With increasing frequency there are scandals brewing in college sports in America, particular surrounding football. Even my beloved Oregon Ducks are under investigation by the NCAA at this time. The basic problem is that the NCAA requires that student athletes not receive any compensation in return for recruitment for or participation in college athletics, apart from scholarships. However these infractions are happening quite frequently.
I see this matter in terms of dollars and cents rather than ethics. Some college sports departments are huge money-making enterprises. Football (and to a lesser extent, basketball) programs bring in a lot of money for their institutions. This revenue comes from ticket sales, alumni donations, corporate sponsorship, broadcasting rights, apparel licensing, scheduling, etc.
The true source of this revenue is of course the student athletes. They are the stars of the show. And for some star players in some big-time programs, the amount of revenue generated far exceeds the value of an athletic scholarship. But money has a way of finding its way to these athletes at any rate. This is of course contrary to NCAA rules and the ideal of amateur athletics. But instead of endless investigations and sanctions, I would like to propose another way.
College football players should organize a union. In so doing thy could negotiate compensation, health and disability insurance, licensing rights, revenue sharing, and the whole nine yards with their schools. By forming a union and getting paid, the players could effectively end the plague of ethics violations by making it no crime for the money to go where it is deserved.
I'll suggest a name for the hypothetical union: The Collegiate Athletic Labor Federation (CALF).
Now what's that I hear my reader saying? College athletics should remain amateur? I happen to agree. But I do not see how college football programs are going to be convinced to de-escalate their revenue streams. Unless they do, money will continue to find its way into the pockets of the players.