Last Updated 01 Nov 2022

Paying Student Athletes Should Be Obligatory

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In 2015 the top five National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) schools brought in, on average, 170 million dollars and the NCAA as a whole reached an all time high of nearly one billion in revenue (USA Today). This is all thanks to the over 460 thousand student athletes that, when looking at how much money they're making these schools, are receiving close to nothing in comparison. Some may view this as standard in this day and age, but to others, this is just a modern day form of indentured servitude. In the world we live in today, sports are no longer just a past time that people enjoy. Sports have become a business and college sports are no different. The schools are receiving money from tickets sales, merchandise, as well as television contracts and many other sources of income(Hobson & Rich). The list goes on.

The people making all this possible, student athletes, only receive scholarships and a few other perks. These universities are exploiting their college athletes, and over the years the issue has become more and more noticeable. More athletes are now choosing to for go a free education, deciding to leave school and become professional athletes as soon as possible so they can start making money. There have also been increased occurrences and increased reports of violations pertaining to university boosters and alumni paying players. Additionally, there have been multiple incidents where athletes have been accused of dealing with gamblers or bettors and receiving money in return for altering the outcome of a game or throwing a match (Sanderson & Siegfred).

What continues to be one of the most pressing issues in the world of sports today has now become a matter the NCAA can no longer afford to ignore. The service that college athletes provide to the institutions they attend in addition to millions of sports fans all over the world is still not being rewarded in the way that it should be for their dedication, work ethic, and, most importantly, money brought into their respective schools. College athletes are being exploited by their schools, which leads to violations happening, students leaving college early, and student athletes not being able to afford things like gas for their cars and much more. Although many disagree, all these issues can be minimized, if not completely eradicated, by the NCAA instating some type of program to compensate student athletes.

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The major reason why many believe college athletes should be paid is the fact that they are choosing to leave school early in order to receive money and go pro instead of staying for four years and receiving a degree. While this may not change the way people look at the honor or purity of the game, it may in the long run damage the quality of it. What colleges do not realize is that the players that are deciding to leave to the pros after two or three years are the ones that are making them the most money (Hobson & Rich). The loss of these players and ultimately the revenue that they bring in may end up being more costly than just giving the players some type of compensation.

For example, an average college football bowl game may generate 10 million to 20 million dollars for the university (USA Today). A percentage of this could easily be used to pay the student athletes. Instead, by choosing not to pay them, a college may lose a key player that goes pro who would have increased their chances of winning a championship thus increasing their opportunities to generate even more money for the institution. Not only is the problem about loosing out on potential money, the other issue is that when these student leave early the institutions are failing at their main goal which is to give each and every one of the students attending an education. The universities should be doing more to keep their athletes in school and on the path towards a degree. If the athletes were being paid and didn't have to worry about money, they would be more inclined to wait for their professional contract and get a degree first.

The recent trend of college athletes leaving has been noticed and has led to another problem for universities. Alumni and boosters do not want their teams to lose their best player so they find ways to pay players under the table. Whether that be buying a nice house or car for the players family or any other extra thing to give the family some type of financial relief. However, if these practices are discovered, this is clearly a violation of the rules and the players or even the university could be suspended or put on probation. This issue should show universities that if college athletes could be paid they might not even have to worry about paying them; the boosters and alumni would be willing to themselves.

The very first issue that most people against the payment of athletes have is that the students are already being given scholarships. They argue that this is already enough for these students because at certain institutions, student athletes could receive upwards of $65,000 for food, housing and tuition (Sanderson & Siegfred). While free education is something that many are not blessed with and few would complain about, when looking deeper into the industry that is collegiate sports, it becomes clear that just giving a scholarship is not enough.

There are many problems with this assumption. The first one is that scholarships do not apply to walk-on-athletes. Since there is no scholarship, they receive no form of compensation at all for putting in the same, if not more time than the full scholarship players (Hobson & Rich). Although the walk-ons are not as valuable as the full scholarship players, universities are lying when they say that scholarships are compensation for all the athletes and the time they put in. These scholarships are ways to retain the best athletes, but they don't compensate.

The second issue is, like any other student, student athletes need money and many of them need it more because of their background. In a study done by The National College Players Association (NCPA), 86% of all student athletes live below the poverty line (Huma & Starurowsky). These students coming from disadvantaged families and backgrounds would probably not be able to attend college if it wasn't for the scholarship they are receiving. These athletes will still have no money for expenses that every college student faces no matter how high their scholarship is. Whether that is forlaundry, gas, or any extracurricular activities, this money isn't covered in their scholarship.

A prime example of this is the case of the now pro-football player Laremy Tunsil. It was recently discovered that Tunsil's Ole Miss football coach, Hugh Freeze, was paying his mothers overdue apartment rent because she had no way of getting the fact that student athletes cannot receive any form of money, Coach Freeze is now under fire by the NCAA for his actions. The fact that Tunsil had to ask his football coach for money or his mother would have been evicted is a travesty and is reason enough why some of these athletes should receive some type of stipend. The NCAA has tried to fix this issue by giving them jobs, but when you're a student athlete trying to balance school and practice, there is little to no time to have a job and work consistently enough to give yourself and your family sufficient funds. For all intensive purposes the sport you're playing is your job.

Another reason for the refusal to pay college athletes is that they are viewed as amateurs. An amateur is a person who engages in a pursuit, usually sports, on an unpaid basis. Many people believe that a major reason why people love college sports is because the players are amateurs and are not being paid. Although this is keeps the purity of the sport intact, athletes are not allowed to receive little to no amount of money during their tenure as student athletes because of the how the rules have been extended and placed of the years (Huma & Starurowsky). Athletes can barely receive a check from a close family member or friend without some type up alert or red flag going up. The way the rules are set up now, college athletes cannot be recruited if they have competed professionally, accepted any type of money from benefactors for high school tuition, or accepted money from playing in any form of competition or a league. College athletes can neither accept money for holding lessons in their sport nor accept any type of money given by the U.S. Olympic committee. A student athlete can't do anything that may taint or jeopardize his or her image as an amateur player (Chudacoff).

This rule is very questionable because it affects things that aren't even sports related. And example of its questionability would be the case of Darnell Autry (Murphy & Pace). Darnell was a football player at the University of Northwestern and also a theater major. He decided to go to Italy for a study abroad and appeared in a movie during his time over seas. Due to his connection with college sports, he could not be paid for the role he played in the movie because it would have damaged his status as an amateur. The fact that this had nothing to do with college football and was in no way connected, but was still a violation to the NCAA rules is problematic. The rule of staying an amateur as college athletes not only puts unnecessary restrictions on the players but can also start unneeded issues that could have been avoided.

The last argument that is given by many including the universities themselves is that they are already paying the athletes. Despite all the issues with paying athletes and the evidence of why they should, universities will insist that they are already compensating them. They are giving them free education, which should be compensation enough. The issue with this is that the universities are making money off these athletes so the athletes are really not being given anything and on top of that the athletes are restricted from using their talents to make money. Whether that be off-season tournaments or lessons, they cannot receive any type of monetary reward for their work (Murphy & Pace).

It is pointed out by Steve Murphy and Jonathan Pace that this is not fair because a skillful English major could be given a full scholarship, but would not be restricted in selling any of his or her writings (170). The same could be applied to a music major who decided to sell his or her songs that they have written. The English major could compete in a writing completion and receive money for winning and the music major could give lessons in their respective instrument and receive money, but an athlete can not receive money for either actions. Although this may be a very small chance of this occurring, the fact that it is possible and would be allowed is still unfair. The problem here is that the university cannot make money off the English or music majors' talents, but it can off the athletes.

It is clear that colleges can make enormous amounts of money from their student athletes. Some institutions even rely more on their athletes for revenue than they do from any other means. This further shows how much these student athletes are being exploited and are receiving basically nothing in comparison to what their universities are making. The universities do not stand to lose anything just by paying their athletes, they can only gain and help their student athletes become more successful in the process. If colleges continue to ignore the situation like they have been for they past years, all the problems that come with not compensating these athletes will keep occurring and only increase in number. Paying student athletes is obligatory for colleges to be fair to all of their students, and is necessary for college sports, as we know them, to continue.

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