Colleges could reward athletes without putting them on official payroll | Adams

Pac-12 football players have made a statement this off-season. The statement should be unsettling for college administrators and coaches.

The message was something like: “We want more control — and throw a few million bucks our way, too.”

You can’t blame them. College football has long been a demanding sport in which the practitioners have had little say-so in their workload or reward.

Never mind that the typical regular season is only 12 games long. Strength and conditioning is a year-round requirement. There also are off-season workouts, which are (wink, wink) voluntary. Except for this year amid a coronavirus pandemic, spring football takes another chunk of players’ time.

Player challenges will be even greater this season as some conferences try to complete a season in the throes of a pandemic. So, it’s only fitting that some players are making demands of their own.

A group of Pac-12 forward-thinkers recently wrote a letter to the conference – before the league decided to scrap fall football in 2020 – in which they made significant demands, none of which was covered by a scholarship.

Regardless of the status of this fall’s season, their voices need to be heard.

Their wish list included: safety precautions during the pandemic, medical insurance for six years after eligibility ends and a share in the conference’s wealth. Specifically, they asked for the Pac-12 to distribute 50 percent of each sport’s conference revenue evenly among athletes in their respective sports.

How’s that for wishful thinking?

Of course, pandemic safety precautions should be in place. Several years of health insurance for a football-related issue would be a reasonable demand. But you can forget that 50 percent split.

Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m all for raising the standard of living for the average college football player, especially because his coaches are making millions of dollars off the players’ blood, sweat and torn ligaments.

However, I don’t believe college players should be put on salary. That would create all sorts of issues. There are other ways to funnel money to players. Some of those ways have even been documented through NCAA investigations.

Here’s my plan for upgrading the lifestyle of college football players:

Pay the players: More to the point, pay them the old-fashioned way: under the table. It has been going on for years.

Sometimes, schools even get nabbed by the NCAA for attempting to execute an “off-the-books” payment plan for their student-athletes. But if a school doesn’t get caught, it’s all good.

If a prominent booster wants to pay a quarterback $10,000 to mow his law, so be it. He’s not breaking the law.

Before you amateur purists in the crowd condemn such a suggestion, consider what just happened. Earlier this year, the NCAA lent support to a rule change that would allow college athletes to make money off their likeness, image and name. The amateur line already has been crossed.

Academic credit: Football can be wonderful fun for those who play it. Despite the fun, it’s grueling work. And the time demands seem endless.

I’ve always believed that football players should be given at least five hours per semester credit for playing football. In today’s climate, let’s make that six hours per semester.

It’s not just the time players spend on the practice field. It’s the hours they spend studying video.

Anyone who stays on the team for two semesters deserves a total of 12 hours credit. He also deserves an “A.”

Tickets: Each football player on scholarship should get 20 tickets for every home game. He can use them as he sees fit. He can give them to friends and family. Or he can sell them.

My guess is a booster who is willing to pay a quarterback $10,000 to mow his lawn would chip in a few grand for a ticket. He might even buy all 20.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or john.adams@knoxnews.com. Follow him at: twitter.com/johnadamskns.

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