Penn State assistant coach Jay Paterno, son of Joe, eyeballs a nasty, 90 mph slider and blasts it out of the park in this column.
His topic? Paying college athletes, a idea that has developed plenty of momentum of late. His position? Athletes already have a pretty good deal.
Paterno: Let me start the argument by making a proposal to parents and students alike. I am going to ask you to work no more than 20 hours a week for 21 weeks – with at least one mandatory day off every week. For another 23 weeks you'll work no more than eight hours a week. You'll get eight weeks off. (These are all NCAA-mandated time limits).
You will receive fall, spring and both summer sessions of education, plus room, board and all fees paid. For the 604 hours you put in, you'll get an education valued at $33,976 in state and $50,286 out of state (using last year's numbers from Penn State, the latest available). Keep in mind that number does not include several hundred dollars per semester for books and supplies, which are covered under the NCAA scholarship.
At those rates, the student-athlete on full scholarship to Penn State will earn $56.25 per hour if he is an in-state student and $83.25 per hour if he is an out-of-state student.
Proposals to pay college athletes are not fresh topics for the nattering nabobs. It's a near-annual summer column for sportswriters who mostly focus on pro sports. It typically includes this grandiose assertion: "The coaches make millions and the universities make tens of millions but the athletes, who do all the work, don't get squat."
And our current state of affairs -- hello, Columbus -- certainly has ripened this topic.
Yet, there really isn't even a need to reason with these folks. You just say -- or type -- "Title IX," and the debate ends. Everything else is hot air.
You can't pay just revenue-generating football and men's basketball players. Gender equity is the law of the land. So, end of story.
Paterno also points out that students-athletes have plenty of ways to get more, need-based money:
Paterno: If you and your family have financial difficulties, this scholarship also allows you to receive any Pell Grant money you are qualified for up to the federal maximum of $5,550 per year. There's also a needy student fund allowing for several hundred dollars a year to buy clothes.
Further, Paterno touches on the foundation of this entire debate: The odd cynicism we have about education.
Paterno: But forget the NFL or NBA for a moment. If I offered that deal to every parent in this country, how many would grumble and say that it isn't enough? But no one discusses this side of the argument. Even members of the media will say this whole thing isn't really about education.
There is the rub. There is the problem.
Lots of folks out there think everything is a hustle. That college sports is awash in corruption and hypocrisy. And, sure, there's a lot of that. But the fact that many so easily wipe away the value of a free college education speaks more about their dubious values than of the imperfect system of college sports.