Saturday tailgates driving an electric atmosphere at your alma mater’s stadium, or a day at home with your family and friends watching your favorite team beat their rivals; college football means more to the fans than it does the players. For tens if not hundreds of years, NCAA sports like football and basketball have been staples of people’s lives. It provides fans with a chance to see the top draft picks compete for their schools.
Unfortunately, what fans don’t see is the magnitude money behind their favorite programs and endorsements. The NCAA is bringing in billions of dollars each year, yet the players are receiving none of the cuts for their work. Still, players continue to put themselves at risk of injuries each time they step onto the field. College athletes should be paid because they are overworked, used as free endorsements for the NCAA, and are the main reasons for their University’s profits.
The NCAA has been around since 1910, reaching annual revenue of $1.1 billion over 100 years later (Axson). Somehow the NCAA has gone from a group created for the player’s safety to an organization making million dollar decisions that affect the players. (Treadway). Everyone is profiting from NCAA sports except the players that make the games worth-while. The debate surrounding the role of money in college athletics has been a long standing issue for years. 100 years ago athletes would head to their state school with an education in mind – and athletics would be secondary.
Recently, college athletics have turned into professional sport recruiting engines and school revenue generators. It is known that high school athletes head to college with a goal of later signing a professional contract, so when a college coach offers a full ride scholarship and TV time in exchange for making the university great, players can’t pass it up.
The issue of college athletes getting paid has been brought to light because of recent stories documenting the struggles of college athletes not being able to afford the prices of their own campuses. This matter is frightening for college athletes because they are unable to provide for themselves during the season with such exhausting practice weeks. With the NCAA not paying athletes, the NCAA is only becoming more powerful putting the players’ futures at risk. It is only a matter of time before players choose to support themselves over playing the game.
The NCAA is a billion dollar corporation, so it is only fair that the athletes contributing to their success be paid. After all, the athletes are the ones putting in the work during the week. Although all games are important, there is no greater feeling than stepping out onto a football field after a grueling week of practice ready to face your in-state rival.
However, in order to prepare for games like these many colleges are putting their athletes through obscene amounts of practices during the week to win on game days. College athletes spend on average 40 hours each week working out, practicing, and going over game plans just to be ready on game day. In a study done at the University of North Carolina, it was found that their men’s football and basketball players were averaging 45 hours of practice each week on their sport alone – 15 hours more each week than the rest of the men’s sports at UNC combined. (Jacobs).
Keep in mind these are student-athletes, so this number does not include their time spent learning in the classrooms. Looking at the numbers, however, it is almost impossible to balance school, practice, and game days as an athlete. Of the 12 scheduled games during the football season, athletes will be on the road for six of them. Assuming travel takes one day, and the game tacks on one more, they have five days to practice and keep their grades sufficient. This alone leaves them no time to find a job leaving players with no money to spend on food, clothes, or other necessities while living on campus.
Many people would argue that an athlete’s scholarship in exchange for a roster spot is more than enough compensation. The scholarships received by athletes only cover the cost of tuition, room and board, and a standard meal plan (Scholarships). No one takes into account costs that don’t factor into the scholarships: clothes, transportation, spending money, and off-campus food costs. How does an athlete get food from the dining hall during off-hours when practices end at 10:00 pm? Yes, elite college players are getting a world-class education at no cost, but is that worth going to bed hungry?
Real Mitchell, Iowa State’s quarterback, argues that his scholarship sets him up for life, but that there should be some form of compensation for college athletes. He noted that in most cases a school’s football program is the leading revenue producer for its school, so for all of the effort, energy, and time put in daily, equal compensation among players would be fair. (Mitchell). Scholarships are no more than recruitment tactics by the NCAA, to show an athlete that you’ll cover the tuition fees.
Not only do student-athletes receive no pay, student-athletes are also used as free endorsements by the NCAA. Whether it’s for ticketing and commercial promos, or TV advertisements – everyone but the players are benefitting from the endorsements. Colleges are culpable too by using their athletes to endorse their sports programs through commercials, season tickets, TV time, and advertisements. Thus, millions of dollars are brought in for the schools and their programs. Essentially colleges own their players’ rights.
Besides a few stadium renovations or even a new practice facilities, where is this money going? The coaching staff? Coaches receive a mere fraction of what players bring in for their schools. (Tomar). Athletes do not benefit from being exploited by their university. Sure they are getting travel expenses paid, the opportunity to visit new places, tv time, and even some free Nike apparel, but does this outweigh a possible career-ending injury they could sustain during a game? Fans arguing against college athlete compensation do not understand the risks athletes take each day. The athletes are always in the public eye with constant endorsements so the pressure to perform at a high level sometimes pushes a player beyond their breaking point.
Players typically have no insurance making potential injuries a major problem for a player themselves and not the NCAA. The NCAA doesn’t care if an athlete gets hurt because at the end of the day the universities and NCAA still make a profit. The NCAA makes billions of dollars off of players collecting $1.1 billion each year from CBS and Turner for broadcasting rights for March Madness alone (Sherman). ESPN pays the NCAA $470 million annually for the streaming rights of the College Football Playoffs (Hinnen).
Colleges with top athletic programs are revenuing hundreds of millions of dollars each year, and they owe it all to the players putting their hearts on the line each week. The University of Texas alone made $215 million in revenue during the 2018 season(Gaines). Even looking at Texas A&M for example, last year they had $148 million in revenue (Smith). Think about it, where would these schools be without their world-class athletes? Nowhere. Fans watching the Aggies every Saturday spend their money to see their favorite athletes compete to their highest degree. The coaches standing on the sidelines aren’t the reason fans eagerly await season ticket announcements during the offseason, or arrive at the stadiums hours before kickoff.
Colleges owe their successes to the players that help play a role in keeping their fans engaged. On top of football, many of the top athletic programs have a equally talented basketball team bringing in $30 million each year on average.(Wiggins). Players account for all of this success, yet they aren’t allowed to profit off of their skills, NCAA regulations state that an athlete will lose their eligibility if they are paid to play, sign a contract with an agent, receive a salary/incentive payment, award, gratuity educational expenses or allowances; or play on a professional team. (Summary of the NCAA Regulations- NCAA D1.).
Many argue that the athletes only play well because of the coaching staff colleges provide, but if that were the case players would not be recruited in the first place. Sites like ESPN release rankings on the top athletes in each class to give colleges and their coaches a good understanding on who they get when making an offer(Talty). At the end of the day college athletic programs owe all of their successes to their players, all of which deserve a cut of the profit.