After browsing through Netflix one dreary Ann Arbor night, I came upon an interesting sounding documentary that just so happened to directly relate to the readings we discussed in lecture. Schooled: The Price of College Sports is an engaging and convincing documentary that surrounds the topic of monetary compensation toward all collegiate athletes. Schooled follows the journey of many different college athletes, specifically football and basketball players, telling their story in the hopes of sparking some thought on this important topic. This documentary mentions the Ed O’Bannon case, something that was discussed earlier on in the course in Dispatches from the NCAA’s Deathbed, which shows the perils of an individual’s identity in college. Whether for or against the topic of payment of college athletes, Schooled makes a compelling case justifying direct compensation toward players and the inescapability of rewarding college players in the future.
The documentary opens with the story of Johnathan Franklin, former UCLA Bruin and Green Bay Packer running back who advocates for the compensation of college athletes. Franklin accounts a typical day as a college football player:
2pm-315pm: team meeting
When asked what he gets in return for his busy schedule, Franklin replies, “scholarship, dorm to live in, food to eat. And, uh, that’s it.” Clearly bitter about his lack of payment, Franklin, like many other college athletes, believes he is used for promotion and deserves more for his contribution. One player goes as far to say that college athletes are indentured servants who are exploited and not compensated for their time as college athletes. However, monetary compensation brings up many questions and concerns regarding payment. Who gets paid? How much should each player get paid? Which sports deserve direct payment and who decides this? How would this affect the individual’s education? While athletics are a huge part of college, student athletes are at college to gain a higher education– one large detail that is often overlooked. By paying college athletes, the NCAA just may find themselves in a stickier situation than by not paying athletes.
The documentary continues to define an amateur sportsman as “one who engages in sport solely for the pleasure and physical, mental, or social benefits he derives there from and to whom sport is nothing more than an avocation”. So, if this definition says amateurs play for the love of the game and not for money, then that would mean the majority of college players are not amateurs, even though almost 98.5% of college athletes do not go professional.
The debate goes on, further delving into the issue of compensation for athletes, the integrity of the NCAA, the academic fraud that has plagued many athletes over the years, and the exploitation of college athletes once they graduate from college. Ed O’Bannon, a retired NBA star, still appears in NCAA video games today, despite having leaving college many years ago. Charles Pierce, author of Dispatches from the NCAA’s Deathbed claims “[The NCAA] markets their personhood for their own benefit”. I believe Ed O’Bannon, and others like him deserve to have the decision whether or not their face appears in a video game, however, I am still not sold on whether athletes should obtain direct compensation.
Schooled develops a counterargument by saying that getting a full scholarship worth tens of thousands of dollars over four years is compensation enough. Isn’t the true purpose of college to get an education anyway? When did college sports become, in some cases, more important than academics? Whether college athletes should be paid for their contribution still remains partial to the individual, however I believe it is most important for athletes, like other students, to obtain an education, not just a degree.