more are clinging to life as members of a practice squad.

A percentage of those cut will be on and off practice squads or NFL rosters throughout the season and maybe the next, but won't get a consistent paycheck for playing football. There is no true minor league system for the sport and arena football doesn't provide a full-time living, so those players better be prepared for life after football.

That's where a college degree comes in. Each scholarship player is afforded the chance to earn a minimum of a bachelor's degree for free. Sure, a degree doesn't guarantee a good life after school, but its provides life training and puts the graduate one step closer than those who don't have a degree.

Those who don't support paying college athletes also can use the first weekend of college football to point out all the new faces starring for their school across the country.

Unlike professional sports, which are player-driven because a star may be in the league for 10 years or more to build a fan following - college football players are only in school for three or four years, while basketball players are on campus less than that.

Sure, fans can build a slight attachment to that player and may follow him through his pro career, but fans are going to continue to support the school after he's gone. An example would be Florida during the Tim Tebow era. Tebow may have been the biggest college football star in the past 25 years, but Florida still maintains a massive fan base and had one prior to his arrival.

In college sports, it's the coach - not the star player - that is the face of the team because they are tasked with bringing in good players. Although, even the coach doesn't make a major impact on the fan base. Steve Spurrier built Florida into a national power in the 1990s and it still stands more than 15 years after he left. Ohio State continued its succes after Woody Hayes and will after Urban Meyer is gone. Penn State's fan base is as strong as ever despite everything that has happened and after Joe Paterno was let go after 46 years.

Major Division I universities are brands, similar to companies like Nike. Players serve as the advertising tool, but people stay because of the brand.

Nick Sabato may be reached at nick@lakelandtimes.com or via Twitter @SabatoNick.

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