Proper Reparations for College-Level Student Athletes

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March Madness is nothing short of exhilarating. It’s not only a tournament of the most fantastic young talent from around the country, it’s a cultural phenomenon. Millions of Americans make brackets, some with apparent bias towards their alma mater, no matter the seed. For a month, the whole country is captivated with basketball, and having lunchroom debates about the likelihood of teams making it to the championship everywhere, regardless of age or prestige. Coinciding with the hype of the tournament, is a lot of money. The NCAA makes an average of nine hundred million dollars a year off of the tournament (9).

Where does the nine hundred million go? Understandably, to the outlets of broadcasting the games, and to the cities the games have been played in. Understandably, to the coaches that have mentored the players to perform at their peak-level. To the players themselves, the actual people that play the game? The players that attract all of the attention and the fans, what do they receive? Not a paycheck, instead a scholarship and a, “good luck with your classes and the rest of your life”. College sports create billions in revenue, and that money that the athletes are integral for generating, will never end up in their pockets. College athletes should be compensated in terms of allowing endorsements and money from the schools themselves for the talents they provide the NCAA.

Providing compensation for athletes is a relatively new idea and has grown dramatically over the last fifty years. The first professional sports team in North America was the Cincinnati Red Stockings in 1869. However they were not paid at all like athletes are today. Even athletes in the 40’s and 50’s still needed to have regular jobs in the offseason to keep up with the bills. Babe Ruth was by far the greatest baseball player of his era. His largest yearly salary was just eighty thousand dollars. Which translates to just over 1 million in today’s money.

Much has changed in Major League Baseball since then considering the league minimum is $507,500 and there are many players making over twenty million a year. Athletes did not start to become rich until the Seventies when sports saw its first million dollar contract in the NHL. In 1972 Bobby Hull signed a contract worth one million dollars over five years. This was quickly overshadowed by Dave Parker’s five million dollar contract over five years in 1978. Then in the Nineties came the rise of endorsement. This was especially prevalent in the NBA with players like Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan appearing in commercials and representing their brands. Jordan is by far the highest paid retired athlete.

The Nike brand Jordan earned 2.6 billion dollars in 2016. This is far more than any athlete of the past could have ever dreamed of. In 2014 Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins signed sports’ first three hundred million dollar contract over thirteen years. Coincidentally stanton was traded to the Yankees three seasons later. Professional athletes are signing huge contracts nowadays and the collegiate athletes should not be left out.

College students are some of the poorest citizens in the country. They have to balance work, with school and the struggles of being on your own for the first time in your life. College athletes have a much burdensome time with this. Practice and games for their sport make it almost impossible to go to class, study, and even work. College meal plans can’t always satisfy the needs of world class athletes. After the university of Connecticut won the NCAA tournament in 2014 their star point guard, Shabazz Napier stated in an interview with CNN that he often goes to bed starving because he can’t offered to buy food. This is inconceivable when millions of dollars are being made off these athletes and they cant even afford a meal.

College athletes should not be considered amateurs. Considering what’s demanded of them, the rigor they have to go through to be able to compete, and the amount of money they generate, it’s not right to call college athletes amateurs. They’re also referred to as student athletes, which is almost just a loophole term so the NCAA doesn’t have to call them employees and compensate them adequately. The president of the NCAA, Walter Byers, created the term in order to avoid, “‘the dreaded notion that NCAA athletes should be identified as employees by state industrial commissions and the courts’” (4).

The president himself stated he coined the term to avoid notions that the students should be considered employees for the money they generate. The definition of an amateur is literally, “engaging or in engaged in without payment, nonprofessional” (google.com). It’s time these student athletes were paid for what they bring to their universities. They give their all for their school in their sport as well. Kevin Ware is an example of the hustle necessary to succeed. In the Elite Eight of the 2013 March Madness tournament, he snapped his leg hustling for a ball. That deserves some form of compensation greater than a scholarship he wasn’t even given time to fully utilize in the classroom because he was too busy being pressured on the court.

It’s not as if the NCAA is short on money, either. Nine hundred million dollars was made off of March Madness alone, and that’s one month of one of the sports the NCAA has authority over. The bread and butter for the NCAA is undoubtedly their television contracts. In 2010 a fourteen-year, 10.8 billion dollar contract was signed between the NCAA, CBS Sports, and Turner Broadcasting. Whether or not the NCAA is a titan is indisputable. They’re making over a billion dollars in annual revenue. The money they make is still not going in the pockets of the athletes that earn everything for them.

Many professional athletes are very vocal about paying college athletes as well. Shabazz Napier, a point guard for the Portland Trail Blazers, said that there were nights he went to bed hungry and was expected to play at his peak level, his hunger due to the fact that he didn’t have any extra money in his pockets (1). Another phenomenal advocate for the payment of college athletes, is an athlete that is not only a great ball player, but an even better role model.

Lonzo Ball, who boasts fantastic dribbling skills and a genius-level intellect, and should most certainly be the rookie of the year of 2018, is not a fan of not paying athletes. If one were a betting man, they would most certainly bet on Lonzo Ball being named the MVP in the NBA’s 2019 season, his play is most certainly a thing of art. The Great Lonzo Ball has gone on record to say that, “let’s pay college players since, ‘everybody’s getting paid anyway’ (10)”.

Coming from somebody so sage, his words weigh heavy and bring up a valid point. All these young ballers are already being paid behind closed doors to go to specific colleges, and are already being offered deals that seem shady just because the NCAA has made them look shady. If paying athletes to perform, as they should be paid, was legal, none of this would look shady. The only reason recent outbursts of the FBI wiretaps are so bad is because the NCAA has made them bad. If everybody’s already being paid, instead of punishing everyone, maybe a revision of the rules is in order.

Paying college athletes is a very controversial subject. This was observed through the survey we used to poll various people. The results were almost even for every option. Out of the four options there was a three way tie for second with Schools should pay the athletes, Athletes should be able to make money through endorsements, and no athletes should not make money whatsoever all receiving 22.2% of the vote. The winner of the survey was yes athletes should be paid by the school and earn money from endorsements. This earned 33.3% of the vote and came out on top.

There are many people that believe athletes in college should not be paid as well. They believe the money they’ve been given through a scholarship is more than satisfactory. It’s also a fear that paying college athletes may ruin the competitive spirit of the sports. An assessment of professional sports is in order to comprehend the competitive spirits of sports. The Olympics, for example, has no shortage of competitiveness and drive among the athletes representing their talents.

Just because athletes are being paid does not mean they’ll care any less about their job. In fact, they may care even more because they know there’s a fat check waiting for them if, and only if, they’re able to maintain their top level of play. When analyzing a scholarship, it’s been made apparent that a scholarship is not enough for the athletes to live their time spent in college off of. Their books that they don’t even have to time utilize may be paid for, but if they want to get any extra food than what they’re provided with, the college is not paying for that.

There isn’t just one solution for every college athlete, as in they should all be paid the exact same thing the exact same way; every athlete’s talents and situation is drastically different. Not every school would be able to afford paying millions to just one player. How athletes are paid sport by sport should be flexible. The best way to create flexibility is through contracts.

Some contracts will allow for different salaries, and can even require athletes to stay all four years and maintain a certain GPA in order to be paid. Contracts could effectively get more athletes to graduate and stay longer at the school, which could in turn increase revenue for the sports if fans’ favorite athletes are there for multiple years. Different colleges will be able to offer different amounts with different tendencies for each of the athletes. Not every contract needs to offer money, it could just be a scholarship. If not every college is able to offer money, that’s why endorsements should be open to players in certain contracts.

To the argument that the young adults in college are too irresponsible with the money they’d be receiving, the athletes in the professional level are not much older than the college athletes. Two years or so of a difference is not going to make a drastic impact on their maturity with money, and they should be allowed to have access to agents to better manage them. The NCAA could still set vague regulations in order to stop powerhouse colleges in specific sports, but the regulations must be vague and not overbearing.

With the rigor college athletes are thrust into on a daily basis, it’s a wonder they haven’t been allowed to be paid yet. They are poor, tired, and overworked, and don’t even have time to focus on the schoolwork that’s supposed to come first. Professional athletes around the country agree: it’s time a revision to the NCAA code of conduct on the payment of athletes was made. The “student athletes” sacrifice way too much to not be able to pay for the houses they promise their mothers when they go off to try to make it to the major leagues.


  1. Lemmons, Michael. “College Athletes Getting Paid? Here Are Some Pros And Cons”. huffingtonpost.com 29 March 2017. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/college-athletes-getting-paid-here-are-some-pros-cons_us_58cfcee0e4b07112b6472f9a
  2. ‘Should College Football Players Get Paid?’ Gale Student Resources in Context, Gale, 2016. Student Resources In Context, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/RPMIEL090699971/SUIC?u=gro10675&sid=SUIC&xid=102376af. Accessed 17 Apr. 2018.
  3. Nocera, Joe & Williams, Bob. “Should College Athletes Be Paid”. Ebscohost.com. http://eds.a.ebscohost.com/eds/detail/detail?vid=0&sid=81e4f930-2f93-4ef6-94ce-c6c064d4bc0c%40sessionmgr4009&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmU%3d#AN=121561103&db=mih
  4. Katz, Ron, Isaac, Vaughn & Gilleran, Mark. “NINE POINTS TO CONSIDER REGARDING THE PAYMENT OF COLLEGE ATHLETES”. Wpengine.net. September 2012 http://1x937u16qcra1vnejt2hj4jl.wpengine.netdna-.com/weep-content/uploads/Should-College-Athletes-Be-Paid.
  5. Garcia-Navarro, Lulu. “Out of Bounds: New Research On Race And Paying College Athletes by Lulu Garcia-Navarro on NPR” npr.org. 26 March 2017 https://www.npr.org/2017/03/26/521550390/out-of-bounds-new-research-on-race-and-paying-college-athletes
  6. CNN. “Is it time to pay college athletes?” youtube.com. 5 April 2015
  7. NPR. “Does NCAA Ban On Paying Student Athletes Violate Federal Law? “. npr.org. 13 March 2015 https://www.npr.org/2015/03/13/392718501/do-ncaa-ban-on-paying-student-athletes-violate-federal-law
  8. Wilbon, Michael. “College athletes deserve to be paid”. Espn.com. 18 July 2011 http://www.espn.com/college-sports/story/_/id/6778847/college-athletes-deserve-paid
  9. Parker, Tim. “How Much Does the NCAA Make off March Madness?”. Investopedia.com. 13 March 2017 https://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/031516/how-much-does-ncaa-make-march-madness.asp
  10. Boone, Kyle. “Lakers’ Lonzo Ball: Let’s Pay College Players Since ‘Everybody’s Getting Paid Anyway’”. Cbssports.com. 23 February 2018. https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.cbssports.com/college-basketball/news/lakers-lonzo-ball-lets-pay-college-players-since-everybodys-getting-paid-anyway/amp/

Cite this paper

Proper Reparations for College-Level Student Athletes. (2021, Jun 23). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/proper-reparations-for-college-level-student-athletes/

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