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A college football 'amateur' can hardly earn a living these days. A whimsical solution: play now—GET PAID LATER
Art Buchwald
September 10, 1956
The author, European columnist for the New York Herald Tribune, has been observing aspects of life in America.
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September 10, 1956

A College Football 'amateur' Can Hardly Earn A Living These Days. A Whimsical Solution: Play Now—get Paid Later

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The author, European columnist for the New York Herald Tribune, has been observing aspects of life in America.

The big story on the West Coast these days is the Pacific Coast Conference rulings against amateur football players who get caught accepting money for jobs they never committed. Schools have been fined, players have been benched and teams have been banished from the Rose Bowl. P.C.C. universities, the cradles of our western culture, have cut their athletic payrolls by 75% and are now using the money to tell the country what a terrible code the Pacific Coast Conference has enforced.

The ramifications have not been felt yet, but already some of the consequences have been brought to light. In a recent practice game at the University of Southern California two scrub teams tossed to see who would kick off first. But things had gotten so desperate at the school the teams started fighting over the coin, and for most of the game they chased the man with the quarter instead of the quarterback.

As many of our greatest sportswriters have pointed out, this is not a Pacific coast problem, it's a world problem. When you stop paying amateur athletes you upset the economy of a nation. Besides, what good is it playing for fun if you can't get paid for it?

The original object of football was to keep the coal miners off the streets. The mines were purposely closed on Saturday afternoons so that the miners could play in the local college games without losing seniority.

Then the conferences were organized and someone suggested using students instead of miners to field a college team.

You can imagine the resistance to the plan. Where could you find students as strong as coal miners? Finally a compromise was reached in which the miners were enrolled as students. They would be paid as students instead of coal miners, at a minimum salary no less than the president of the university. This was the first attempt to clean up college sports.

During the years it has been accepted practice to pay amateur football players. A first-string player earned as much as a first-string professor, a second-string player as much as an associate professor and so on. In many instances the players and professors cashed their checks at the same place, and the players were given much needed tutoring as they stood in line.

But in recent years the reform movements on every campus have been out to destroy the football system. First they tried to cut down on players' allowances (a first-string player was given an associate professor's salary, etc.). Then they insisted the players do outside work to earn their salary. Jobs were found. Players were ordered to answer telephones that were not plugged in and to cut the grass that sprang out between the cracks in the sidewalk. They were paid for parking their own cars in parking lots, and for going through the cafeteria line. Despite the extra burden, most of them managed to keep up their studies, graduating at the head of their classes in tree climbing, fly-fishing and Kathleen Winsor.

Yet the reform groups were not satisfied. They kept cutting down and down on allowances, until today in many cases associate professors are getting more than football players.

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