“I tell my guys all the time…you’re not the first one to spend a hungry Sunday without any money.” And just like that, legendary University of Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops, who earned over four (4) million dollars last year in (the first year of a 8 year $39 million guaranteed contract), appears to not sympathize with the financial struggles of his own players. In fact, Stoops makes it very clear that he disagrees with providing college athletes — the source of his wealth — even modest stipends and that he believes the current collegiate model works, proclaiming “You get room and board, and we’ll give you the best nutritionist, the best strength coach to develop you, the best tutors to help you academically, and coaches to teach you and help you develop. How much do you think it would cost to hire a personal trainer and tutor for 4-5 years? I don’t get why people say these guys don’t get paid. It’s simple, they are paid quite often, quite a bit and quite handsomely.”
Now as much as I respect Coach Stoops, I strongly disagree with his position because:
- Major college athletes, who generate BILLIONS of dollars in revenue for their colleges and the college sports business complex, deserve full labor rights, which should include pensions, lifetime health care for injuries sustained in college, the ability to profit off their names and likenesses, and, of course, a reasonable salary for services rendered.
- It is an American right to be justly compensated for your labor, and no matter how anyone tries to spin it, the current system is unjust, un-American, and unethical. In fact, the current collegiate system is more akin to the sharecropping and peonage farming system that exploited millions of Americans in a by-gone era.hes to teach you and help you develop. How much do you think it would cost to hire a personal trainer and tutor for 4-5 years?” How many of you believe that Coach Stoops would forgo his 5.7 MILLION DOLLAR Salary for the next “4-5 years” in exchange for “free” housing, transportation, food, medical insurance, etc.
Now let me be very clear: I don’t have a major problem with top coaches making top dollar. Why? Because the coaches EARN every penny they receive through hard work, long hours, and raising tons revenue and prestige for their universities. My issue is that since major college athletes (most of which are Black young men from poor inner-city communities) work just as hard, work just as many hours, and bring in just as much, if not more, revenue and prestige to the universities as their coaches, I see no reasonable justification for denying those college athletes full labor rights — including an equitable share of the revenue they produce, as is enjoyed by everyone else associated with the collegiate sports industry.
In fact, any reasonable person who believes that the current collegiate athletic model is just cannot possibly understand how the system actually works. For example, most people do not know and/or understand the six issues outlined below:
- According to the seminal study, “The Price of Poverty in Big Time College Sports,” the average D-1 “full ride scholarship” student-athlete is actually required to pay an additional $3,222.00 annually to his or her university, and 85% of D-1 “full scholarship” student-athletes live below the U.S. poverty level.
- While players can’t earn one cent for advertising and marketing themselves, the schools and the NCAA are free to utilize the student-athletes’ names and likenesses to endorse any product or company and then to reap the resulting financial benefits.
- While players are prohibited from having legal counsel to help them make decisions, coaches, athletic directors, athletic departments, and the NCAA all have agents and legal counsel who advise them about their legal rights and negotiate on their behalf.
- While players cannot accept gifts — even money for groceries — coaches are allowed (and demand) to accept lavish perks like free cars, private plane rides, and free meals for themselves and their family members every time they go out to eat.
- While players can’t be compensated for making personal appearances, the schools encourage and/or require players to make media and community appearances for which the schools are then compensated and the student-athletes are given excused absences from class and simple “thank-yous.”
- The four-year scholarship that every high school football player dreams about receiving is actually a one (1)-year financial aid package that is renewable at the institution’s sole discretion and that can be revoked for lack of on-field production alone.
Further, while people like Coach Stoops may believe that being hungry while generating billions of dollars in revenue for others is an acceptable situation for collegiate athletes. The reality is that the current system college athletes are being forced to face potentially life-altering choices simply because they are broke and hungry.
Take the recent shocking example involving former Kansas State University’s basketball player, Jamar Samuels, whose collegiate career came to an abrupt and publicly humiliating end last year because Samuels, a poor inner-city kid without any family to provide him needed support, requested and accepted from his former AAU basketball coach the sum of $200.00 simply to enable him buy groceries . . . because his “full” scholarship didn’t cover all of his basic necessities — like food!!
In closing, the NCAA should openly acknowledge that the highly commercialized D-1 college game that is currently accepted and promoted by the NCAA actually conflicts with the NCAA’s own stated core values concerning “student-athletes” and “amateurism.” This patent conflict requires that massive reforms be implemented. Lastly, maybe if coaches like Coach Stoops had to forgo their multi-million dollar salaries in exchange for “free housing, transportation, food, etc” they would be more inclined to support the full labor rights of their athletes.
Attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons, is the managing partner of SolomonSimmonsSharrock & Associates law firm and a former D-1 football player at the University of Oklahoma. He regularly writes and lectures about, sports, public policy, and social justice. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.facebook.com/solospeaks.