Story and Photos by Ken Krayeske • 12:45 AM EST
UConn atheltic director Jeffrey Hathaway (left) and (right) NBA Attorney Jeffery Mishkin of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom agree that big time college athletes don't deserve pay. Pictured here at the UConn Law's Davis courtroom in Hartford, Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2008.
A t a recent freshman experience class for student athletes at the University of Connecticut, some wiseguy frosh asked athletic director Jeff Hathaway when they would get paid.
“I love all of you,” Hathaway said, and he told the students they are not at UConn to get paid.
Hathaway related this tale to about 50 UConn Law students at UConn's Davis Courtroom Wednesday, November 19, 2008. Hathaway and NBA lawyer Jeffrey A. Mishkin spun yarns about managing the cut throat world of Big East sports for a half hour or so, then opened the floor to questions.
My hand shot up, and I wondered if the scads of money - literally billions of dollars flowing into college athletic coffers from television and marketing contracts - forced us to abandon the myth of college athletes as amateurs.
"This is a difficult question," Hathaway said. "There are 343 Division I institutions, all of them are very different in a lot of ways.” Even in the 16-team Big East, public, private, Catholic, and secular schools compete, all with differing size budgets. It would be trouble dividing revenues, Hathaway said.
“Who gets paid and how much?” Hathaway asked. “There are only three sports that generate revenue for our school. I don't believe there is a time we will pay our athletes."
Mishkin, upon hearing my question aimed at Hathaway, expressed relief that I had nothing for him. Not so fast. The NCAA is the de facto minor league for both the NFL and the NBA, I said, do the NFL and the NBA owe a duty to college athletic programs?
No. But first Mishkin admitted the theory that Division I basketball and football players are athletes has been “strained." Yet he agreed with Hathaway that college athletes shouldn't get paid. Nor will contracts happen unless athletics and academics dissociate.
Such a dissocation may be the best fix. It was first proposed way back in 1989 by then-Sports Illustrated writer Rick Telander. Disgusted with the inhumanity he witnessed covering college football, Telander, who attended Northwestern University on a gridiron scholarship, suggested in his classic tome The Hundred Yard Lie that the top 50-80 sports schools should form a bona fide football minor league.