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Julian Martin: There is plenty of money to pay W.Va. athletes

By By Julian Martin
Unidentified Northwestern football players walk between their locker room and McGaw Hall, where voting is taking place on the student athlete union question Friday, April 25, 2014, in Evanston, Ill. Northwestern football players cast secret ballots Friday in an on-campus hall adjacent to their home stadium on whether to form the nation's first union for college athletes. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Mitch Vingle reported in his column (April 20) that WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck asked $3,500 (and up) contributors to WVU sports what they thought of college athlete unions. Was Luck surprised to find out that, “The feedback I’ve received so far is our supporters don’t want athletes paid.” People with $3,500 or more to spare are more likely to be union busters than union sympathizers.

Luck may have given away how he feels when he referred to college athletics as “college sports industry.” Industries have employees who have the right to form unions. The “college sports industry” has employees — they are called players.

Luck’s preference might also have shown through when he told Mitch Vingle that, “The Olympic model was the last big movement in amateurism — and I think the Olympics are better now.”

A National Labor Relations Board ruled that Northwestern University players are employees with the right to organize a union. Luck told Vingle that he thinks that case will continue to be upheld.

Gene Budig, former WVU president, wrote in a Nov. 24, 2008, Gazette commentary, that one president of a large university expected to raise between $2 billion and $3 billion by entertaining wealthy donors at athletic events in upper-level private suites.

If a university can make $3 billion plus on the backs of athletes, those athletes should be making very high salaries. Setting aside just 1 percent of $3 billion for student-athlete salaries, would come to $30 million. That could be $375,000 each if divided among the say 80 athletes who earned it. The university would still have $2.7 billion which they probably wouldn’t use to raise professor salaries to equal coaching salaries.

Priorities are so out of whack that in 41 states a coach is the highest paid state employee. West Virginia’s highest paid public employee is WVU basketball coach Bob Huggins at a salary of $3 million. So how about if he tithes 10 percent ($300,000) for player wages. That could give a team of 10 players $30,000 each, with Huggins living easy on the remaining $2.7 million.

WVU football coach Dana Holgorsen is West Virginia’s second highest paid public employee. He rakes in $2.6 million. If Holgorsen tithes 10 percent ($260,000) to player wages, 60 players would each get over $4,000 and Holgorsen could live easy on the over $2.3 million left.

It is obscene that players work long hours for Holgorsen and Huggins for virtually nothing. A four-year “scholarship” is peanuts compared to Huggins $3 million and Holgorsen’s $2.6 million. And while we are getting obscene, consider how the average salary for a WVU professor of $107,383 compares to the coaches’ millions.

And why shouldn’t players get a cut of the profits from concessions, logo identified merchandise, TV contract income and the $21.56 million ticket sales at WVU sporting events (2011-12 fiscal year)? Not only should athletes be paid, they should be paid well and have life-time health insurance to cover future complications from sports injuries.

To continue to keep the money, I figure that the “college sports industry” will come up with some razzle-dazzle like stipends. Stipend is a euphemism for a small amount of money.

You can tell Oliver Luck what you think at

Julian Martin, of Charleston, is a retired teacher and author of “Imagonna: Peace Corps Memories.”

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