Don't Kill the Mellinger

Columnist Sam Mellinger's thoughts on sports and other important stuff

College athletes are going to be paid, which means the principles of college coaches will be tested

09/05/2013 9:29 AM

09/12/2013 3:59 PM

You may have seen where the newest Time Magazine

, hitting newsstands tomorrow, has Johnny Manziel on the cover with the headline "It’s time to pay college athletes."

It’s powerful stuff, and I don’t mean this as a jumping off point to do the debate here.

There isn’t much new that can be said about this topic, but any sensible adult can look around at what’s happening to the NCAA and the growing sentiment by fans and mainstream media about the unfairness of unpaid labor fueling a multi-billion dollar industry and understand that this is going to happen in some form and probably relatively soon.

Like I said, none of that is new.

But here’s my thought today. Coaches — from

Bill Self to Mack Brown to Steve Spurrier

and many others — are increasingly supporting the idea of paying college athletes.

But when that happens — and, again, this is now

when, not if

— that money must come from somewhere. And a logical place to start would be the bloated salaries of these same coaches.

It’s easy to stand on principle on some hypothetical ideal, but I’m interested to see the reaction if the money stunts or even reverses the trend of escalating coaching salaries.

I had a conversation with one prominent college coach who said, basically, and this is not a direct quote:

"The money is great and whoever tells you they don’t care about the money is just lying. But no coach gets into the profession for the money, because there is no money in it except for a relative few at the top. If you capped head coaches’ salaries at $500,000 you’d have the exact same kinds of people working exactly as hard to be head coaches and then you could use the rest of that money for other things. It wouldn’t change a thing about coaches."

Now, I don’t know if it’s true that coaches would be A-OK with smaller salaries.

But I do know that college athletes are going to be paid, and that money is going to have to come from somewhere, and we may find out how much a lot of rich college coaches are willing to stand on principle.



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