Cody Campbell can still get a chuckle out of describing his crazy living arrangements in college.
There he was, a two-year starting lineman in the Big 12, living under one roof with a good-size chunk of the Texas Tech football team.
Six players rented a house with four bedrooms and a garage converted into two more. The $1,000 monthly rent, split six ways, came to $166 and change.
“It was a fun time in my life,” Campbell said, “but dang, I don’t know how we got by. I really don’t.”
All six residents were Texas Tech football players, and they faced the same issues as major-college football players everywhere: They devoted long hours to football, had to study enough to keep their grades in order and that left little, if any, time to work.
“In order to play football, you’re actually having to sacrifice quality of life,” Campbell said. “You’re essentially taking a vow of poverty to play college football where, meanwhile, you’re generating millions of dollars for the NCAA and your university. That just doesn’t seem equitable.”
Now 32, Campbell is CEO of Double Eagle Energy, an oil and gas exploration and development company in Fort Worth. Campbell and John Sellers — a Canyon High School and Tech teammate who also lived in that crowded house — are co-founders and principal owners.
Their company has a suite on the east side of Jones AT&T Stadium.
So Campbell’s circumstances have changed considerably since he played offensive guard for the Red Raiders from 2000-04.
The circumstances of college athletes haven’t changed much in that time, but the topic is stirring up more and more debate — and action.
On March 26, a National Labor Relations Board regional director ruled that Northwestern University players fit the definition of employees and can form the first union of college athletes.
Northwestern plans to appeal the ruling and could fight it in federal court.
The College Athletes Players Association was co-founded by Kain Colter, who just finished his career as a Northwestern quarterback. CAPA isn’t lobbying for a pay-for-play system, but the ruling is viewed by some as potentially a step in that direction.
Campbell is largely sympathetic to their cause.
“I think an actual union would be a bad idea,” Campbell said. “I don’t think unions help anybody but the guys running the union. That’s my experience from playing in the NFL.
“I could see a college union being even worse, because guys aren’t around long enough to oversee the union they’re a member of, so it would start to run amok, I do think, pretty quickly.”
But there’s a bigger picture with which he agrees.
“I do think the NCAA needs to get realistic about how they’re compensating athletes,” Campbell said. “A football scholarship is great. Guys get their education paid for, kind of, but as it stands right now, they’re not paid up to the full cost of attendance.
“College football at a high level is extremely demanding on your time. Between school and football, you don’t have time to get a job. Even if you do have time, you’re limited in how much you earn from the job you get. In order to make up the gap between what it costs to live and the amount you get from a scholarship, your parents have to give you money, you get a Pell Grant or have another source of income. A lot of guys don’t have that. What are they supposed to do?
“They’re not living in the realm of reality, the NCAA isn’t.”
Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt, while strongly disagreeing with the ruling that Northwestern players are athletic department employees, agrees the shortfall between scholarship values and full cost of attendance is an issue that merits discussion.
CAPA, on its website, says shortfall ranges from $3,000 to $5,000 a year per player.
“I don’t think anybody’s really asking to be paid big salaries and stuff like that,” Campbell said. “They’re just asking for enough to get by on. I don’t think that’s an unreasonable thing, given what NCAA football generates. You’re talking about a relatively small amount of money.”
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Editor’s note: The discussion of what college athletes should receive — and whether they deserve more — has been a source of debate for years. A recent regional National Labor Relations Board ruling setting the stage for the first college athletes’ union with collective bargaining rights moved the discussion back onto the front burner. This is the second in a five-part series looking at the topic from a Texas Tech point of view.
College Players: How Much Do They Need?