Bob Stoops Embodies Absurd Paternalism of College Athletics


Bob Stoops weighed in on amateurism to the Sporting News and the “pay for play” debate. His comments reflect the hollowness of the NCAA’s soon to be defunct labor cost avoidance scheme.

"“I tell my guys all the time,” Stoops says, “you’re not the first one to spend a hungry Sunday without any money.”"

Stoops is the third-highest paid college football coach in the country, earning $4.6 million per year. He can earn an additional $819,500 per season in bonuses. “Amateur” athletics fosters that largesse juxtaposed with some players actually not having enough money to eat at certain points. No one stresses the virtues of poverty and denial quite like those who will never experience it.

Amateurism is (mostly) white men telling (quite often) poor and black men the profits of their labor would corrupt them, while keeping the profits for themselves (and not paying taxes on it). It has neither nobility nor virtue. It started as a means to keep poor people from playing sports. In the television era, it has become a means to keep poor people playing sports from being paid for it.

"“You know what school would cost here for non-state guy? Over $200,000 for room, board and everything else,” Stoops said. “That’s a lot of money. Ask the kids who have to pay it back over 10-15 years with student loans. You get room and board, and we’ll give you the best nutritionist, the best strength coach to develop you, the best tutors to help you academically, and coaches to teach you and help you develop. How much do you think it would cost to hire a personal trainer and tutor for 4-5 years?"

Here’s the thing about the kids paying back student loans over 10-15 years. They aren’t producing any entertainment value whatsoever. The proper comparison is not their fellow students. It is young, talented people producing millions of dollars in sales and television revenue in any other avenue of entertainment. College football and basketball players are the only ones not permitted representation and not being compensated. Justin Bieber does not have to record albums for UCLA for three years before getting paid for it.

Players are already being paid? $200,000 is the cost of an out-of-state degree. That’s not the value of a degree. The problem with higher education is that the cost of a degree now far outstrips its value in the job market, especially if that’s a “multidisciplinary studies” degree in staying eligible for football. A degree is a currency many enrolled on football scholarships are not equipped to use. That is the currency, because it lets athletic departments avoid pesky taxes and workers compensation liabilities.

Players receive coaching, nutritionists, trainers and academic advisors? That’s not Oklahoma furnishing its student-athletes individual development. That is Oklahoma maximizing the performance of its football team by keeping it healthy, trained and eligible. NFL teams don’t claim they provide physical therapy to players for their personal benefit. That’s absurd.

"I tell our guys all the time. It could be you—or it could be anyone else. “Those 70,000 fans in the stadium are cheering and buying tickets to see Oklahoma.”"

If this is all about Oklahoma and not “you” or “anyone else,” why are you getting paid $4.6 million per year minimum, Bob?

[Photo via USA Today Sports Images]