College sports is a multi-million-dollar industry, with some of the stars of the show claiming they get no share of that money. They have been offered a college education, and the title of an amateur athlete and many hope to go on to professional careers. But for over a decade the debate has continued.
Should college athletes be paid apart from scholarships? The supporters argue that there would be no revenue at all for any school, advertisers, or sponsors, if not for the athletes on the field. And the college football system already functions as a “minor league” for the NFL. Further, athletes are forbidden from taking gifts and selling autographs. Former UCLA linebacker, and president of the College Athletes Players Association, Ramogi Huma, recently complained that athletic scholarships did not even cover the full costs of college.
According to The New York Times, “In 2012 he (Huma) worked on a study with Drexel professor Ellen Staurowsky that found the average scholarship fell short of what top-division football players needed by more than $3,000 a year, while more than 80% of athletes playing football on "full scholarship" lived below the poverty line. What’s more, the study found that if revenues were shared among players and owners as in pro sports, each Division I football player would be worth $137,357 per year.” These concerns prompted Huma to help Northwestern University football players attempt to unionize. Their arguments were heard by the National Labor Relations Board, which ruled the football players were not university employees, and could not be allowed to engage in collective bargaining to seek payments and settle disputes.
Though a victory for the university-sports establishment, the five-member board based their ruling on the guideline that unionization would not promote “stability in labor relations.” Critics say they avoided the main issue: “The board did not rule directly on the central question in the case — whether the players, who spend long hours on football and help generate millions of dollars for Northwestern, are university employees.” But once the question of paying college athletes is raised, what are the limits?
Should all players be paid or just the stars? Should a backup kicker be paid the same as a Heisman-winning quarterback? Should the women's golf team receive the same payments, though the program that is not making money, but costing the university money? If an athlete is hurt and can't play for a year, should they still get a paycheck?
Should band members and cheerleaders be paid also? Would high school athletes choose colleges based on a bidding war? Who could pay them the most? Perhaps this is the reason the question remains debated and not resolved. That there is no one answer, but to simply raise the question generated countless other questions.
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