Musings on Sports Economics

Myth 12: It would be dangerous to have students on campus with that much money. They aren’t old enough to know how to manage it. Athletes will just blow it all on bling and drugs.

(Previous Myth)

The previous myth was deeply illogical, and it’s embarrassing that the NCAA, a group of highly educated people, puts it forward as fact.  But I am more ashamed by this myth, which I believe this myth is deeply rooted in racism.  If our concern were really with college kids having too much money on campus, we would pass a law prohibiting the children of the wealthy from coming to college unless their parents agreed not to provide them with any money.  We would have stopped Natalie Portman from going to Harvard with her Star Wars riches.


Face it.  What the proponents of this argument are really saying is that they are uncomfortable with poor African-American adult men, suddenly earning more money than they’ve ever had before, and facing tough decisions about how to spend or save that money.  The images of concern people raise are not of someone blowing the money on trips to Paris to see art in the Louvre.  It’s Cadillac Escalades, jewelry and tattoos, or guns and drugs that are conjured up as the perils of pay for play.[1]  And while sometimes the examples given are white,[2] that’s not the stereotype most likely put on display when this argument is trotted out.


We need to stop saying that we do not trust young adults of any race with money and that we’re colluding on pay for their own good.  We especially need to stop almost-saying that we feel that way because we do not like how young African-American males decide to spend their money.  If we are really worried about the financial wisdom of the college athletes who would suddenly find themselves much better off than they are now, then by all means, let’s have offer financial education classes for all scholarship athletes.[3]  Let’s end the NCAA rules that prohibit college athletes from having paid financial advisors, agents, or lawyers to guide them with their careers and their money.  Instead, the NCAA could provide free financial advisory services and could run an agent clearinghouse to prevent scam artists from exploiting college athletes.  Rather than deny athletes a fair market wage because they might waste the money, let’s help them invest it wisely.

(Next Myth)

[1] Some examples from the internet:

“Despite Coach Williams defense of the idea of paying student-athletes salaries, these same students are continuously making poor irresponsible decisions. Society cannot afford to pay athletes who are being looked up to by countless children across the nation who are indirectly led to believe that student-athletes’ behaviors are acceptable. Four University of Tennessee men’s basketball players’ (Tyler Smith, 23, junior point guard Melvin Goins, 22, junior center Brian Williams, 22, and sophomore guard Cameron Tatum, 21) reputations were all left tainted after they were all arrested during a traffic stop for speeding near campus on guns and weapons charges. Police reported that officers found a handgun with an altered serial number, a bag of marijuana and an open container of alcohol while Tatum was the player driving. Some of the most envied students on campus who play basketball on national television each week, and do not have to pay for a thing in their free time, are found playing with drugs and weapons. Their behavior is childish and irresponsible and should not be tolerated let alone rewarded with additional salaries.” Quoting Kevin Doran, Should College Athletes be Paid?, SLAM, March 23, 2011  “Now they want street money AND a $200,000 scholarship? One or the other, not both. I have paid more money to universities than I care to remember, including payments for my wife and three kids. So now you want to pay some chicken shit black or white football player so he can buy bling, ink and a car plus a cell phone, IPod, etc. We all know most, not all, but most, will waste that precious scholarship.” John Taylor, Seven SEC Coaches Would Pay Players - Out of Their Own Pockets, NBC SPORTS, June 1, 2011,

[2]The Naismith College Basketball Player of the Year for 2006 Duke guard J.J. Redick was arrested on a DUI charge the summer after graduating from Duke University right before he was about to enter the NBA Draft. Quoting Kevin Doran, Should College Athletes be Paid?, SLAM, March 23, 2011

[3] I’m torn over whether making such education mandatory would itself be racist.  I think not.  I think it’s fair to say that eighteen-year olds of every background would benefit from the NCAA insisting that with new-found riches comes a new-found need for financial savvy and that the presumption that they all need some help to avoid making dumb choices cuts across racial lines.

Posted by
Andy Schwarz

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