|Bill Self is the latest coach to publicly put his support behind players receiving some sort of compensation. (Getty Images)|
When it comes to college hoops coaches' beliefs on paying players, we've crossed the Rubicon. No longer does the majority side with the long-held (now: wobbling) belief of the NCAA: that players should be strictly considered amateurs who aren't entitled to any monetary benefits outside of the ones directly baked into scholarships and expenses for being part of an NCAA program.
We know coaches feel in favor of their players because we polled more than 100 of them over the summer, and they told us as much. Recent months and years have shown coaches to be in support of their players' desires to get a little more dough in their dorm drawers in exchange for the time and publicity that they give the sport.
And so, with league and team media days in full throes, coaches are asked a litany of questions. Self happened to be asked about paying players. And he's in support of it -- at least at the stipend level. There are many different ways the NCAA could look into giving athletes a little more. The stipend option seems to be the most practical and likely solution in the coming years.
(You'll remember some players received such compensation last year before the NCAA quickly reneged due to heavy backlash from many schools.)
Self was once in step with the NCAA. Recent times have changed his tune, he told the Kansas City Star.
“I used to be totally against it,” Self told The Star. “I used to be totally against doing anything other than room, board, books, tuition and fees. But I've changed. And the landscape has changed also. It was always big business; now it's huge business.
“And when you're sending players from the West Coast to East Coast to play sports, to miss more classes, and the schools benefit from that financially, why shouldn't the people that are responsible for the business, and that would be the student athletes.”
Self doesn't pretend to have perfect solutions. But he does hope the current system begins to address the easier fixes. When Self's Kansas program advanced to the NCAA title game earlier this year, he estimates that some of his players' families spent as much as $10,000 to travel to the Jayhawks' three NCAA Tournament sites — and two of them were within driving distance of Lawrence.
“Even if it's to the point where the NCAA paid for the parents of student athletes to attend bowl games (or) paid for the parents of student athletes to attend an NCAA game,” Self said. “There's so many things you can do.”
The money that exists and the funds available within the NCAA is a 12-ton-tangled ball of yarn. The responsibility to pay athletes should probably come more from the schools than the NCAA, but it's these broad questions that are so hard to lay out that make the prospect of actually paying every Division I basketball player so tough.
And then there is the issue of Title IX, which mandates female athletes receive the same opportunity as men.
Philosophically, I think we've come to a point at which many know which side they stand on. The debate continues, as it should. But as we see more and more people siding with the players, it's increasingly a complex problem without a surefire solution. Coaches backing the cause creates momentum, but momentum can't offer solution -- only volume.
But you can understand why, when you see the numbers, players earning some of the keep has to be inevitable.