Airing it Out

A landmark piece of legislation could take some of the stink out of college sports.

Updated: October 6, 2003, 11:26 PM ET
By Tom Farrey | ESPN The Magazine
At its unsentimental core, the economic model for big-time college sports goes like this: football and basketball players (often poor, often black) generate the millions that pay for the scholarships of all other athletes (often wealthier, often white) at the school. In exchange, the rainmakers get educated. Of course, this education is often compromised by tutors and course-picking counselors who are intent on pushing the scholar-athlete through school with as little turbulence as possible. It's hard not to recoil from the odor of this arrangement, unless you're a swimmer or golfer on a full ride. Or an AD who makes more than Dubya. Or a coach paid to have his players wear sneakers he hawks. Or a booster flown to bowl games. Or a college president who benefits from a very sweet labor deal.

Still wondering why D1 football and hoops haven't gone to pay-for-play? Didn't think so. But the kids who play those sportsand who have the political clout of indentured servants -- may finally be getting a voice in that debate. In California, a Student Athletes' Bill of Rights is fast making its way through the state legislature. Call it a jock revolt, given the pols who have already ushered the bill through the state senate and are now pushing it in the assembly. John Burton, co-sponsor and the senate's top Democrat, played basketball at San Francisco State. Tony Strickland, the assembly's No.2 Republican, played hoops at Whittier College. Senators Ed Vincent (D-Inglewood) and Jeff Denham (R-Salinas) also played college ball.

Tom Farrey | email

ESPN Senior Writer