Billy Donovan speaks on pay-for-play and current college environment

As a former prominent college player himself, Billy Donovan is aware of how current top players can feel. (USATSI)
As a former prominent college player himself, Billy Donovan is aware of how current top players can feel. (USATSI)

What we don't have here: Billy Donovan saying players should be paid.

But we do have a big-time college coach speaking out on the environment that college athletics has become and why players young men do what they do. Donovan is continuing the conversation, a dialogue that's grown more frequent and upped in volume over the past five years. Really, the debate over paying college athletes has never been this prominent, or nuanced. A most recent example would be my colleague, Doug Gottlieb, penning a pretty terrific firsthand account of his experience, and making the case why players don't really deserve all that much more.

Back to Donovan. Per the Gainesville Sun, here's what the coach told to a room of people at the Capital City Area Gator Club this week.

“There is a feel by a lot of families that here you have these huge athletic departments, you have arenas, stadiums filled up and these kids are told, you can’t go out and you can’t take a free meal, you can’t take anything,” Donovan said. “A lot of times for those kids, I think it’s very difficult to swallow that.”
Donovan said the landscape in college basketball has changed in the past 25 to 30 years.
“What’s happening now is these kids look at the fact that I have a life expectancy athletically to play the game of basketball,” Donovan said. “And if I do my very, very best to get my degree and get my education, there is no way I can get an entry level job for any company or firm and ever make what I can make if I go overseas and play basketball. I mean, Nick Calathes didn’t even play in the NBA, he left early and went over to Greece, and they paid him a million dollars a year. I think kids’ attitudes today is, you know what, I only have this much time to play basketball, but you know what, I have my entire life to get my degree. I can always go back to school. I’m not saying it’s right or it’s wrong. But a lot of kids, coming from a situations or environments where financially, they don’t have the resources and they’ve struggled, it’s very difficult for them to bypass that kind of money knowing that, you know what, I’m going to have so much money, I don’t need a scholarship. I can pay for school myself.”

It's empathy on Donovan's part. He knows -- as most coaches do -- that for all you try to do to keep a program, any program, on the up-and-up, you can't stop certain players from accepting things. It's human nature, particularly if said player is from a feeble background and is suddenly thrust into a world with a lot of opportunity and offer placed in front of him.

More and more it seem coaches from college basketball and football are, at the very least, understanding of the idea of compensating players. Some have even come right out and declared they're OK with the concept. As the parley presses, having coaches speak frequently, publicly and openly about their players receiving more kinds of compensation will only move the football toward that end.

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. He's in his seventh season covering college basketball for CBS, and also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics and... Full Bio

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