NEW YORK (CNN) – Kevin Perry, Bill Tyndall, Martin Jenkins, and J.J. Moore may never get drafted to the pros or ever make a dime off their sport. However, these four athletes are the latest to attempt to blow up the amateur model of college sports and potentially open the door to paying college athletes.
“They are pros without pay and that’s not fair and that’s not right,” said Jeffrey Kessler.
Jeffrey Kessler is the sports attorney who helped negotiate a free market for NFL and NBA players. Now, he’s representing these four athletes in a class-action lawsuit against the five power conferences in college sports and the NCAA.
The four players anti-trust lawsuit filed this spring seeks to give schools the option to compensate athletes with more than just scholarships. Since the conferences make big bucks on television contracts and universities shell out millions for coaches.
However, the NCAA says a free education, that’s payment enough.
“Many of these athletes do not get their degree or graduate,” says Kessler.
Dominique Wilkins was one of those guys who didn’t graduate.
“A lot of the times the kids come out a little too early because, if they see the money, the money is very enticing,” said Wilkins.
Wilkins left the University of Georgia after three years to enjoy a long and successful career in the NBA. He left school, partly because he didn’t want to wait to get paid. That meant sacrificing his degree.
“As young players and I was one of those guys, I wanted to help my family and myself,” said Wilkins.
So in a billion-dollar business, what is a scholarship worth? On average, about 23,000.
By comparison, a joint study by Drexel University and the National College Players Association found the average worth of a collegiate football player is about 120,000.
It’s 265 thousand for the average men’s basketball player.
However, some fear paying players will change the landscape of college sports.
A 2012 poll found that about two thirds of sports fans thought a scholarship was enough.
“I’m not against benefits; I’m not against increased investment. He and I had a pretty good conversation at breakfast. But I think the idea of paying salaries would be counterproductive including for the student athletes themselves, and their families,” said Paul Tagliabue, a former NFL commissioner.
Tagliabue spoke at the knight commission on intercollegiate athletics in March.
“I don’t think that paying, paying a salary is either in the interest of student athletes, or their universities, or of college sports, or in the public interest. If a case can be made in a given conference or in intercollegiate sports generally, that more resources should be invested to the benefit of players, I strongly believe the focus should be on investing in their academic opportunities,” said Tagliabue.
However, Kessler says education took a backseat to profits a long time ago.
“There’s nothing innocent or pure about that. It’s a business,” said Kessler.