College Basketball

Dear Reader,

This article, from The Atlantic, makes a good argument about how college atheletes are vastly underpaid for their performance.  Among other good points, this particular journalist enjoyed the remarks at the expense of the Los Angeles Times:

Adding financial insult to injury, athletes are prohibited from realizing their full and free market value—thanks to the dubious concept of amateurism, the classic Greek philosophy of it's not restraint of trade if we cover ourselves in the unimpeachable competitive morality of aristocratic Victorian-era rowers, suckers. While college coaches and athletic administrators are free to cash in on shoe deals, complementary cars, and grating credit card commercials, the people doing the actual sweating are not. To the contrary, accepting gratis goodies like tattoos, big-screen televisions, and weekend stays in swanky South Beach hotels from perfectly willing boosters gets them punished and suspended, plus branded as entitled, greedy n'er do wells by the schoolmarmish likes of Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke. All for the awful, unforgiveable crime of enjoying the same things that, well, lots of people enjoy.

Nevertheless, I think we can answer the question from the article.  Why don't the college atheletes say, 'no more' and strike?  Two reasons: 

(1) Some of them aren't mad.  This could be for any number of reasons: they come from relatively wealthy families, so they aren't hurting that badly.  Their status as college basketball (or football) players gets them dates (I use the word broadly) with attractive people they'd never be able to talk to otherwise.  They just like the glory of playing the game.  They've imagined since age 5 that they would get to be a college athelete and are enjoying themselves.  Etc.  

(2)  Even if they all were mad, there is a collective action problem here.  A "partial" strike doesn't do much of anything at all - and a one-man strike does nothing.  There's a tremendous incentive to free-ride on everybody else's strike.  You get the benefits from the strike without becoming known as the troublemaker.  Etc.  So, of course, a strike doesn't happen unless there is really tremendous leadership and, most likely, some kind of event to coordinate the players around that outcome (just like a revolution - you need something to make everybody go nuts). 

--- Stag Staff