Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim leapt from one controversial lily pad to the next on Wednesday during the ACC’s annual preseason media day.
The Hall of Fame coach took a subtle jab at LeBron James for the work he believes he did in getting former Syracuse signee Darius Bazley hooked up with a million dollar deal with New Balance, and quickly moved on to an even more insidious topic on paying — or rather, not paying — college athletes.
“I don’t think we should ever compensate players,” he said via Syracuse.com. “I think we can do as much as we can for players. The cost of attendance is good. They get more meals now so they can keep their meal money. I think those are all good things and I think more of those things should have been done. But I don’t think you can compensate players straight out. What’s the salary? How much? Do you pay football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball? We got a great lacrosse team, do we pay those guys?”
The NCAA and its amateurism model has been under attack over the last year more so than normal with the FBI taking a keen interest in college basketball and its dark underbelly of nefarious recruiting. The ongoing probe led Wednesday to guilty verdicts against three separate individuals who have been alleged to be a part of that scene. Yet Boeheim, who seems stuck in his belief that the model should not change, believes paying players — players who clearly have a monetary value of greater value than a meal stipend and cost of attendance — is nonsensical.
“The fallacy of the payment thing and they all say the same exact thing: ‘It’s a billion dollar business.’ No, it’s not. There might be income coming in, but it goes to all the other sports,” said Boeheim. “It’s not just coming into basketball and we’re keeping it all. We’re bringing it in and it’s paying for all the other sports. So at the end of the day, I know for a fact at Syracuse that it’s zero. We have zero money left in the athletic department at the end of the year. Without paying anybody.
“And everybody says, ‘The coach makes this and the players (don’t make anything).’ The player is 17 years old. I’ve been working my whole life. There’s a lot of 17-year-old kids that don’t make money. Most of them. These 17-year-old kids are getting a $75,000 scholarship. And they compare that to a coach making all this money. What’s the comparison there? I’m a grown man. I’ve been working for 50 years. That’s just not a comparison. It makes no sense. You might as well say that NBA players aren’t making enough money because the owner’s worth $2 billion. So the players should be making more money. It just makes no sense.”
Boeheim had more to say at the ACC’s media day — which you can read here — but his whole argument comes off as pretty cavil on the whole. There’s a chunk of student-athletes, you could argue, that are worth significantly more than a cost of attendance and meal stipend — including two players of his own in future NBA players O’Shae Brissett and Tyus Battle. So to say they’re compensated fairly, despite the obviousness that they’re worth far more than their current compensation, comes off as a bit tone-deaf.
Boeheim did however concede that the rules as currently constituted — though improved of late — could be improved further with respect to considerations for players’ families and players’ likeness.
“I think we should do as much as we can for the players under the system,” he said. “We have improved it. We could get the parents to games. I think we could do that more easily. Anything we can do extending the players’ educations, make sure it’s paid for. We keep our players up there at Christmas — let’s send them home. Let’s pay for them to go home a couple times. Why not? Why can’t we do that? Why shouldn’t we do that? I think they do that for other scholarship people. I think they can get transportation. Why don’t we talk about that?
“And the players’ images, fine. There’s a lot of pitfalls for that, but go ahead. If Tyus Battle can do a commercial in town and make money, I’m 100 percent for that. It’s not hurting anything. Let’s do that. And if there’s something about that they want to put in a trust, that’s fine, too.”
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