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Amateur in name only

A friend of mine recently sent me a link on Twitter to an article in Atlantic Monthly magazine, all about the hypocrisy that is big time college sports in the United States.

Here's a link to it: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/10/the-shame-of-college-sports/8643/

It's a must read for sports fans, obviously, but also anyone who is concerned about where we're heading as a society.

I don't want to repeat the many, many good points made in the article, but it's basically about how college athletes in the U.S. are governed by a huge list of arcane rules that prevent them from making any money, in any way, off their status as some of the best-known athletes in the country. The problem is these same universities, these same "educational institutions," are making tens of millions of dollars off these same people.

I was reminded of a passage I read in a book many years ago, about the Fab Five basketball players at the University of Michigan. One of the players, Chris Webber, who eventually ran afoul of the NCAA's rules himself, was in line at a student cafeteria. He checked his pockets and realized he didn't have enough money to order the food he wanted, so he changed his order. Still in line, he sees his jersey hanging in the window of the college shop nearby, for $100.

That's when Webber decided to turn pro.

These players make so much money for their schools that the schools can't help but compete for their talents, which is where they get in trouble with the group that oversees them, the NCAAA. The schools are rarely punished for these transgressions, but the players are.

I don't see why these players can't be compensated. Sure, they're on scholarship, getting their educations paid for, and in the case of some athletes, like Stanford's Andrew Luck, that's a very expensive bill. But why can't a player receive a stipend, like $5000 a month for every month they're on scholarship, including the summer? And if they graduate, they get another chunk of money, perhaps another $5000 for every month they were on the team.

I realize that means they won't be amateurs, but it also means they're efforts are being recognized. And since the vast majority of college athletes never turn pro, the money would give them a good start in thier adult lives.

And while we're at it, shouldn't someone take a look at how junior hockey is run in Canada? They hold a bantam draft every year, and the kids selected, if they want to keep playing competitive hockey, usually have to leave home. Sometimes they even have to move to another country, as would be the case if a Canadian is drafted by an American team, or vice versa.

These kids are 15, 16 years old.

Does that seem right?

Just asking.