Although I also tend to think that the players are exploited I ALSO feel that they should be a part of student life, live and share the life of other students. Just commercializing everything is not, to me, the answer, in a world where we’re complaining bitterly about the crapification/commercialization of everything else. In fact, it’s important to PROTECT some spheres from monetization. But schools make millions off of football and basketball players in THEIR OWN endless push for money while the students get much less back. To compound matters this is hardly an even landscape, with a small handful of schools really making money and a small handful of players generating the excitement.
My solution would be of a two-fold character. First, let the NFL and NBA create/expand B leagues, and if kids need money badly, let them go. Second, create some kind of serious fund where the money comes back to all the players who participate in an even-handed way–maybe to long-term life insurance (because we know many of them are going to be hurting as older people) and also to REALLY (not just in a bogus way) getting them through college down the road.
I’m sure there are other creative solutions of this kind, but those who participated would need to accept that they were playing not just for themselves but were part of, helping build, something that will benefit players to come. With ideas like this we would a) honestly address the fact that a certain kind of exploitation is taking place, and address it and b) retain a little bit of the kind of virtue that amateur athleticism, at its best, has been about.
The above aren’t hard and fast solutions, obs, but the kind of conversation that needs to be generated.