Each December, I finish off the year reading three of my favorite books: The Best American Sports Writing, The Best American Travel Writing, and The Best American Magazine Writing. These anthologies are chockfull of powerful stories written in prose of the highest order.
I just finished reading The Best American Sports Writing, and one story in particular has me thinking, "The Shame of College Sports" by Taylor Branch. The article was first published in The Atlantic, and while it's a long piece, I highly recommend it.
There is huge money in college sports, particularly men's football and basketball. Professional basketball and football players have powerful unions that guarantee money and healthcare for their members. College athletes do not have that luxury. Many American universities make obscene amounts of money on football and basketball. Branch makes the case that these universities should be paying their athletes.
This is something I've gone back and forth on for a while now, but after reading Branch's article, I would say that I am now firmly of the belief that universities need to compensate their athletes beyond the cost of a scholarship. Lots of people cling to the idea that a free education is more than adequate compensation for playing a game, and twenty years ago maybe it was, but the times have changed. The money involved in big-time college sports is staggering, and the kids who make the money should be getting a bigger piece.
I love college football and basketball. My alma mater, the University of Wisconsin, makes a ton of money on football and basketball. It's time my fellow Badgers get in on some of the money they bring to our school. The situation is the same at many campuses across the country. Every student benefits from the money generated by football and basketball, and I think it's time alums everywhere start demanding their universities take better care of the kids they cheer for on the fields and courts.