By Mickey Furfari
For The Register-Herald
Jerry West, the greatest basketball player West Virginia University ever had, recalled recently that the NCAA allowed colleges to pay athletes $15 a month in the 1950s.
“That was for laundry and maybe the cost of a haircut,” the 75-year-old legend said. “It was really laughable.”
West, who still is the Mountaineers’ No. 1 scorer and rebounder in school history, was asked whether he thinks college athletes should be paid a specified sum of money to go with their scholarships.
“If you see the enormous amount of money that today’s athletes are bringing into the schools because of their athletic programs, there would be two sides to that. Getting an education is very important,” he said.
“But a lot of this is starting to fall into something greater because of the huge efforts to play sports, especially at the universities.”
He thinks they’re doing it to not only produce the best football players that they can, but more importantly to build a better program.
“That would obviously command them more money and the conferences to command more money in terms of TV revenue and cable revenue,” the Kanawha County native continued.
“The NCAA has critical powers and they have served their purpose to some degree. But I also think they need to reexamine when the kids go through school.”
He recalled that athletes could get summer jobs when he was at WVU (1958-59-60). But that’s not possible today as football and basketball players work out year-around, with or without coaching.
“They train all year long because of the facilities they have and the recognition they can get,” West said.
“The enormous amount of pride when you have an athletic team that people in the state follow and people all over the country follow, it’s important to universities even more if you see the endorsements of some of these schools.”
While in times past enormous amounts of money were donated to Ivy League and other institutions for academics, West pointed out that now you see schools securing sports an enormous amount of money being contributed because of the success of their athletic programs.
“It’s not the educators doing that,” West stressed. “It’s the athletic programs doing that. It’s the importance of their leadership throughout America.
“I don’t see why they shouldn’t consider it (paying athletes) myself.”
He did not say how much the NCAA should allow, dollar-wise.