Proposal for College Athletics Reform

I’m actually pretty ambivalent toward college sports outside of March Madness. I think part of the reason for this I’ve never gotten past the absurdity of pretending that big time college athletes are students in any meaningful way. This has led me to idea which I’ve been kicking around in my head for a while that I haven’t really been able to think of a downside to.

Anyone who is familiar with professional soccer know that several of the big clubs around the world started off as rowing or swimming clubs clubs who later founded soccer teams. With that in mind, why don’t the big time 1st division football and basketball schools make their teams professional? Nothing will really have to change. For example, Ohio State can make its football team professional. It can recruit exactly the same, but instead of a scholarship, just sign the players to a professional contract. The students at the school can still cheer for the Ohio State football team, but the players just won’t be students. Obviously, college teams don’t want to compete with the NFL, so they can just make their league an Under 22 league. This will keep the current feeder system that already exists in place. I think that this idea is actually adventagous to the schools in terms of player recruitment too. How often do we see a situation where schools can’t get a guy in cause he can’t get a minimum score on his SAT or some other academic problem. This issue would immediately go away. This would also allow schools to nakedly operate their teams as a business, a situation where they currently make themselves look like giant hypocrites.
I know that one school on its own can’t decide to do this, it would have to be done collectively. But other than that, can someone think of a reason why this wouldn’t be a good idea for big time college athletics other than istitutional inertia?

That is the silliest idea I’ve heard in a long time.

The idea that the colleges should run their own minor league pro sports teams has been around since at least 1990, as per sportswriter Rick Telander’s very interesting book, The Hundred Yard Lie: The Corruption of College Sports and What We Can Do To Stop It.

I think that you’re completely wrong about student-athletes. I was one and I only know 5 people who went on to play professional sports but I know a lot that graduated with degrees. Sure these kids are paid to go to school but how is it any different from people with academic scholarships except the athletes have to work harder.

Well, my proposal is only for big time basketball and football. Under this plan, since we could do away with the stupid amateur rules, guys could be paid to be on the teams and also be enrolled in the school if they like.

Care to elaborate?

I think many people would agree that the top-level college programs are nearly indistinguishable from a professional league at this point. However, there is still the irrational attachment of rooting for students of the same school that would weaken some of the support from alumni that provides a great deal of continued support at a number of schools. This might be made possibly be made up by getting a bit more local community support, but I doubt it’d be enough to make up for it. It may not make sense, but most people won’t care as much for mercenary teams in a league like that - especially when you switch it from the current model.

Also, the vast majority of programs are not at the level that could maintain a profitable professional team - you’d either have to force a lot of schools to actually spend money during a program’s ‘down years’ or shuffle schools in and out of the ‘pro’ level every year.