OKLAHOMA CITY — Carmelo Anthony believes NCAA student-athletes deserve to be paid. He’s just not sure what the system should look like.
“That’s something to be figured out,” he said. “But I think it’ll only get figured out if the NCAA wants to figure it out. If they don’t want to...you’ll continue having these issues, having these problems. College basketball will continue to go down.
"Guys are not going to go to college and it’ll force the NBA to step up and take that age limit rule out. I think it has to be a collective effort between the NCAA, NBA, just basketball as a whole.”
An FBI probe into an alleged bribery scandal inside the NCAA has exposed former and current players as well as coaches and agents. Anthony, who went to Syracuse for one year and was a top recruit in his 2002 high-school class, has followed closely.
“The NCAA and amateur sports have been corrupt for so long. We all know that. Whether you get caught doing that, it is what it is. But that’s beside the point,” he said. “I think college basketball players, college athletes period, should be compensated...A 16-year old kid, 17-year old kid going to college [gets] a free education if they get a scholarship. But how are they surviving on those campuses?
"A lot of them can’t afford food. They get in trouble for taking $10 or $20 or a friend or family member can’t give them money. There’s so many small things that go along with that, and I just wish and hope and pray that something happens.”
The scandal has exposed agents and schools which facilitated five- or sometimes six-figure payments to top high schoolers as a recruiting tactic. The NCAA, of course, does not allow players to receive compensation for their participation in school sports.
The inability for some to get paid upfront has turned heading overseas into a consideration for certain high schoolers in recent years. Now that NBA G Leaguers make more money, recruits could start to turn there more often, as well.
“I would tell my son to go to college. But with that being said, you’re going to start seeing a lot more players looking at the opportunity to go play overseas,” Anthony said. “You’re going to see guys giving up, maybe foregoing their senior year in high school, start trying to get to the G League. You’re going to start seeing a lot of these different leagues, not just here in the US but throughout the world, become more powerful because of what the NCAA is doing.”
The Thunder star acknowledged he’s unsure of how to fix the problem in college sports.
Paying student-athletes who participate in revenue sports could hurt the non-revenue sports — or, at least, could give universities excuses to take those away. Of course, treating student-athletes like Olympic athletes, allowing them to receive compensation from outside sources, such as agents or shoe companies or even local advertisers, would not present that problem.
Anthony just wants to make sure he can start a dialog.
“I would love to sit down with the NCAA and just hear — like, I’m serious — just hear their thought-process behind this and what they’re thinking, what’s the future. I’m all for the athletes. I think we have to figure something out for college as a whole,” he said.
“I’ll say this: if they’re open-minded to it, they’ll get it done…I think it just has to be better. I think the communication has to be better. Something has to be done. I don’t have the answers. Obviously nobody has the answers right now, but something has to be done. That has to change.”
Fred Katz is the Thunder beat writer for the Norman Transcript and CNHI Oklahoma as well as the host of the postgame show, Thunder After Dark, and the OKC Dream Team, a weekly Thunder podcast that runs every Tuesday. Follow him on Twitter: @FredKatz.