CBSSports.com National Columnist

Hold sympathy: College athletes need no paychecks

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Poor A.J. Green, reduced to panhandling his used jersey for pocket money, finally gets to play this week after being suspended for the first four games of the 2010 season. The University of Georgia offers more than 20 versions of Green's jersey, all for sale, all for the school's profit. Green, a star receiver, sold his 2009 Independence Bowl jersey and got hammered for it.

And so everyone had this fine idea: Let's pay college football players.

Remember how you lived through college without any money? A.J. Green doesn't have that problem. (US Presswire)  
Remember how you lived through college without any money? A.J. Green doesn't have that problem. (US Presswire)  
Which I counter with a fine idea of my own: Let's not.

Paying football players would create more problems than it would solve, and frankly, there's nothing to solve. They don't need the money. Don't let A.J. Green's entrepreneurial bent fool you -- he wasn't looking for food money. He has that. He wasn't looking for rent money. He has that, too. Book money? Has it.

Extra spending money?

He has that, too.

College athletes aren't paid like professional athletes, but they're paid. If you didn't know that, well, now you do. Are they paid commensurate of what they're worth to their school? Not all of them, no. A guy like A.J. Green, who helps keep the Bulldogs in the national conversation when he plays -- and who saw the team go 1-3 when he doesn't -- is worth more money to the school than the price of his scholarship. I'm not telling you he isn't.

But what about the Bulldogs' other receivers? And their tight end? And an offensive guard and even that third-string safety, Alec Ogletree, who's on scholarship and who has contributed two tackles in three games. What's he worth?

That's where the payment of college athletes becomes untenable. Not all players are equal. At Michigan, quarterback Denard Robinson could be worth more to the athletic department's bottom line than any three or five or maybe 10 players on roster. And you could probably identify the last 25 players on scholarship and determine that Robinson is worth more than all of them combined. So if you advocate paying college football players, how do you clear that hurdle? By giving a fourth-string defensive tackle as much money as Heisman candidate Denard Robinson?

Or you could go the more democratic route and base a player's pay on his performance. But then, key players do get injured. Or even benched. Which means they'd require a cut in pay.

See my point? Paying college players is a fool's errand, but let's go one step farther and talk to the fools who think these guys need the money in the first place. If you're one of those fools, my apologies -- but stop being foolish. Do a Google search for the terms "A.J. Green" and "slavery" and see just how stupid some people can get.

A college football player is no slave. He's not an indentured servant or a serf or any other silly analogy that the ignoramuses would have you believe. A college football player is a god.

Do I sound jealous? Good. Because I am. Or was. When I was in college, I ate a piece of campus pizza for lunch and another piece of pizza for dinner. I sold plasma twice a week, at $15 a pop, to pay for that pizza. Once a week I splurged and bought a half-pint of Ben & Jerry's fudge brownie ice cream, and made it last two days. And that was fine. I'm not asking for any freaking sympathy, because I was in college and that in itself was priceless. It was fun, it was education, it helped me get where I am today. Millions of people have similar stories of college financial hardship, and worse. My best friends in the world, neighbors down the street, are still paying off their college loans. And they went to college in the 1980s.

What does a college football player have to pay for? Nothing. Nothing now, and nothing in the future. Those scholarships are renewable annually, and that has to be stressful for the last 10 or 15 players on the roster, but when people talk about paying college players, they're not talking about those players. They're talking about A.J. Green or Denard Robinson or Boise State's Kellen Moore, guys who will have their scholarships as long as NCAA rules will allow.

And NCAA rules allow plenty of money for guys like Green, Robinson and Moore. For the college player who lives off campus, there is a housing allowance built into his scholarship. The amount varies from school to school, even from USC to USC -- from the $500 a month that University of South Carolina football players get to the roughly $1,000 a month allowed at Southern California.

Players don't have to spend all of that. Let's say two players share a $700-a-month apartment at South Carolina, but they get a combined $1,000 a month in housing. That's $150 a month for each, in their pocket. What will they spend the money on? Not food. College players have free meals on campus, or if they choose to eat off-campus they get a daily meal allowance that also varies. At Boston College, that meal allowance is $41 a day. Any idea how much food you can eat on $41 a day? I bet you could make do at $30 a day. That's $11 extra, times 30 or 31 days a month. That's another $350 or so in monthly pocket money.

The same goes for an athlete's book allowances. Buy used books, pocket the difference. Athletes know the system and they work it -- and don't get me started on Pell Grants, which can be thousands of dollars in free money, no strings attached, for qualifying players in addition to their scholarship.

Alabama's Marcell Dareus was suspended for the season's first two games for receiving benefits from an agent. To be reinstated, he had to pay $1,787.17 -- the amount of benefits on two agent-funded trips -- to the charity of his choice. The NCAA allowed for a payment plan, but Dareus didn't need it.

He paid in cash.

How you think he did that?


Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.
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