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.