I prefer NCAA hoops to the NBA, but I still don’t understand Chait’s argument here at all:
I’ve never been clear on exactly what Yglesias is proposing. Is he saying that only athletes in revenue-generating sports should be paid? Or is he saying that all college athletes should be paid? If it’s the latter — and Yglesias focuses his argument entirely on the merits of paying student-athletes at revenue-generating sports — I don’t know what his reason is. The women’s cross country team at Connecticut works just as hard as the men’s basketball team.
Your point being? By the same token, there are presumably plenty of players at Toldeo who work as hard as Miguel Cabrera, but are making a couple thousand a month rather than millions of dollars a year because the latter’s efforts and very special skills are vastly more valuable to the Tigers organization. And professional basketball (and football and baseball and ice hockey) players make vastly more than cross-country runners not because they work harder but because many more people are willing to pay to watch them. As Chait of course understands in every context but college athletics, hard work and income are very loosely correlated.
So I don’t really see a dilemma here. If restrictions on compensating athletes were lifted, the vast majority of college athletes would not be paid. But it’s still hard to see why this means that coaches, administrators, and network employees are allowed to make as much money as they can from NCAA football and basketball while the players whose labor actually generates most of the revenue are only allowed to receive scholarships.