THE BLOG

College Sports Programs Compensate Coaches Well - And Now it is Time to Pay the Players

03/26/2015 11:26 am ET | Updated May 26, 2015

University of Michigan new head football coach Jim Harbaugh is making headlines not only for signing a $38 million seven-year contract but also for saying that he does not think he is worth it. The fact is, he probably is worth it. He is getting paid for his potential results. He is getting paid for potential wins. If he can produce up to his potential, he should be paid the $5 million a year and deserves every penny. But, what about his players? What about all of the college athletes?

Coach Harbaugh's multi-million dollar deal is just more proof that college sports are big business. It is another reason why college athletes, particularly college football players and basketball players, should be getting paid. College sports are a business and in business you pay your top performers. It is that simple.

There is no reason why college athletes, the ones who are on the field, on the court and in the gym should be getting nothing. A free college education is just not enough. When a school has a successful sports program, everyone makes money -- except the players. The coaches make money, and in the case of coach Harbaugh, and others, it is huge money. Well-deserved money. Along with the coaches who make millions, the schools, the TV networks, the vendors and the local communities all reap the financial benefits of this multi-billion dollar industry. But the players don't make a dime.

You can be sure that coach Harbaugh had great professional representation in securing his contract with the University of Michigan. College athletes should be demanding their fair share of the billions of dollars that they generate, but they can't do it alone. They need great professional representation as well to protect their rights and their interests. They need to unionize.

Usually, I am completely anti-union. I am a firm believer in everyone's right to participate in a free enterprise capitalistic society. Most industries today do not need unions. In fact, many union workers today are gratuitously guaranteed higher wages and tenure based on everything except job performance and results. However, when it comes to college athletes, a union is a must. It is the only way that today's college athletes will be given the voice that they so desperately need. College players, specifically football and basketball players, are getting ripped off and taken advantage of and it should not go on any longer.

Millions of people tune in to watch college players play, perform and entertain. Companies spend millions of dollars to advertise during their games. Coaches make millions of dollars to coach them. But the players, the ones who are responsible for it all, those are the ones making nothing. While many people will argue that there is no system designed to properly compensate college players fairly, that is simply an excuse. Just as in any other business, the system that makes the most sense is the more value the athlete brings, the more money that athlete should be paid.

And even coach Harbaugh, who may have said he thinks he is being overpaid with the huge deal he has signed, also said he was not going to offer to take a pay cut. And he shouldn't offer to take less money. He deserves what he is going to get paid for all of the value that he will provide. His players, and all college players, deserve the same treatment.

Let's be clear. Many college athletes come from low-income families. Most of those college athletes will not make the pros. They are generating huge profits, huge money and huge salaries for everyone involved. It is just not fair that the coaches, the colleges, the universities, the TV networks and the local communities make a ton of money while the players themselves make nothing. It has to stop. The players need to start making a salary or they should go on strike.