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The Ethical Dilemma of Paying College Athletes

Updated August 1, 2022
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The Ethical Dilemma of Paying College Athletes essay

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College football is one of America’s favorite pastimes, but in the south it is more of a lifestyle. Whether it is the hard hits, 90,000 screaming fans, or just the thrill that comes from watching a game something about it makes fans tune in. However, in the midst of touchdowns, interceptions, and big plays one question hangs like a cloud over college football. Should the players be sharing in the millions upon millions they help make for their schools? This issue is a hotly debated, because of its impact not only nationwide, but in the states themselves. It impacts almost everywhere college football is played, but in Louisiana where football is almost its own religion the potential consequences of change are severe. The debate would not only affect the players and Universities, but could even bring up legal issues regarding title IX. The stakeholders that paying players could impact are current and former players, EA sports, the Universities themselves, and proponents of title IX. Some of the main proponents for paying athletes are former players. A key example of this is Ed O’Bannon, a former basketball star, and quarterback Sam Keller.

During their collegiate careers O’Bannon and Keller both earned MVP awards, and are retroactively going through the legal system attempting to get compensation they believe they earned. The main targets of O’Bannon’s lawsuit are the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the governing body of college athletics, and video game maker EA Sports, and seek “money the NCAA earns from licensing former players images” (Elias). O’Bannon claims that players deserve some of the money for the work they put in, and that the NCAA makes “millions of dollars off the sweat and grind of student athletes” (Elias). O’Bannon’s lawsuit is one example where former athletes, no longer under the NCAA, speaking up, and attempting to raise awareness for the lack of compensation players get for the effort they give. O’Bannon’s lawsuit impacts EA sports, which directly correlates to the Louisiana universities. As a direct result of the lawsuit EA sports will no longer be making their NCAA Football videogame series.

EA sports paid Louisiana FBS Universities, Louisiana State University, University of Louisiana Lafayette, University Louisiana Monroe, Tulane University, and Louisiana Tech University, to use their respective logos and images. The money lost by the institutions is not much to larger universities like LSU, but for the others it is much needed money now gone. In addition, EA sports has a division of their business located on LSU’s campus, and this Louisiana connection makes the impact EA felt from canceling their videogame critical to the state. Alongside former players and EA sports, reporters question the fairness of the situation. Knight Kiplinger addresses the issue in his magazine Personal Finance. He says that clearly the situation is unethical, and athletes should be provided “fair compensation,” but the implementation of this scenario would cause problems and raises other questions (Kiplinger). For example, should other athletes be paid? However, the main problem that reporters and sports writers find is the NCAA itself. Louisiana’s relation to the NCAA goes to the top.

Mark Emmert, president of the NCAA, was formerly the Athletic Director of LSU. Chris Smith discusses the “hypocrisy” of the NCAA in his Forbes.com article. The article mentions situations like former Marine sergeant Steven Rhodes. Rhodes returned after serving five years hoping to play tight end for Middle Tennessee State. However, because he participated in a recreational league overseas the NCAA said he would not be eligible. It was only after public pressure that they reversed the ruling. Furthermore, Dez Bryant, a former Oklahoma state receiver, was suspended the remaining 9 games of his senior season after slipping up and saying the wrong thing to investigators, because he was afraid he had done something wrong (Smith). Smith also says that athletes should be paid, but under the current administration it is “laughable” to think anything will change (Smith). Although former players and some reporters believe that players should be paid, but others say the scholarship is more than enough compensation. An article from the Star-Tribune in Wyoming states the typical football player stays for 5 years, and that comes out is well over $100,000. In addition, the players are being “trained for a lifetime career,” and receive the “campus experience” (“wrong idea”).

One key figure that has spoken out against paying players is Syracuse basketball Coach Jim Boeheim. Boeheim, widely regarded as one of the best college basketball coaches, called the idea “the most idiotic suggestion of all time,” and says the players are receiving a “tremendous” opportunity to go to college and play basketball (qtd. in “Boeheim”). Boeheim speaking on the issue shows how high profile this debate is becoming Not only do student-athletes get scholarships they have access to services not available to all students. For example, LSU offers student-athletes tutoring services exclusively for athletes. In addition, Universities have a vested interest in not paying players. The average salary for a major college football coach has jumped 70 percent since 2006 to $1.64 million (Gregory). However, this rise in salary does not reflect a rise in surplus money for Universities. According to Jeffery Dorfman only 23 of the 228 Football Bowl Subdivision, highest level of college football, athletic programs actually made money in 2012. He says that the number changes year-to-year but the number stays in the mid-twenties or fewer (Dorfman). Also, he says of the 23 that will make money they are all in BCS automatic-qualifying conferences, the SEC, ACC, Big-12, Big-10, and PAC-12.

Out of the five Louisiana institutions only LSU made money on its athletic program. Furthermore, every Division I school that is not in a major conference, such as the other four Louisiana schools, is losing money, and only two or three sports across the country actually make money: Football, men’s basketball, and women’s basketball (Dorfman). The main issue from a university’s standpoint is that if they had to pay players then the schools will be put under “financial pressure” to drop the sports that do not make money (Dorfman). The other four Louisiana schools and other institutions losing money would essentially have three options if they were required to pay players. Either as previously stated cut non-revenue sports, cut salaries of coaches, faculty, etc., or raise student tuition and fees. However, although these situations could happen there are more pressing legal issues to consider if college athletes were to be paid. Title IX, a “groundbreaking” legislation that prevented educational discrimination on the basis of sex, was one of the cornerstones in sports, history, but stands in the way of another one (Hardy). The main reason legislation blockades the pay for play is it calls for equality among women and men’s sports teams.

Therefore, if one were to pay the players in sports making money, football, and both basketball teams, that would be roughly 100 men being paid and approximately only 15 women. This would be in violation of Title IX, and would because for legal action by female players. The only solution in this situation would be to pay all athletes, and this would increase overall costs or greatly lower the pay for each of the students (Dorfman). In theory, it seems only fair to pay college athletes for their hard work and time, but that’s why it is a theory. In reality, the bureaucracy and red tape of college athletics prevents the players from getting money some believe they deserve. However, others say players not receiving money is a good thing, and they are being compensated with scholarships and the college experience. The issue impacts Louisiana by hurting their funding. Also, the fact that most of the Louisiana universities are losing money on athletics, and would end up costing students, coaches, or the sports that don’t make much money. Furthermore, regardless of the side of the issue one is on the legal issues presented by Title IX is a clear blockade to paying players. Overall, the plan is well-intentioned, but unless there is a plan that could solve the many issues that revolve around the NCAA and college athletics paying players would only open a Pandora’s box that could cause more harm than originally intended.

The Ethical Dilemma of Paying College Athletes essay

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The Ethical Dilemma of Paying College Athletes. (2022, Aug 01). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/the-ethical-dilemma-of-paying-college-athletes/

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