Should College Athletes Be Paid?

For years, there has been an ongoing debate about whether or not college athletes should be paid. The College Athlete Pay Debate, as I have called it, has yet to be settled, so one may need to help to sift through its arguments.

The Budget Simply Isn’t There

In his New York Times Opinion piece, Cody J. McDavis explains that many Universities wouldn’t have the budget to pay their players. McDavis says colleges use the money they make from revenue to pay the player's tuition and cover operation costs. He continues, “Among the roughly 350 athletic departments in the N.C.A.A.’s Division I, only about 24 schools have generated more revenue than expenses in recent years.” For what McDavis calls the “have-not Universities,” they would have to rely on millions of dollars worth of debt and funding from the main campus and student fees. The top 25 or so schools would be fine, as they are deemed the most profitable and they’d be able to afford to pay for the top athletes.

The “Amateur” Factor

According to the Washington Post, the NCAA states that “Maintaining amateurism...is crucial to preserving an academic environment in which acquiring a quality education is the first priority.” In regards to keeping up the amateurism, it can be argued that the level of playing isn’t amateur because college athletic programs play in thousand seat stadiums. When one thinks about amateur sports, it’s usually a group of people in a public park instead of multi-million dollar stadiums. In a 2013 Bleacher Report article, Corey Walker describes that the amateur point is a lie because if players were amateurs, “they wouldn’t have their own special dining halls, dorms and be escorted to their classes by security guards. In fact, many of these guys are pretty much more celebrities than students.”

These Athletes are Students First

The NCAA claims that another reason for not paying college students is that they care about academics. According to the same Bleacher Report article, if a coach had 98 percent of their players graduate but struggle to win, the coach would be fired. If 60 percent of the players graduate but win a national championship, the coach would receive an extension on their contract, an increase to their pay, and overall praise. The same sentiment goes for the players as a football player for the Texas Longhorns had a 4.0 GPA but struggled to perform, they’d be cut off from their scholarship.

The Scholarships!

Every college athlete receives a scholarship to attend the school they play for. According to this top ten list from Listland, many consider that payment enough because these scholarships tend to be full-rides or significant discounts to their tuition. Sometimes, the scholarship exceeds the tuition and they have extra perks, including NFL level coaching and freebies like housing, food, clothing, and medical care.

The Revenue Brought in From College Sports

Imagine the money made from ticket sales, concessions, memorabilia, and anything else that sports generally make money from. As college athletes, they don’t receive anything in regards to that revenue. According to USA Today, the NCAA made about $1 billion from the 2017 college sports season. The college athletes that played were not paid a cent. In a Papyrus article, a Greenville University basketball alumni, Josias Parker, says “...College athletes should get paid, because niversities make a lot of money from sports, sports bring in the majority of income, especially for small schools like Greenville University.”

Personally Profiting Off of Their Own Name

Since the NCAA doesn’t personally pay college athletes, one would think that players could make profit off of the likeness of their name. Well, they used to not be able to. There used to be a rule where college players couldn’t profit off of their name or their likeness. That could include merchandise, sponsorships from companies, advertisements, or anything to that nature. College athletes wouldn’t even be able to accept donations if they wanted to. CBS Sports reported in 2019 that the NCAA made the announcement about finally allowing college athletes to profit from their image and name. The announcement was very vague, though, and people weren’t sure what was specifically included in the rule change.

The Physical Cost

There are many cases of college athletes that play through their injuries or they rush through the recovery. College athletes put their bodies through the wringer and set themselves up for chronic issues later in life. In 2017, Sports Illustrated wrote, “...While there are lifelong benefits to college sports, those torn ligaments and tendons aren’t left behind as college memories, instead exacting a decade-long toll.” One may argue that college athletes signed up for the risks through their contracts and waivers. Others may argue that college athletes shouldn’t have to endure that level of risk for no pay.