Editorial: It’s time to end the professional minor leagues | Editorial

GOING for gold has taken on a different connotation since the Supreme Court ruled that college athletes can be paid by parties not directly affiliated with their schools. Now, another ideal this nation once embraced – the scholar-athlete – seems headed for the trash can.

The court last year ruled in a case brought by three students that it was illegal for the NCAA to restrict “educational benefits”. This freed athletes from being paid for any use of their name, image or likeness.

Star athletes such as Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young of the University of Alabama were immediately approached to sign multiple contracts worth thousands of dollars. But even players with less marquee value are cashing in while maintaining their amateur status.

Some of the biggest beneficiaries of the court ruling have been female athletes. University of Connecticut basketball star Paige Bueckers has endorsement deals with Gatorade and other companies worth up to $1 million a year. That’s more than the average salary of most female professional basketball players.

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The court ruling also freed up boosters to form “collectives” that can offer name, image and likeness deals to college athletes to entice them to perform for their favorite schools. The wrinkle led to accusations by Alabama football coach Nick Saban that Texas A&M University’s top recruits had been “bought.” Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher responded by denying breaking the rules and called Saban “despicable.”

The spat of the coaches is not in itself that important. Both men said the row is behind them and they are certain to continue winning games and earning big bucks. But the court ruling that sparked their argument is noteworthy for what it says about an America that once believed a college athlete’s greatest reward should be an education.

America has been content to perpetuate the myth that college athletes just want to earn one for the team, and maybe earn a degree in the process. America bought the myth that the scientist

-athletes don’t mind risking career-ending injuries while earning their coaches and schools millions of dollars they may never have the chance to earn.

Some myths are hard to let go. It was well into the 20th century before history teachers regularly brought up the fairy tale that George Washington, the cherry cutter, never lied. This myth first launched by biographer Mason Locke “Parson” Weems caused a young nation to consider honesty a prerequisite for the presidency.

This has changed a lot in recent years. America is much more cynical after the presidencies of Bill “I didn’t have sex with that woman” Clinton and Donald “The presidential election was rigged and stolen” Trump. Lying politicians are considered the norm, and the truth is only expected on your favorite news channel.

The Supreme Court has said college athletes should receive a portion of the money they generate. That’s right, but why should athletes good enough to turn pro spend a year or two in college? They could graduate after turning professional, and many do. Let’s stop treating America’s colleges like minor-league professional sports. Let’s resurrect the “athlete-scholar” ideal by providing extra time in class for students who are more academically than athletically gifted. Colleges can do this without a court order.

—Adapted from The Philadelphia Inquirer

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