Shaq Jokes About All the Money He Got as a College Player at LSU

But the NCAA-and student-athletes getting cut out of record profits-aren't laughing.


The National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) likes to trumpet the argument that student-athletes shouldn't be paid to protect the integrity of intercollegiate sports. But as readers of Reason well know, just because you prohibit an activity doesn't prevent unsavory behavior from occurring. 

Former basketball star Shaquille O'Neal illustrated this point when he recently spoke at an event for Lakers fans sponsored by the L.A. Sports and Entertainment Commission. Los Angeles Times reporter Mike Bresnahan has the scoop:

"O'Neal was laughing when he said it, but seemed to be speaking honestly when talking about his college career at Louisiana State. 'Yes, they paid very well. Statute of limitations is up. I can talk about it.' Then he added, 'Snitches get stitches . . . what can I say?'"

O'Neal told reporters after the event that he was joking, but the fact that he probably got money under the table during his days as a Tiger shouldn't come as a surprise—the practice of boosters or outside agents giving college athletes money to supplement their income has been documented in multiple instances

The NCAA's rigid stipulations on athlete pay have done little to eradicate activities the organization deems threatening to the integrity of sports. Even with a full-scholarship, a majority of athletes live below the federal poverty line. And it's also hard to take the NCAA's arguments to protect amateurism seriously when schools are raking in billions with television contracts and college coaches rank among the highest paid employees in most states. Why shouldn't athletes get a cut of the profits they generate for their schools?

Reason TV recently investigated the issue of student-athlete pay and talked to Drexel University professor Dr. Ellen Staurowsky, who published a study showing how deeply undervalued some college athletes are in the current market. You can watch the interview below and read the full article here

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  1. If everyone seems willing to pay college athletes under the table, and it’s a big fat open secret, why don’t they just move to a farm system?

  2. Even with a full-scholarship, a majority of athletes live below the federal poverty line.

    Like every other fucking college student you mean? It’s bad enough that Reason decided to jump on the Occupy Wallace Wade Stadium train, but spare us the breathless sensationalism.

    1. The long game is to pay every college student a living wage. Not just Shaq.

    2. What would life be without breathless sensationalism? Well…less sensational I guess. And less breathless. Definitely less breathless.

        1. Accckkk! I should have known better.

          *Youtube searches Brittany Haas and turns up volume*

    3. I think the point is that every other college student isn’t generating gobs of money for the school, as happens with basketball and football (and other sports to a lesser extent). I’d be happy if the NCAA would just drop the bullshit and allow college athletes to be paid above board. There certainly is a huge black market now.

      If I had my way, there would be two tracks in college sports: the hey I’m just here to play ball and try to get into the pros track and a I’m in college to get an education and I’m paying for it by playing some ball track. It would be a lot more honest. I’m sick of guys that supposedly are college material that can barely form a coherent sentence. There’s no way on earth they’d be anywhere near campus if they couldn’t play a sport.

      In any event, I don’t think anything will change anytime soon. As Hillary said, there’s too much money in it.

    4. I think the problem is that every other college student isn’t also working a full-time job on the side that also a) getting fired from gets them kicked out of school and b) their employer is making hundreds of thousands off the labor of even the mediocre ones.

      But . .

      They deserve a cut – but they simply don’t have the leverage to make that happen, at least without a shit-ton of people who actually have no stake in the situation except that they can leverage this controversy for their own personal gain. Who cares if the student athletes get a better deal as long as I get my name in the paper, right? Its like any other job – you may want more money, but if there are 50 people standing in line to take your place that are as good as you are, you ain’t going to get more money.

    1. Awesome movie. Underrated.

      1. Was expecting This to get posted.

        Good on ya, MBC.

  3. I’m torn. I know these gys get paid by being given the opportunity for a full scholarship to college.

    I also know that getting three meals a day isn’t enough for high metabolism young athletes who might need to eat 5 or 6 times a day.

    Many scholarship athletes have zero family money. I they arte hungry and it isn’t meal time at the dorm they are fucked. They have no money, none.

    When some coaches are making 5 million I just can’t see why a young employee of his can’t at least have a little walking around money for some spur of the moment Taco Bell.

    Having said that I also know a true story. There was once a highschool runnning back who had all the major colleges after him. The going price for his services at the time was $20K in a paper bag. The school that got him was The UO but they paid him/his family $30K. All the other boosters were up in arms. Not because they paid him but because UO raised the market value for blue chip running backs.

    The running back was Billy Sims and a Texas Aggie booster who was one of the ones who helped the Aggies put the 20K in their paper bag told me the story.

    1. I’m torn. I know these gys get paid by being given the opportunity for a full scholarship to college.

      I’m not sure why you’re torn – sure they get paid with that full ride. They also want more money. Because a full-ride scholarship really isn’t worth much. Even the ‘lifetime increased earnings potential’ falls short to what a mid-high ball player can earn for his school.

      1. Depends on the school. At a top SEC or B1G school the scholarships are worth way more than face value when you consider the food, medical, conditioning, tutoring, etc. I don’t know what the multiplier is but the bucks can really add up.

        The coaches are usually paid by boosters as well. So the school is not shelling out the millions of dollars that Saban or Myers are making. So no harm their to the tax payers. Same for most of the facilities.

        A few yeas ago I called the Bama ticket office to determine how I could get to the front of the season ticket line (been in line since 08), the young lady calmly told me that a donation of 25K would get me the next available set of tickets, that I would then have to purchase. Depending on the seats that could have cost anywhere from 600 to 5000 per seat per season.

        My own opinion is that I think the black market (boosters paying through bag men) is a decent way to pay these kids.

    2. It’s OU dummy. BTW, his barbecue place is great.

  4. Anyone following what happened with Florida State?


  5. I don’t see how the traditional student-athlete fantasy that worked so well in America for so long can continue now that there is an insane amount of money in (certain) sports. I suspect we’ll just continue with hush-hush money because anything else breaks the fantasy that these athletes are just amateur students.

    1. High-level college football and basketball consist of a white guy making millions, literally millions, yelling at a bunch of predominately fit, black males to either follow his orders, or yelling at them for not following his orders.

  6. Seriously, why has no one seen the opportunity to create their own private replacement for college hoops? There is clearly demand for this product if revenues are so high, and when your competition literally isn’t paying its labor at all (in cash at least), I figure it wouldn’t take that much to lure the talent away. You could argue that a lot of the reason these sports are so popular is that they are linked to people’s schools, but I’m sure you could work out licensing deals with the schools where your privately run team could end up playing under the banner of the school (I think some other sports have club teams where this is essentially true, although I have no actual experience in the industry so I don’t know), especially with smaller schools that don’t currently benefit much from the NCAA arrangement, and after it became clear that you were able to lure some top players away and could start hurting their bottom lines.

    The start up costs would be pretty substantial, but if I was a billionaire, I might look into doing this.

    1. Seriously, why has no one seen the opportunity to create their own private replacement for college hoops?

      There’s basketball leagues all over the world, and one that pays actual money in the US, that will accept 18-year-old Americans.

  7. It’s interesting how even some libertarians who are all about free markets turn to progressive talking points when talking about sports. These poor college athletes barely scraping by while rich folks make all the money…please. I went to a large school with a national powerhouse football program and let me tell you yes, they get money, and cars, and fake jobs for their parents, and houses. And I don’t care that they get those perks because that’s what the market will bear for their services.
    The principals of economics and free association that we champion for everyday life still applies in sports. The bottom line is they have a choice to play a sport or not play a sport. I know, a lot of people will say that they have no other way out of their impoverished beginnings. Also a traditional prog talking point when referring to welfare programs and the poor. They can go to work, go to a trade school, or they could do like I did and work full-time while attending school. Is it ideal? No. But they aren’t indentured servants and any pretense to feel sorry for someone who willfully makes a decision (happily in almost every case) is silly. I knew 30-35 guys on the football team and you know what? They were very happy to do so for that “meager” scholarship, room board, and insurance they got. Another aspect of this is their lifetime earnings as a college graduate vs. high school that no one seems to think about.

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