Unbiased Analysis of Today's Healthcare Issues

The role of coaches and student-athletes

Written By: Jason Shafrin - Apr• 16•14

Today I take a break from my traditional blogging on healthcare and briefly discuss two issues related to student-athletes.  These questions include:

  • Are coaches employers or educators?
  • Should students get unlimited meal plans?

I discuss each below. Much of the content is drawn largely from one of my favorite non-healthcare blogs, Wages of Wins.

Are coaches employers or educators?

Pat Fitzgerald, the coach of Northwestern University’s football team, says the answer is yes.  The Northwestern players have the option to unionize and Fitzgerald does not see himself as an employer.  Although Fitzgerald’s self-perception may have some validity, he does not appear like most traditional educators.  David Berri, professor of economics at Southern Utah University gives 5 points of comparison.

1) that salary [$2 million/year]– it’s the equivalent of 10-40 years of pay for the range of educators I know personally. No one I know is in the ballpark, the parking lot or the highway on the way to that playing space.

2) Fitzgerald’s charges, according to the NLRB ruling, are required to secure his approval before they are allowed to seek outside employment. I have zero say over what my students do outside the confines of whatever course they are taking with me. Again, I speak confidently for all my other educator friends in this regard.

3) Northwestern football players are also required to provide detailed information about what kind of car they drive. This would be extraordinarily unusual in the typical teacher-student relationship, unless the teacher happened to be the parent of the student in question.

4) when the players, I mean students, maintain social media accounts, they are prohibited from denying a friend request from their coaches, so that they can have their activities on those sites monitored. See above, under “except for parents.”

5) NW football players are required, in their first two years, to live on campus. According to the NLRB ruling, “Only upperclassmen are permitted to live off campus and even then they are required to to submit their lease to Fitzgerald for his approval before they can enter into it.”

In short, even if Fitzgerald seems himself as an educator, he certainly does play the role of most educators.

Should students get unlimited meal plans?

According to Wages of Wins, the NCAA’s Legislative Council approved a rule change today that will allow Division I athletes “unlimited meals and snacks in conjunction with their participation.”

Should students more generous meal plans? Yes. Should students get unlimited meal plans? No. In a world of scarce resources, giving anyone unlimited amounts of anything is generally a bad idea.  Why is this?

Here is what will happen.  Student athletes who have “unlimited” plans will get as much food as they can and “give” it to their friends in exchanges for cash, goods or services.  The students receiving the food will benefit because the price of the food will be below market and the student-athletes selling the food will benefit as the marginal cost to them is 0.

However, if the NCAA wants to direct additional funds to students, it should just pay them directly.  The NCAA of course does not want to pay their student-athletes (i.e., increase wages), but only is doing this to address the bad press it received from Shabazz Napier’s comments that he had a lot of “hungry nights” going to bed “starving” while playing for UConn.

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2 Comments

  1. John Fembup says:

    1. “that salary [$2 million/year]– it’s the equivalent of 10-40 years of pay for the range of educators I know personally.

    How much revenue do those other professors bring in to the university? Like it or not that counts for a lot.

    2. “Fitzgerald’s charges, according to the NLRB ruling, are required to secure his approval before they are allowed to seek outside employment. I have zero say ”

    You can bet that the athletes are under NCAA rules as to what they can be paid for. You can also bet that David Berri’s students are not under any such rules.

    3. “Northwestern football players are also required to provide detailed information about what kind of car they drive. This would be extraordinarily unusual in the typical teacher-student relationship”

    See (2)

    4. “when the players, I mean students, maintain social media accounts, they are prohibited from denying a friend request from their coaches, so that they can have their activities on those sites monitored”

    See (2)

    5. “required to to submit their lease to Fitzgerald for his approval ”

    See (2)

    Do I think the NCAA is behind most of the distortions in this market? You can bet on it.

  2. John Fembup says:

    “In a world of scarce resources, giving anyone unlimited amounts of anything is generally a bad idea.

    You mean, except for health care. Right?

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