If student athletes should be paid, then so should my daughter, Gabby, who is a performer of a different sort.
She's a music major at Chapman University in Orange and plays the violin. Just recently, she and her fellow members of the orchestra played the music for an opera performance, "The Marriage of Figaro."
It's a three and one-half hour opera. Gabby played three shows, on Friday and Saturday nights and a Sunday matinee. She also played for three dress rehearsals, as well. That's 21 hours of playing violin in a one-week span.
Do you know how hard it is to play the violin for that long of a period? Or any of the other musical instruments for that matter? “People are hurting,” Gabby told me before her first show.
She, of course, did not get paid.
Indeed, unlike student athletes, she doesn't get a full scholarship. (She does get a partial academic one.) Unlike student athletes, she does not get free room and board. She has to pay for her books.
Yet she's toiling — in a pit, no less (well, an orchestra pit) — for free.
Obviously, there are differences. The more highly touted student athletes — those playing football and basketball in particular — help bring revenue into the school. Those programs — particularly in Division I schools — bring in big TV revenue and money from attendance and jersey sales.
And many of the students come from poor upbringings, so they don't have parents that can help provide spending money.
I get all of that. But paying them still doesn't make a lot of sense.
For one thing, many get a world-class education for free. A Stanford athletic scholarship is worth about $60,000 a year. And if you graduate, you have this thing called a Stanford degree. And if you have a Stanford degree, you're going to be OK.
There are other students, such as my daughter, who perform sans pay as well. The opera singers did not get paid. And they had to sing a lot.
My daughter's sacrifice in learning her craft has been no less than that of student athletes. She spent countless hours of her young life learning to play.
She's not complaining, mind you. Indeed, she says the thrill of playing an opera of such a grand scale is heady stuff. It's why you practice. You want to play in such productions. You want to be challenged.
And college athletes get that reward too. They play in stadiums packed with fans and are seen by national audiences at times.
The whole notion of paying college athletes is fraught with problems. Should each player get paid, even the shot-putters on the track team? If you pay the male athletes, do you have to pay the female ones because of Title IX?
Or, say schools just pay the football and basketball players because they are revenue drivers. But do you pay second-string punters? Do you pay the star quarterback more than a center?
Where's the money going to come from? Some schools do quite well financially. Others, with smaller programs, do not.
My daughter plays a mean violin and gets one reward in particular: Joy.
It's not bad compensation.
Can't it be enough?