During the 2013 IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum, co-presented by Sports Business Journal, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany dropped this nugget:
Delany: Asking us to pay players is like asking pro teams to require athletes to be in full-time study. — Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) December 11, 2013
The response to Delany’s comment has been to question why he would make such an odd off-the-cuff statement. I doubt he made that up on the spot. A soundbite that good was workshopped at least in Delany’s own mind for a long time, ready for the next time it would be useful. That is if it was not the product of a group effort to prepare him for such a situation. The remark is supposed to be intentionally ridiculous, but it backfires because it contains the germ of a good idea. It might be ridiculous for professional athletes to be required to attend school full-time. But much less ridiculous to require professional leagues to do more for the education of their players and their transition to a post-playing career. Especially given the heavy public subsidy of professional sports in the form of tax breaks, antitrust exemptions, and capital investment by states and municipalities. If the idea of professional leagues helping players with their education is a question of degree, then so is whether college athletes should be paid. Which is why Delany’s talking point falls so flat. One half of his seemingly preposterous comparison can be opened up for debate, so why not the other half?