Missouri football players sound off on compensation debate

Monday, September 16, 2013 | 7:41 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — When Evan Boehm was a high school senior in Lee’s Summit, he created a PowerPoint presentation with a theme that seemed slightly far-fetched at the time: “Why College Athletes Should Be Paid.”

Now a sophomore offensive lineman at Missouri, Boehm’s vision could actually be a reality by the time he graduates. Last week, coach Gary Pinkel posted a YouTube video that called for Missouri college football and men’s basketball players to receive money for their service. Pinkel, who once opposed the idea, said the Southeastern Conference was moving forward with a potential solution.

“The more we talk about it, it’s just changing,” Pinkel said at the team’s media day on Monday afternoon. “For me personally, if I didn’t go home and work in the summer, I didn’t have spending money … Now, our players are year-round. They train year-round. They don’t have time to get summer jobs.”

Pinkel said that the current summer system helps get players through school at a high graduation rate but that the student-athletes need “a little bit of additional money … to help them function a little better.”

What sorts of things do they need the extra money for?

“Gas is a big one,” Boehm said. “Especially when you live off campus. The food, the rent, you know. Rent’s getting high nowadays, and that’s something we have to pay for. We get two meals (at the athletics complex), but we have to pay for the weekends. We have to pay for lunch.”

Two years removed from his PowerPoint presentation, Boehm does not want to create the misconception that he is ungrateful for the current perks, including a full scholarship.

“I’m very fortunate, don’t get me wrong,” Boehm said. “I’m very fortunate and very thoughtful and thankful for everything that we receive and everything that we have.

“At the same time, we get paid below minimum wage, and this football stuff is a job. But I’m not gonna be upset if I don’t get paid or I do get paid. We’re very fortunate and lucky for what we have.”

Defensive lineman Markus Golden agreed.

“A lot of guys back from where I’m from (St. Louis) didn’t even have the chance to come here and play,” Golden said. “I would never let money ruin something that I’m enjoying. That ain’t me. I’m just a hard worker. Money hasn’t ever been a big thing for me when it comes to playing football. I feel like it’s a blessing just to be here playing.”

One point of contention in the “pay the players” debate is whether or not the smaller-budget sports’ athletes should also be paid if football and men’s basketball players receive dividends.

Boehm argued that while sports such as cross country and soccer don’t make as much money as football, those athletes are just as deserving.

“We have to think about the other sports and the other teams, too, and what they get,” Boehm said. “They need to get a lot more recognition, too, because they do just as much if not more than what we do.”

Right now, though, the national conversation on player compensation revolves around football. And the football team’s most prominent figure — Pinkel — has now made it clear that change is needed.

“If that’s what he wants,” said defensive lineman Lucas Vincent, “I’ll go along with him.”

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Ellis Smith September 17, 2013 | 8:34 a.m.

Let's please try to hold annual compensation to less than six figures to the left of the decimal point. :)

So much for amateur athletics. On the other hand, we can now better appreciate NCAA Division III, where athletes receive no scholarships and are enrolled at an institution as students because they actually meet academic entrance standards.

(Report Comment)
Kevin Gamble September 17, 2013 | 12:56 p.m.

The players are already compensated - scholarship athletes work and get a free education in return. Something that saddles millions of kids with growing debt every year, these kids get to avoid. Rent is rising? Maybe, but I suspect mostly in the kind of upscale places that are currently proliferating in Columbia. Having to pay for gas when you choose to live off campus? Having to pay for lunch, and for food on the weekends? First-world problems, as they say.

I think the real issue is the money machines that college sports - or, let's be honest, football, and to a smaller extent basketball - have become. It's a vicious cycle, with academic returns marginalized, on-field results prioritized above all, and the basic issue of public universities being turned into cash machines by sport and corporate research funding.

I don't have the answer. But I don't think that moving universities even further from their supposed identity as places of learning is the right direction. We can cynically say it is what it is, or we can have the courage to actually critique what our culture has become. I wonder if we'll see any such courage here, or elsewhere.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith September 17, 2013 | 1:44 p.m.

Kevin said, "... or we can have the courage to actually critique what our culture has become."

That courage apparently doesn't exist. The last major domestic university to address the situation, after having for years been a member of a major athletic conference, was University of Chicago in 1939.

How badly has U. of C.'s worldwide reputation for medicine, law, economics, and overall research been "damaged" because they don't participate in NCAA Division I? Not at all. If a university gets most of its recognition from athletics, what does that say about that university?

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