Critical Coaches: Should college basketball players be paid?

By Eye on College Basketball staff | CBSSports.com
The coaches feel one way, but the NCAA clearly feels another. How long until that changes?. (US Presswire)

CBSSports.com's college basketball quartet of Gary Parrish, Jeff Goodman, Jeff Borzello and Matt Norlander spent the July recruiting period hobnobbing with nearly 100 coaches, brain-picking them on some of the sport's current issues. From the best players to their comrades in coaching; from the AAU programs to the agents' involvement; from the rule changes to the NCAA as a whole. We had to promise them anonymity, and in exchange, they gave us honest answers. Through Aug. 24, we'll be putting out one question per weekday and giving you the array of results, straight from the coaches' mouths.

Today we're dealing with an eternal conflict. Legitimately, it's guaranteed that the topic of paying players will never, ever go away in American college sports. Whether it ever happens, and to whatever degree, there will always be those staked on either side of the overarching, ethical debate.

But what do college basketball coaches feel? With newer generations coming into the profession having witnessed a discussion that's raged on with more intensity and seriousness in the past 10 years, does the collective feel their players are owed more for their services? This one brought out a lot of passion from the coaches we interviewed. Plenty don't profess to know an answer, even if they take a side on the topic.

The question is: Should college basketball players be paid, and if so, how would you compensate them?

  • YES - 58 percent
  • NO - 42 percent

Some of the suggested methods:

-- Build compensation right into the scholarship package with a stipend at the end of each semester: 28 percent
-- Players should be allowed to receive endorsement money (Olympic model): 20 percent
-- Cost-of-living grants is the way to go: 12 percent
-- Make leagues responsible for paying via their own profits: 8 percent
-- Want change but don't have a solution: 8 percent

Quotes that stuck:

"Absolutely not. They get free college, crazy amounts of free gear and glorified enough as it is. This isn't pro sports, but if they get paid -- even a small amount -- it gives the players even more power than they already have. We would start to see more Dwight Howard situations at colleges."

"Stipends are good. I think it would tough to start talking about someone's market value."

"No one is forcing these kids to play. College educations are already so expensive. In a lot of ways, they're getting paid. I don't think most schools can afford to pay basketball players, because then don't you have to pay everyone else playing D-I? That's not possible."

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Questions

"The Olympic model is what we should move to because that lets companies handle paying the players that most believe should be paid and keeps the schools out of it. Shabazz Muhammad could get an Adidas deal, Peyton Siva could do commercials for Papa John's, Trey Burke could be on Ford billboards in Detroit, etc. Basically, the programs with the biggest boosters connected to the biggest companies would have a way to compensate their players. And I know people would argue that would give those schools a recruiting advantage because players who go to North Carolina would be more likely to get a Nike deal than players who go to Clemson. But North Carolina and Michigan and Louisville and schools like that already have recruiting advantages anyway. This wouldn't change the order of things at all, and the best players would get something more than just a scholarship. And here's the best part: It would actually take recruiting and pull it above board. Everybody would know from the outset what they're up against."

"I would give them a piece of the money that the league receives for that league's team making the tournament. For instance, if we make the tournament, our league gets money that is split between each school in our league. Some of that money should be given to the players."

"I think athletes should be paid a few thousand a semester. To keep gender equity and Title IX out of the way, they should allow coaches to pay kids out of that sport's summer camp fund. $2,500 or so per semester. That would be an easy solution for football and men's basketball because the camps generate enough revenue. If not, boosters should be able to donate until each player receives the maximum amount of money."

"We have set hours per week we can work them out. Why not go minimum wage for those hours? Would be between 1500-2300 a semester depending on holiday breaks."

"Would be the possible way to eliminate lure of agents. Need to incorporate GPA and wealth level of family. Household income would be best way. Make the process similar to a college loan process -- so there would be some hoops to go through. Maybe 500-1000 a month."

"Make a mandate and have work study at every Division-I institution with a flat rate."

Takeaway (by Matt Norlander):

What do you make of these results, huh? Aren't you surprised more than half the coaches polled -- and it's a hearty sample size -- are in favor of their players receiving money in one way or another? I was. Pleasantly, too. I think it puts the coaches in a pragmatic, self-aware light. These guys -- a lot of them, anyway -- are making serious money coaching and they see the sacrifices that go in everywhere, from everyone affiliated with their programs. Maybe now coaches are realizing, and realizing for good, that players are being used by the system too much.

And no one's saying contracts or big paydays are the way to go, by the way. From coaches who suggested paying players, the general feel of their response was, "At the very least, these young men deserve some sort of modest slice of the pie." That said, this question had answers ranging from a total income in the hundreds to ones ranging closer to 10 grand per player per season. It's why we went with more standout quotes on this question than any other we've had so far in our series -- there's a lot of zeal on this topic.

I find it fascinating and refreshing the coaches have a vested interest and opinion in this. And what we found out was, no matter what level or rank a coach was at, the opinion varied. There is no tie that binds here. Some low-level assistants feel the players on their teams should be paid, while other coaches at big-time schools think it's an impossible task.

And within this debate, there is an area more gray than the geography taken up by the Big East. Yes, players could receive bonus compensation built into their scholarships. I think that's affordable and likely on the way -- nationally. But it's still logistically a fiscal nightmare for more than half the NCAA programs whose schools inescapably operate in the red. As for the Olympic model, I've no problem with it. The NCAA, however, does, and I think it's at least a decade before that option becomes a remote possibility. There's something so scary to the NCAA about its athletes making money via any type of commercial or endorsement. I understand it, even if I don't agree with it.

To me, it seems inevitable that this debate leads to change. The NCAA's system of amateurism has myriad flaws and contradictions. The bigger men's basketball gets, the brighter the lights, the more eyeballs, more articles, more money, more attention. More everything. Players are mandatory to the expanse, and because of that, their well-being and proper place at the table only gets more arguable by the year.

Coming Tuesday: What can be done to alter the transfer culture of college basketball?

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