Should College Athletes get Paid?

Sahil Deenadayalu | November 30th, 2018

College sports today are more popular than ever. Every gameday, people flock to college sports venues or tune in on their televisions to watch collegiate athletic competitions. The popularity of the sports and the players brings in billions of dollars to the NCAA, but not a single cent is given to the players. It isn’t fair that athletes have to sacrifice their education, time, and energy for the entertainment of fans and the wealth of the NCAA and their school yet receive nothing in return.

There is little doubt that life as a collegiate athlete is difficult. Division 1 athletes sacrifice up to 40 hours a week in practice; coaches push players to the limit in order to get the best results possible, and practices can leave athletes sore and in pain even days after. On top of this, there is always the risk of injury.

Along with the physical sacrifices athletes have to make, they also have to make sacrifices academically. Because of the demands of their sport, college athletes are forced to miss classes and can’t take full advantage of their academic opportunities. CBS Sports describes this situation:

Student-athletes feel they have the resources at their disposal to succeed academically, but do not have the time to do so. 54% of athletes say they do not have enough time to study for tests. 80% of Pac-12 athletes say they have missed a class for competition during the academic year. Qualitatively, students say that even practice prevents them from attending class, as practices often run late; students also miss crucial review sessions for practices and competition. When asked how the athletic season affects their ability to focus on academics, students say they are too exhausted to study effectively, that they are unable to devote enough time to both their academics and tests, and that athletic stress negatively impacts their academic focus. (CBS Sports)

The whole purpose of college is to receive an education, so if college athletes cannot learn due to sports, they should be given just compensation.

Another reason why college athletes should be paid is because they are the ones who are actually doing the work. Yes, coaches help players improve, come up with game plans, etc, but they are not the ones who expend themselves in practices and games. Also, the head of athletics at universities are not putting in close to the same amount of work as the athletes, but they’re making quite a lot of money, while the athletes are making absolutely nothing—and it’s not as though colleges don’t have the money to pay college athletes. Colleges have more than enough money to pay student athletes. Business Insider’s Cork Gaines said, “In 2015, the ten schools that made the most money in college sports averaged $151.7 million in athletics revenue, $138.1 million more than the average those schools spent on scholarships, $13.6 million. While there has always been a gap between what the top schools made and what they were giving to the athletes in terms of scholarships, that gap today is growing at an absurd rate.” Colleges are paying one-tenth of their sports income on athletic scholarships, so there is still plenty of money left to compensate college athletes. There is no doubt, given the amount of work they are putting in and the time and academics they are sacrificing, that college athletes should be paid.

ESPN’s Michael Wilbon weighed in on this controversial topic. He stated that collegiate athletes should be paid: “What if people in the business of money took $1.3 billion [a very small portion of the total revenue that the NCAA makes] off the top, invested it, sheltered it and made it available to provide a stipend to college athletes, how could anybody stand on principal and argue against paying the people who make the events possible in the first place?” What Wilbon said is not false; without these athletes, the NCAA wouldn’t be making the $11 billion that it does annually. These athletes sacrifice so much to play, so the least the NCAA could do it give them some money. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, an NBA icon, was particularly interested in this topic: “Despite the millions of dollars our team generated for UCLA—both in cash and in recruiting students to attend the university—I was always too broke to do much but study, practice, and play… I could see why some resorted to illegally working an extra job or accepting monetary gifts in order to get by” (Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele, The Root). Jabbar empathizes that he faced the same problems financially as many current collegiate athletes. He understands the reason why collegiate athletes illegally seek financial aid by earning money from their sport, because it can be difficult to maintain a life away from home without any money. Offering athletes just a slight portion of the revenue would allow athletes to enjoy college without financial worries.

Jabbar also sheds light on the liberties and advantages coaches have: “Millionaire coaches are allowed to go out and earn extra money outside their contracts, and players cannot” (Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele, The Root). Players are limited in their actions; unlike coaches, they cannot earn any money from endorsements or sponsorships, which is very difficult to see happen. The coaches can go and enjoy themselves after the games, but the athletes struggle to make it to class and get an education. A simple solution to this problem is to pay the players. They work by playing for their school and fans, so the least they could get is some money in return.

Unfortunately, it is unlikely that the NCAA will pay collegiate athletes in the near future, but it is important to consider how much collegiate athletes are providing for fans in exchange for such a meager reward.


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