College Sports at a Crossroads

Tim Goral's picture

If impulsive California legislators and the money-hungry National College Players Association have their way, UC Berkeley athletes may soon be going pro.

The Sacramento Bee reported Saturday that California State Assembly Bill 475, currently being considered in committee, would require UC Berkeley and UCLA to pay student athletes an annual stipend of $3,600 and guarantee their scholarships for five years. Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown (D-San Bernadino), carrying the bill through the legislature with the NCPA’s sponsorship, told the Bee: “They should say here is your five-year scholarship. Here are the tutors you need. The $3,600 stipend, that’s toothbrushes and other things.”

Those are some pricey toiletries.

Beyond the costs of tuition, room and board, books, and tutoring that are already covered by UC Berkeley full-ride athletic scholarships, it’s hard to imagine any UC Berkeley student spending more than $1,000 a semester on incidentals like snacks, clothing and gold-plated toothbrushes — and that’s more than a little generous. Absurdly, in the bill’s current language, the stipend only applies to students already receiving full rides from the university.

If any UC Berkeley student athletes struggle to meet living costs outside of their full-ride scholarship, it has nothing do with their participation in athletics and everything to do with extreme economic circumstances. So why give the stipend only to athletes?

If legislators were honest with themselves, the citizens of California and the students of this university, they’d acknowledge that AB 475 is just another attempt to address the current reality of college sports: student athletes are money makers, and they’re paid extraordinarily meager “salaries” in light of the revenue they generate. Lofty NCAA rhetoric about amateur athletes has grown rote as the commercialization trend continues, so educational institutions are looking for alternatives. The bill would professionalize college sports at UC Berkeley — and some are welcoming it.

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