On Thursday I had a conversation with former Florida State Seminoles defensive back and Rhodes Scholar Myron Rolle, now a player with the Tennessee Titans. Much of our discussion involved the issues stemming from some recent NCAA scandals and Wednesday night's HBO "Real Sports" telecast on the state of college sports. Rolle didn't see the HBO show, but we talked about many of the issues that were addressed. I thought his perspective would be interesting to share in the blog today.
Q: There has been a lot of discussion about whether college athletes should get paid. What is your feeling on the pay-for-play debate after having been a high-level student-athlete?
Rolle: I am in favor of paying collegiate athletes, and I say that because football and basketball -- and I use those two because they're the biggest revenue-generating sports -- provide a lot of finances for the school. They promote the school. They increase enrollment for the school. And the life blood of those sports are the players, who work hard, who train their body and their mind. The athletes are put under a microscope in terms of all their actions within the community and at the school and in class. It's very analogous to a job. I feel the players should be compensated at least at a minimum for the work they do to enhance the reputation, the monies and the prestige of the institution for which they play.
I know it's debatable; I don't think you can have a [pay] scale as far as for the better players making more money than the walk-ons or the third-string guys. I don't think you can eliminate some of the "handshakes" that go on, because there will always be players looking for their extra edge or maybe getting bad guidance. But for the amount of effort and work and the amount of value that each player has to that institution, and for the success of that institution, and for it to endure as it is today, there certainly should be compensation. That's why I'm very much in favor of pay-for-play.
Q: Are you in favor of a system paying all athletes such as softball, golf, track, or just in the revenue-generating sports?
Rolle: Absolutely. Matter of fact, our track team at Florida State was our best team. Not to say they made Florida State more visible than our football team did, but they were our best athletes clearly. [Note: The Seminoles track team has won three consecutive NCAA Outdoor National Championships.] They work just as hard. They compete just as hard, and they go through similar, if not more, stress and pressure as student-athletes. They certainly shouldn't be excluded from this conversation.
Q: Do you think this is more of an issue of, "Everyone else seems to be making tons of money, so the players should get some of it, too"? Or how much of this comes back to whether the education and the scholarships aren't enough compensation?