The question of whether college athletes should be paid is not a new issue. It seems to be a recurring dispute between collegiate players and the NCAA. The NCAA deems its players to be amateurs, stating that players may not receive money for anything that is affiliated with sports. Lawsuits have been filed on multiple occasions over the illegality of the NCAA not paying the players that create billions in revenue for them each year. The universities are the ones who receive the best end of the deal. Universities collect immense amount of revenue from their athletic programs and are not allowed to pay the athletes who generate it for them. Collegiate athletes should be paid based on their abilities, much like professional athletes. These payments should first come as tuition stipends, and then after their tuition has been paid for it should come in the form of a salary. Many arguments have been posed as to why collegiate athletes should not be paid. The most common reason used among the public is the fact that athletes receive special treatment from the university that they attend and play for. Athletes receive free sports equipment and gear from the team. Scholastic magazine says, “the value of all the benefits athletes receive during four years of college can be more than $250,000” (Scholastic). Players at all level of college sports do not pay for any of the gear that they wear on the field. Any collegiate sports program worth its salt will provide its athletes with name brand jerseys and protective equipment to keep them safe and provide a good image for the university. A good amount of collegiate athletes also receive scholarships for participating in athletics at their university.
Collegiate athletes at the top of their game receive scholarships and tutoring at no cost to the athlete (Scholastic). Division I and Division II colleges draw the best talent to their programs by offering athletic scholarships to the athlete. Tutoring is also often free for athletes on all levels. Tutoring is available to all students but is most commonly not free. A normal student will be charged thousands of dollars for the same tutoring that an athlete will receive at no cost. The NCAA gives a laundry list of reasons as to why they do not allow the athletes participating in their sanctioned sports to receive any sort of payment. The first of which is they say that student-athletes are amateurs. Horace Mitchell and Marc Edelman explain this in their article “Should College Student-Athletes Be Paid?”, “Student-athletes are amateurs who choose to participate in intercollegiate athletics as a part of their educational experience”(Mitchell). Sports are a learning experience for all involved and by choosing to play you are using sports as a tool to further your education. The NCAA also claims that if student-athletes were paid, there would be Title IX issues. According to Marc Edelman the average collegiate men’s basketball team makes nearly double that of its female counterpart (Edelman). Through Title IX, females must receive the same treatment that males do. With that being said, it would be hard to pay females the same as males when females do not generate the same amount of revenue as males. Student-athletes generate huge revenues for everyone who is involved with them except for themselves.
The university is a major benefactor of this situation. Marc Edelman provides facts about the immense amount of income colleges experience from their athletics programs, “The college sports industry generates $11 billion in annual revenues. Fifty colleges report annual revenues that exceed $50 million. Meanwhile, five colleges report annual revenues that exceed $100 million. These revenues come from numerous sources, including ticket sales, sponsorship rights, and the sale of broadcast rights” (Mitchell). With revenues as high as these how can it be justified to not pay the ones who are working insanely hard each and every day? The players, who are the entire reason that spectators come to see a game or match, are not getting their share of the $11 billion that they draw in every year. Revenues are not a university’s only source of income either. Universities receive donations from alumni to fund their athletic programs. When a college performs well or has a player that performs well, more donations are typically received from the alumni.
Veronica Majerol spoke about the great amount of donations received by universities in an article in the New York Times, “$740 million Alumni donations at Texas A&M University-a record—in 2012-2013, the year star quarterback Johnny Manziel won the Heisman Trophy”(Majerol). If a player can have that much impact on the cash flow of a sports program, why can’t they receive a portion of it? Universities are not the only ones benefitting from the performance of student athletes, external organizations have benefitted greatly from them as well. There was recently a lawsuit filed by Ed O’Bannon, a former basketball star at UCLA, about the use of avatars that looked like him in a video game that he did not give permission for. The former college basketball star won the lawsuit along with 19 others who joined him in the action. Majerol reports on the ruling, The judge’s August ruling in that case says that starting in 2016, athletes in top football and men’s basketball programs may receive a limited share of licensing revenues (a minimum of $5,000 per athlete per year, with a cap to be set by the NCAA). The money would be placed in trust funds, which players could access following their college sports careers. For now, the ruling affects no other men’s sports and no women’s sports (Majerol).
Video game companies can now legally use the avatars of a college athlete in their games. These games bring hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue to the companies who release them. If it is justified to pay them for having a character created that looks like him, why is it not justified to pay him for the people who pay to see him play himself. The NCAA is not innocent in this collection of revenue. The NCAA profits off of collegiate sports just as a professional organization does. Marc Edelman states that the NCAA commissioner received a salary of $1.7 million in 2011 (Edelman). The same people who regulate college sports and deem its players ineligible to receive pay, take huge paychecks while doing so. Student-athletes spend enormous amounts of time participating in their respective sport, whether it is on the practice field, in the gym, or in competition. All of this adds up to be a big time consumption to the athlete. This is also on top of his or her schoolwork, the whole reason that they are in college in the first place. Scholastic magazine weighs in on the amount of time consumed by collegiate athletics, “College athletes sometimes put in 40 to 60 hours each week for practices, travel, and games” (Scholastic). Most adults work 40 or fewer hours a week for their jobs.
Only those with demanding, well paying jobs devote over 40 hours a week to their job. Student-athletes are devoting 40 or more hours a week and receiving no pay at all for all of their hard work and dedication. Many college students also need to work while they are in college to keep from drowning in college debt. It is nearly impossible to hold and job and keep up in your studies when you are spending that much time competing in college sports. Even those who are able to work are limited to how much they can make, due to the NCAA mandating, “While at work, the student athlete can earn up to $2,000 per year”(Williams). If the NCAA can rule that their athletes cannot be paid, how is it also fair to rule that they have a salary cap while working an outside job? After all of the time and energy that student-athletes put into their sports for the university that they attend, they ultimately pay to play. They pay the outrageous tuition of the college that they attend and generally the better that they are at their sport, the more they pay for college tuition due to going to a more prestigious school. Scholarships are given to help athletes pay for their tuition but the amount of money out there for athletic scholarships is very minimal. Even the most well respected programs cannot give out scholarships to more than a third of their teams due to the amount of money devoted to athletic scholarships. Athletic salaries should not be equal due to different sports, genders and levels of commitment, but there should be a standard set to accommodate all student athletes involved. Paying athletes should become a necessity to all who are involved with college athletics.