Joe Nocera for The New York Times: The Plot to Rule College Sports

August 5th, 2013

The New York Times
by Joe Nocera
August 5, 2013

“Be careful for what you wish for,” goes the proverb. “You just might get it.”

For more than a year now, I’ve been advocating for reforms in college football and men’s basketball that would both acknowledge that the two sports are big businesses — rather than extracurricular activities, as the N.C.A.A. still pretends — and then begin to rectify the gross inequity embedded in the current system, namely that the players work for free while everyone around them gets rich from college sports.

One of the ideas I’ve come to champion is the establishment of a kind of superleague, consisting of marquee names like Kentucky, Alabama, Notre Dame, Michigan, U.C.L.A. and the like: maybe 72 or so football teams and 100-plus basketball teams. These teams would openly serve as the minor leagues for professional football and basketball. The players would get wages. They could get an education if they chose — and that would be a good thing, of course — but there would be no more pretending that football players were actually students first. I know that education purists hate this idea, but it has the benefit of dealing with reality — a reality that is unlikely to change given the immense popularity of college sports. If implemented properly, it could be the beginning of the end of “the plantation,” as Taylor Branch famously described big-time college sports in The Atlantic two years ago.

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