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College Football Thursday: Paying College Athletes
By Matt Horkman

The idea of paying college athletes was once an absurdity. For better or worse, though, some of the public is beginning to rethink their stance on the issue. The outcry for paying college athletes is louder now than ever. 

The argument is picking up steam because of the revenue universities are generating from their athletic department. Basketball and football stand at the center of the debate. According to the USA Today, 13 schools generated $100 million in revenue in 2012. Including those 13 schools, 52 schools generated at least $50 million in revenue.

You can attribute television deals for this high of number. The DVR has led to many Americans recording their favorite shows. In addition, many prefer to stream their favorite shows using HBO GO or Netflix. Sports continue to stand the test of time, however. As we did 40 years ago, we watch sports live. A live sporting event remains one of the few things unaffected by instant streaming and recording devices.

As a result, television is bringing in the big bucks. For example, the NFL’s current television deal with NBC, CBS, FOX, and ESPN is huge. According to Forbes, it’s worth as much as $27 billion.

It’s not just pros where this is happening, though. Major networks are collaborating with the major conferences to bring college football and basketball to your televisions every week. Diehard fans will watch their favorite team no mater which channel they appear on, but networks want to attract casual fans to their telecasts. And they do that by promoting specific players.

Ask yourself this: Did you care about Texas A&M football prior to Johnny Manziel?

You probably didn‘t, but Manziel made them a big-money draw. You watched Alabama and Texas A&M earlier this year because of him. You didn’t buy a Texas A&M No. 2 jersey because of former wide receiver Earvin Taylor. You bought that jersey because of Manziel. Last year, because of the exposure that comes with winning a Heisman, a study estimated that Manziel’s win generated $37 million for Texas A&M.

The NCAA believes paying college players would be absurd, yet the evidence is somewhat compelling. The logistics of the issue, however, remains unsettled for a variety of reasons.

Paying players, for example, gives them the right to seek advice. Theoretically, they could hire agents, who could advise a respective player to holdout for more money. Imagine the power somebody in Manziel’s shoes would hold over a program. We see holdouts frequently in the NFL. Do we really want to see them apart of college football?

Another obstacle in the way is deciding how much to pay each player. In other words, is it fair to pay a football player a six-figure salary, while a girl’s volleyball player makes below the poverty level? I suppose you could let the free market decide, but then you open the door for universities bidding against each other for a respective player’s services. Alabama could outbid Baylor for the next Robert Griffin III. You’re changing recruiting forever.

When would it stop?

In many ways, athletes are already receiving compensation. It costs a lot of money to attend college today. The cost of going to college has surged since the late 1970s to well over $10,000 per year. Some estimates put it at around $15,000.

Despite what those on the side of paying college athletes suggest, players are receiving compensation for performing in college athletics. They’re getting an education at a prestigious university at a time when having a college degree is vital to thriving in the twenty-first century American economy. This is no a minor incentive.

Perhaps the current system needs refining. The NCAA definitely should undo some of their strictest rules. If a player wants to charge his or her peers for their autograph, let them. It’s their signature. If somebody wants to offer free tattoos to football players, let them. That’s their business and money out of their pocketbooks. Why should the NCAA care?

College athletics is amateur sports. The moment you pay a salary to an amateur athlete is the moment they stop being amateur athletes. They’ll be professional athletes instead.

Draft Watch
Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Outlook: You won’t find a more debatable prospect in 2014 than Manziel. The college football standout is incredibly elusive in the pocket. He’ll turn a sack into a 10-yard gain with his ability to scramble. His arm strength was leaps and bounds better in 2013 than it was in 2012. This suggests that his arm strength can (and will) improve in the pros. While under pressure, he’ll look to run instead of keeping his eyes downfield. This is a habit he must break in order to have a successful NFL career. I’ve heard commentators compare him to Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson. I disagree with that observation. In my view, Manziel’s decision-making and run-first mentality makes him more comparable to Michael Vick.

Stock: Down

Couch Potato Lineup
Last Week: 1-2
Season Record: 22-17

SEC Championship: No. 3 Auburn vs. No. 5 Missouri
Time/TV: 4:00 PM EST, CBS
Prediction: An unlikely SEC championship, Auburn may enter the game as favorites, but their opponent matches up well against them. Auburn doesn’t have a great secondary, while Missouri may have the second best receiving tandem in the SEC with L’Damian Washington and Dorial Green-Beckham. The Tigers ‘receiving duo are both big and athletic, so Missouri will look to use their athleticism on the outside to their advantage. In addition, Missouri plays quality defense. They do a good job of pressuring the quarterback and forcing turnovers. The benefit for Auburn, however, is speed in their backfield. They should be able to take pressure off quarterback Nick Marshall by running the ball. Plus, his athleticism will allow him to keep plays alive, though Auburn isn’t a passing team. Outdoors and in sloppy conditions, I’d give the edge to Missouri. But the Georgia Dome turf should allow Auburn’s running game to electrify a national audience.

Auburn 38 Missouri 34

Pac-12 Championship: No. 7 Stanford at No. 11 Arizona State
Time/TV: 7:45 PM EST, ESPN
Prediction: A rematch of a September meeting, Arizona State enters the weekend winners of seven consecutive games. The Cardinal did beat them in their earlier meeting (42-28), but that was before quarterback Taylor Kelly got hot. QTaylor Kellyuietly, the Sun Devil quarterback has put up All-Conference caliber numbers this season en route to leading his team to 30-plus points eight of nine games. Both teams have outstanding young receivers. Stanford’s Ty Montgomery is an all-purpose player, who scored two touchdowns against ASU earlier this season. Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong, meanwhile, reminds me of Terrell Owens. He’s big, fast, and makes plays downfield. Another factor is Arizona State’s strength at home. They’re 7-0 in home games this season, although officiating assisted them in their victory over Wisconsin. Regardless, they’re a different team at home particularly on offense, where they’re averaging about 49 points per game. On a neutral field, I’d be inclined to pick Stanford because of their physicality, but ASU is just too good at home. Look for them to pull the upset, earning a trip to their first Rose Bowl since 1997.

Arizona State 33 Stanford 28

Big Ten Championship: No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 10 Michigan State
Time/TV: 8:17 PM EST, FOX
Prediction: A victory over Michigan State and the Buckeyes will play for the national title. A one-loss Auburn or Missouri will not leapfrog an unbeaten team from a major conference. Before Ohio State fans begin to celebrate, though, they should be weary of Michigan State. The Spartans have the best defense in the Big Ten, maybe the entire country. They’re big, physical, and athletic. This makes for an interesting matchup, as Ohio State’s offense is the best in the conference. They’re lowest scoring output of the season was 34 against Iowa. Lucas Oil Stadium’s turf could be a benefit to their athleticism. Nevertheless, Michigan State‘s front four is nasty. They get off the ball fast, so they have the ability to offset Ohio State‘s speed by disrupting their timing. This’ll lead to uncharacteristic turnovers from the Buckeyes, and more importantly, a Michigan State victory.

Michigan State 27 Ohio State 24

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