Pay for Play in college is the “gun rights” of sports arguments. If you want to get a plethora of scalding hot takes, outrage, and general wailing and gnashing of media teeth, just bring up anything related to college athletes being “paid” and just sit back with a bucket of popcorn.
Naturally, everyone jumped on it like a starving fox on a wounded rabbit because that’s what social media does. Luck later would clarify that he misspoke, which is fine. He had the right argument, but said the wrong words. No one wants to admit that, though.
You know why coaches have an uncapped market? Because they’ve earned it. In 2014, Alabama football turned in a surplus of over $53 million. They could pay Nick Saban $20 million annually and it’d be completely justified and worth it. Someone, send Jimmy Sexton my article.
Of course, the “worth it” portion is dependent on who else Alabama would get if they said, “nah, we don’t want to pay you, Nick,” but it would be completely not worth it to go that route.
A coach is inherently more important to the overall health of a program in college versus professionally. Players cycle in and out, with a basic average of 20 to 25 percent of your roster being overhauled on an annual basis. Coaches are the ones that keep the program humming, and for the major programs, at a level that justifies them asking for a blank check.
People don’t like what Luck said because it goes against what they want. Media loves themselves some outrage about pay for play, most of them having never actually played. The “look at what the coaches are making!!! RAGE!!!!” argument fails to consider the ROI (return on investment).
No matter how great of an athlete a college player is, his/her window of influence and money making power is very slim and short. Versus professional sports, where often the money to be made is on the name on the back of the jersey, with regards to college sports, the name on the front is the money maker.
There are many reasons for that, but it is what it is, and it isn’t changing.
Earlier this week, I went around running errands in the Midwest. I went to two stores and saw three folks wearing Alabama gear and one vehicle adorned in Crimson Tide stuff. No one actually from Alabama would ever come to live in the Midwest in December unless forced by gunpoint.
What that means is that (probably) these folks bought Bama gear and subscribe to the fan base because of football. It was probably $500 worth of gear all these folks had. That’s not happening if Mike Shula is leading the Tide to 6-6 seasons. That’s just a guess.
For the elite coaches in the game, there is no limit to what they should be earning so long as people across the landscape are pumping money into the system simply because that coach has that program winning football or basketball games.
That was Oliver Luck’s point, even though he didn’t really make it the way he should have. So hold your outrage, media. It’s not about who is or isn’t an adult. It’s about who does or doesn’t have the power to bring in money. Coaches are worth whatever they can earn, and the more the media over-analyzes these games, schools, and sports, the more that will never change.
At some point, the “adult” thing to do would be to understand that. It’s basic capitalism.
On Twitter @TheStudentSect