I competed for Virginia Commonwealth University's Cross Country & Track & Field teams. While on the team, I set 2 university records (STILL STANDING!) and paid for half of my undergraduate tuition via athletic scholarships. While attending VCU, I also started tutoring my fellow student-ahtletes. That turned into a graduate assistantship where VCU paid for my masters degree (plus a stipend of $1,200 a month) in exchange for my tutoring Men's Basketball and academically at-risk student athletes. It was an awesome deal! And VCU making the Final Four during my time with the team made it even more awesome.

My experience as a long distance runner was not at all similar to the experience of a Men's Basketball player. There is only so much a person can run, after all, and my limit was about 80 miles a week. That took about 10 hours of running. Add in another 2-3 hours for strength training and 2-3 for stretching and other forms of recovery training, like ice baths (you haven't been cold until you've been hip deep in 45 degree water for 10 to 15 minutes).

As rigorous as that schedule sounds, particularly while taking a full course load, the basketball guys had it worse. How much worse? Every moment of their day was scheduled. If they weren't in morning classes, they were meeting with me no later than 10am and I would tutor until their practice at 2pm. They would then practice until no later than 4pm and as late as 6pm. After practice, it was either more class, more tutoring and sometimes film until 8pm. All told, I think they were engaging in sport-related activities for at least 20 hours a week and up to 40 hours (and sometimes more) throughout the year. It was particularly crazy in season when they'd have 2 games a week (As a track runner, particularly a 10K runner, I'd need up to 2 weeks to properly recover from a race before competing again) And remember, these guys were taking a full course load and *MANY* of them came from academically poor backgrounds.

These guys deserved to be paid. They played and worked their hearts out on and off the court. I have nothing but respect for their never quit attitudes, but they deserved more than a scholarship.

Expand full comment

I also tutored DI athletes in college and back this up 100%. Syracuse University men’s basketball players were over-scheduled and under-fed. Forced to live in off campus apartments, players wake up super early to smush their gigantic bodies onto the 8am bus to main campus for classes they had no control over taking. Around noon they’d take the bus back to south campus so they could stop at home and unload their book backs and reload with workout clothes. Then catch the bus to the dining hall, eat as much as possible in 20 min then catch yet another bus for workouts. They’d spend the next 5-7 hours practicing on the court, in the weight room and reviewing game tapes of with coaches.

Around 7 or 8pm some of the guys were finally “free” for the night but the majority of athletic scholarship players (all freshmen + low GPA upperclassmen) still had NCAA-required study table, many obligated to stay in tutoring until 10pm.

Then they catch the bus home, eat a granola bar while fielding calls from some uncle or family friend they’d never met yet wants to give them unsolicited advice after seeing a game and thinks he should bend his knees more when taking free throws or whatever. Finally they play an hour of video games and pass out. And do it again the next day. And this is in the off season.

They had no time for homework or real meals let alone socializing. Players would tell me how hungry they were, which makes sense considering these are teenage kids, some still growing, who are six and a half foot tall super athletes. They relied on food court food, which neither healthy nor available later at night. But supermarket trips were out of the question- they had no transportation and besides, that costs money.

One kid - and at 18, 19 years old, they are still basically kids - told me that a couple times Coach Boeheim would give them $100 bill after a game and said he still had two of the bills at home, and asked me if i could drive him home to get the money and then take him to the small supermarket by the gym, promising me if I did he would tell anyone (it was against NCAA rules for tutors to drive atheles or give them anything- at tutor training we were told “not even a pencil”). I said yeah let’s go and so yes, we - me, my player, boeheim - “broke the rules” by giving a hungry, lonely, over-scheduled, over-worked kid money and a ride for food

Many D1 mens basketball guys have been taken advantage of all their lives. Youth bball coaches go to Paterson or south Boston looking for tall black middle schoolers, and convince their moms and grandmas to relinquish them to prep and boarding schools, promising these families their loved ones will be educated and then recruited to D1 schools and then the NBA where they will become rich and buy them houses and cars and take care of the family. It seems like a good deal. The parents always say yes and then the next year these guys are in CT at prep schools filled with rich while kids who, along with the school admins, treat them like property, instead of worthy young adults worth being educated. No one expects them to be anything but a bball player so they aren’t given the remedial classes they need to keep up, and in any case it’s not like they have to do hw, just keep your head low and play ball. This continues at college.

We don’t treat these kids like human beings. The least we can do is pay them. Anyone who disagrees is a monster.

Like VCU, Syracuse too went to the final four when was tutoring. We won! Friends and I drive 22 hours straight for New Orleans to see Melo deliver on his promise to Boeheim that he’d get SU its first (and, IMHO, long-overdue) championship. I respect him for that, and for giving so much of his later earned NBA money to build new facilities at SU for the players. Would be even better if players didn’t have to rely on the goodness of Carmelo Anthony and instead just taken care of by the school itself, and by us as a society.

Good for SCOTUS making some headway on this serious societal neglect.

Expand full comment

It's an interesting argument. The current SCOTUS is not hyper-conservative. But both the liberals and conservatives on the Court for the last 30 years have thinking that is strongly influenced by the narrower consumer-welfare standard that was adopted in the 1980s.

Recall that, at the time, there were some who wanted to abolish antimonopoly altogether. An important thing to remember is that, when it was adopted in the 80s, this narrower standard meant, then, that the *fans* were considered the "final consumers," and that's the usual way most people would think of it. But once you realize that the *schools* are doing the "hiring," you'll look at it differently. It's like the famous line from Milton Friedman about the purpose of business being for the sake of its owners (shareholders), which is true in a narrow sense -- for the shareholders, not the management or external "stakeholders." But it's not true in a basic sense. Peter Drucker made the correct point around the same time, which is that a commercial enterprise exists for the sake of its (end) customers and functions properly when it's creating something of greater value than its inputs.


Much of the problem with places like universities and hospitals is that, historically, they've had quite special positions in society -- non-profit, tax-free, allowed to charge truly absurd tuitions (thanks to bloated administrations), large supply of ultracheap borrowing to pay for it available, etc., etc. There's a presumption that these institutions are on a higher moral plane. Especially in the last 30 years, higher education has gotten an extraordinary deal and extreme leeway from society and government, and so have certain parts of health care.

TOTALLY DIFFERENT BUT STILL RELATED ... for Matt ... watch this very interesting video by an expat who's moved back to the US recently, and what she says about the cost of living in the US, especially the absurd cost of medical care, the subsidy-induced consolidation of food and factory farming (the real problems with US health care), and monopoly-induced outrageous cost and mediocre quality of phone and internet service. (Personally, we get Verizon, which costs a little more, but is worth it -- we're mostly happy with it. It is, however, a *regulated* monopoly and generally aware of consumer satisfaction.)


Expand full comment

great post. thanks for the overview

Expand full comment

I generally think there are ample opportunities to attack Big Tech under the consumer welfare standard that Lina Khan should pursue, while over time congress and courts should obviously work in other modes of analysis in Antitrust. For example, Amazon stealing its third-party seller's data and using it to promote its own products would traditionally be viewed under Trinko as a fair exercise of monopoly power, and that introducing cheaper products would benefit consumers so there would be no antitrust violation. Confronted with a court favorable to the CWS, Lina Khan could make the case that 1) Amazon's market power over eCommerce means producers have to move through them, and 2) By copying third party sellers products they are creating disincentives for innovation which hurts consumers in the long run. As a result, enforcers can use Amazon's market power over third-party sellers to make a consumer welfare argument, and broadly expand the scope of antitrust laws in doing so. It's not ideal, but in the short run it might be the best shot at reigning in these tech giants.

Expand full comment