The Society convened for the fourteenth time this semester to debate Resolved: College football players should be paid. Affirming was Mr. Riley Mellen (SFS ‘15) of Rhode Island. Keynoting for the negation was Mr. Patrick Musgrave (COL ‘16) of Indiana.
Mr. Mellen began his opening keynote by defining “paid” as receiving financial compensation, and urged the society to reconsider what is “fair” in the world of fair. Aspiring pro-football players must play two years of unpaid college football to even have a chance to be in the two percent of all football players that make it pro. Conversely, college football coaches earn tens of millions of dollars annually for an arguably equal amount of work as their players commit. With college football largely dominated by lower-class athletes whose efforts are massive sources of income for highly ranked football schools, it would seem Draconian not to offer them at least minimal compensation.
Mr. Musgrave painted the picture of a college football recruitment process enhanced by fiscal offers. Throwing money at high schoolers is an unhealthy and dangerous slope to slide down, Mr. Musgrave asserted, and salary discrepancies amongst players would diminish team cohesion. The quality of college football overall would suffer amidst salary competition and a shift from playing out of love for the game to playing for compensation. Academia would suffer as schools begin pulling money from other departments to afford sky-high athlete salaries. College football culture and college culture overall would suffer from a loss in camaraderie as the stakes of the sport are notched up.
As the debate transitioned to flloor speeches, Ms. Anna Hernick reminded the Society that football players have already had to make great sacrifices, often monetary, by the time they reach college. Why not afford these athletes some respite and further incentivize them to complete their college degree? Ms. Caroline Egan argued that college should invest more in academics than athletics. Mr. Jeff Naft (COL ‘17) urged the Society not to forget the unimaginable time and effort college athletes afford to their team, and suggesting allocating funds directly to players’ families to avoid aforementioned issues surrounding paying college-age students. Mr. Jacob Arbor countered that the inherent community created in giving your all alongside your teammates would be lost if players were paid.
Ms. Abby Grace argued that football players must be paid to abate the costs of devoting all of one’s time and resources to a game that doesn’t afford the opportunity of getting a college degree. Mr. Daniel Kendrick contended that the structure of amateur sports is to blame. Players ought not be forced to attend college during the prime of their athletic careers and instead have a paid outlet in junior leagues. Ms. Ashley Burke (SFS ‘17) argued that for all the revenue college football programs garner, the often low-income players are unduly gypped out of a slice of that pie. Ms. Era Qian (MSB ‘17) drew attention to a number of dilemmas that could arise from paying college athletes, including the questions of who to pay and whether players would be tradable.
Mr. Alden Fletcher (SFS ‘17) pushed back against the notion that football is inherently part of a University, and argued for separating football from the rest of the institution. Ms. Asha Thanki (SFS ‘17) asserted that the special atmosphere and camaraderie surrounding college football would be the first to go if players receive compensation. Mr. Warren Wilson spoke against the current system by which the ninety-eight percent of college football players that don’t make it pro are “used and discarded” and taken advantage of, indicating an already denigrated sport. Ms. Colleen Wood asked one question: “Why is paying players going to do anything?” Ms. Wood asked the affirmation for more than “sob stories” to support their side.
President Peter Prindiville reminded the Society that football is a moneymaking business, and as in any business, failing to pay those who provide services is unjust. Mr. Chris Stromeyer dismissed the idea that football players are “working” in the conventional sense. “Have they signed a contract?” Rather, sports are an innate part of a University. Mr. Greg Miller argued that the system that guides football players’ career is broken and ought not force athletes to attend college to play their sport. Ms. Amanda Wynter responded that sports ought to be a complement to, not a commandeering pillar of, an educational institution.
Ms. Julia Christensen proposed paying some, but not all, football players, as a way of providing for their basic needs and offering better resources. Ms. Emily Coccia argued that paying football players would create disregard for other sports and ignore those who don’t benefit from the new system. Mr. Luke Young congratulated the keynote speakers on delivering great speeches, and noted that in any other economic arena price-fixing and creating an anti-competitive sector is illegal. Why should the market for football players be an exception?
To begin his closing keynote speech, Mr. Patrick Musgrave urged the Society to view playing football at the collegiate level as having “the greatest internship available.” Players are trained by the University and subsequently, their draft stock goes up, creating a two-way give and take between coaches and athletes. “This rich tradition will be destroyed if commercialized.”
Mr. Riley Mellen posited that the Society ought to think of payment as on par with a work-study program rather than a multi-million dollar contract. Further expanding upon Mr. Musgrave’s analogy, the job make accessible by the “greatest internship” would ideally not have a ninety-eight percent rejection rate. Rather than leaving college players demolished physically and by debt, the morally sound path of action demands paying these athletes.
The Society voted 15 – 2 – 23 to negate. Huzzah!
Madeleine M. Ringwald