My wife and I received one of those gratifying phone calls last week, the one from your kid that demonstrates their own life experience caused them to gain a greater appreciation for what you did for them. Our daughter had just purchased a new car, her second car since graduating from college five years ago. The first one we gave her the down payment for and co-signed for. She had no credit record of her own. This one is all hers, signed, sealed and delivered on her record alone. She called to tell us, after five years of watching so many of her friends struggle to make their college loan payments, how much she appreciated us getting her through college debt free.

It put the value of a college education in perspective, the burden of assuming the cost as a post college debt and how long it can take for some students to start saving money after spending so much time paying it off. It also put in perspective a big part of the equation in the escalating argument to pay student athletes.

In it’s Sunday sports section the Hartford Courant presented a number of perspectives on the issue, some of them from student athletes. Former Central Connecticut basketball player Terrell Allen, before coming down on the side of paying athletes, made the pertinent observation, “I will graduate, walking across the stage with zero debt”, going on to say his mother could never have afforded to send him to college.

Former UCONN basketball star Shabazz Napier, who’s NCAA tournament comments about sometimes going to bed hungry started a firestorm of support for paying athletes, said his comments were somewhat misconstrued, the incidents were isolated and athletes are on full meal plans that allow for full bellies. There were, however, times when practices ended after the cafeteria dinner schedule had ended. Certainly that aspect has to be addressed, and has been, as it’s their involvement in their sport that creates the situation.

Central Connecticut athletic director Paul Schlickmann, a former Trinity College student athlete, talked about the pure, unadulterated student athlete experience that will be lost in the “play for pay” concept, the small percentages of college athletes who actually enter the pro ranks and the handicap any salary concept will put on mid major schools, or non FBS institutions.

Perhaps the most egregious concept is the unionization of athletes as employees of their institutions, a slippery slope that among other evils, would get too many attorneys involved, who would then advance the concept to representing athletes on an individual basis.

University of Hartford president Walter Harrison took the issue to the level the NCAA is about to take it’s own separation of power when it turns over autonomy to the “Power 5” leagues, calling for those five leagues, and any others that may wish to follow suit, to offer athletes “full cost of attendance scholarships” that address expenses beyond tuition, room and board, retaining the athletes other definition, as students, at a per student cost of about $3,000 a year. He also proposes a cap on the amount of money from athletic income the athletic department keeps for it’s own operation with any income above that amount turned back to the institution for it’s general educational fund, which could in turn offer more assistance for students who may otherwise find themselves overwhelmed by post college college debt. It not only would serve the greater good of the institution as a whole, it would return oversight of the athletic departments to the university. Many athletic departments currently act as separate entities, which has led too many of them to become “rogue” franchises.

In all honesty I wasn’t sure how I leaned on this issue until I got the call from my daughter, which reminded me of just how valuable that college education is, how much it costs and the burden the average student puts on himself to fund it.

Removing the concept of unionization from the equation and returning to it the value of the education itself are what make the proposals from Harrison the most sensible I’ve heard so far.

With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.


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