How Military Insurance Can Help Explain A Valid "Pay Collegiate Athletes" Argument

The United Services Automobile Association is a Fortune 500 company, loosely affiliated with the U.S. Armed Forces, that offers insurance and financial services to current and retired armed forces members and their families. The rationale goes something like this: Joe Servicemember gave his time and commitment to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces and help make this country a safer place. He put in maximum effort, years of his life, and his family's lives were affected. To thank him for his service, the USAA provides excellent rates not only for him, but for his spouse, and every one of his children. Essentially, they are all covered for life thanks to Joe Servicemember's service.

Skip to collegiate athletes. Bob Footballer spends four years at Tech State U., winning a Heisman and two national championships. He gets a full ride, modest stipend, and the chance to play in front of millions of people over the course of his career. While he's doing this, Tech State U. is selling jerseys, posters, books, magnets, banner, t-shirts, and Zubaz pants all with Bob's image. They are literally rolling in coin and yet Bob doesn't see a single dime of that money.

We've heard plenty of theories on paying athletes, from Jay Paterno to Colorado's Jon Embree, as Peter showed us in today's SWH. But another valid plan was put forth by Desmond Howard, and both Blutarsky and Chris Brown of Smart Football picked up on last week.

Instead of paying the players, give them a use-it-or-lose-it $1-to-$1 credit on education for them, their spouses and their children for every dollar made off of them while in college. Sell $1 million in Silas Redd jerseys? Silas and his kids now have a $1 million credit to spend at Penn State. Earn $500K on Deja McClendon posters? Her and her husband can now go back and get their law degrees if they choose. Brown probably explains it better:

"For example, if we make $5 of profit for selling a jersey with your name on it and we sell 5,000 of those jerseys and we make $2 of profit on a poster that shows you and another player (so you get credit for $1) and we sell 10,000 of those posters, you will have $35,000 in credits towards future education. So if in five years you're in the NFL and your wife would like to get a Master’s Degree from our School of Science, you can apply that $35,000 credit against tuition. Or if you retire and would like to get an MBA from our Business School, you can apply that credit. The entire University is willing to make a lifetime commitment to you and the education of you and your family."

Sure there are complications, and it really doesn't address how to compensate the players off whom the school makes no money (essentially the members of 25 of PSU's 29 varsity sports). Maybe a general fund can be created by a portion of the other proceeds, I don't know. But this makes sense to me.

Just like the USAA giving back to Joe Servicemember and his direct family for life, the university should give back to Bob Footballer and his direct family for life. The United States is richer by being safer and allowing its citizens to sleep safe at night; the university is literally richer by selling merchandise. One of those entities is treating the persons responsible properly, the other is not.

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