A Controversy Over The Issue Of Paying College Athletes

A great deal of misinformation is spread about the huge impact that college level sports have on an overall university’s success. It is true that SUNY University athletic programs receive a lot of funding to achieve athletic excellence. This spending is aimed at producing a team for which cable television and professional recruiting can make money. But, because these athletes are expected to perform at a high level, universities have a hard time offering a wage, which in many cases is the equivalent of an annual pro athlete’s salary. Because of this, so many students now refuse to accept just financial aid and scholarships. They want to be paid for their athletic talent, as well as the value they add to their organizations.

For many, the notion of paying a college athlete a wage is absurd. This may be for good reasons. Most people know that college athletes receive many benefits. These include full-ride grants, free accommodation, and complimentary meals. A rational person will find it difficult, due to all of these benefits, to add a wage. In spite of this, college football is extremely popular in America. There are a lot of games and a large number of people watching them. This level of focus on college sports can rival the fanbase and excitement of professional leagues. The collegiate events are not only televised and watched by thousands of fans, but also receive constant scrutiny and publication in newspapers and sports radio programs. Barstool Sports reports and monitors college athletics. Students may think this is unfair, because student-athletes are not able to earn an income outside of school and sports. It is a great injustice to students who are responsible for making televised sports appearances possible. The fact that college sports like football and basketball are so popular and intense makes it even worse. This means that the NCAA, a non-profit organization in charge of managing collegiate competitions, makes money from the abilities of its student-athletes. CNN reports that revenues from the broadcasting of events and ticket sales in 2014 were estimated to be worth around $3 Billion dollars.

The NCAA and college coaches’ salaries are not capped, which is a surprise.

The debate over whether or not student-athletes are paid is also a common one. Some people believe that college-level sports should be treated as amateur enterprises. Many people ignore the fact, as was discussed earlier, that collegiate sports draw a large amount of attention. They also invest a significant amount of money. These individuals claim that playing on a college sports team is part of their education, and not a semi-professional career or job. This view has a problem, however. It ignores the rising cost of such universities. This is due to the widespread misconception that all collegiate athletes are debt-free and receive full scholarships.

Many student-athletes, especially those who are unable to continue their sports careers after college, struggle financially. The majority of NCAA athletes are African-Americans from inner-city backgrounds. Their impoverished family members must depend on loans for basic expenses such as food and lodging. Injuries or losing composure may be the difference in a sports career that leads to a lucrative income and a life of debt. Students are compelled to seek financial compensation because of the racial division. Due to the increased revenue generated by the NCAA, there is more pressure for student-athletes.

Michael Bennett of the NFL made a public statement in 2016 to ESPN regarding the injustices that student-athletes face. Bennett stated: “Hell Yeah, college players deserve to be paid.” NCAA is paid. Rose Bowl is paid. The only people not getting paid are those who actually make the products. The comment was not directly related to race but it spoke volumes about the mistreatment of college athletes, their unfair compensation, and the lack of respect for them. African-Americans are a majority among the NCAA athletes. Because of their marginalization by society, these athletes suffer disproportionately from the decision not pay student athletes. Public polls taken to gauge support of paying college-athletes further confirm this. A public poll conducted to gauge support for paying college athletes revealed that although the majority of Americans are in favor, a higher percentage of African-Americans were.

Another study was released shortly after, revealing that “negative views of blacks as a race were the single most important predictors for white opposition towards paying athletes”. In this way, racial bias was found to be a more powerful predictor of white opposition to paying athletes than age, experience or political affiliation. This is a vital and necessary awakening, which shows that the unwillingness of colleges to compensate their athletes fairly is a grave injustice. It hinders higher education’s social and academic progress in the United States. Tatishe nteta, professor at University of Massachusetts Amherst who is also one of its authors, elaborated the study results and stated that the NCAA foundation was inherently prejudiced towards minority representation. This prejudice impedes the progression towards true equality and fairness for student athletes, due to the organization’s marginalization.

Student-athletes are entitled to a salary that is proportional to their skills. Student-athletes who compete at the college level should be paid. This is a reasonable and valid request. It’s no surprise that the collegiate sporting industry is growing. In turn, these factors encourage college athletes’ financial equality with their professional counterparts. The lack of certification as a professional is also used to defend the low pay of college athletes. While this argument is based upon narrow logic, the NCAA’s apparent greed cannot be justified. They make huge profits by marketing and promoting the showmanship and skills of student athletes.

Many people would be shocked to discover that as college sports become more popular, it becomes harder and harder for the organizations to refuse payments to their players. Sean Gregory’s (Gregory, 2018) Time article on Nick Saban’s salary of $11 million, as the head coach of Alabama Crimson Tide football team, can also be used to support this. Assistant coaches earned over a million dollars. It is hard to argue against paying players when they are so impressive. These benefits do not reflect the risks that players face, including injuries which could end their careers at any time. For the players, just the loose regulations that govern each sport provide enough motivation to get paid for their contributions.

A 2011 NCAA survey stated that the average student-athlete practices at least 30 hours per week. Others can practice up to 40 or more. According to the article, when you combine the demands of full-time work with the requirement to practice like a professional, finding time to earn income becomes almost impossible. This can quickly turn into restrictions that are more harmful than helpful. It is not true that college athletes are not supported. Individuals on academic scholarships receive free room and board, tuition, and even free transportation.

In order to ensure future success, the NCAA must make significant changes. One of these is allowing athletes to sign sponsorship deals with companies like Nike or Adidas. Sponsors coming in to provide financial aid for athletes would be a great step forward. Both the companies and players will benefit. Numerous examples exist of sponsorship agreements that benefit both amateurs and companies. Shoe manufacturers, in particular, have consistently offered incentives to college students and/or their family members to encourage them attend certain universities. Students should be able to legally negotiate brand endorsements with companies. This would help reduce the poverty that is caused by the rising cost of higher education.

Students who achieve tremendous success can support their families by using the money they earn. The NCAA student-athletes are in a good position. It is not possible to see any downsides of allowing them financial freedom. ESPN also published a piece that indirectly supports change.

In the article, it is stated that although the initial resentment of student-athletes being paid was understandable due to the benefits and scholarships they received, the NCAA’s inability to pay compensation has become increasingly difficult to justify. It is evident from the recent news about a successful contract signed between the NCAA, Time Warner Cable, and a dollar amount of approximately $10.8 billion. According to the article, it is not in anyone’s interests to pay or distribute money equally among college athletes. The article states that it would not be in anyone’s best interest to pay every college athlete or distribute the funds equally.

Many people dream of a better future for themselves and their family. An athletic scholarship is the key. For many, dreams of a better life can become nightmares when the NCAA takes over all athletic scholarship. Student-athletes cannot make any financial gains from their scholarships under the current law. It is even worse that many scholarship recipients come out of families already in financial difficulty, who must cover all expenses to make student life possible. This is even worse than allowing colleges or universities to use the names, skills, and images of college athletes for their own personal gain.

Syracuse University set a new record in 2016-17 for athletic revenue of $90,000,000. It is even more astounding to know that Syracuse was not the only university. The University of Alabama collected $143 million in athletic income for all sports from 2013! In 2013, the income of 25 NBA teams outnumbered the revenue of all National Hockey League Teams. A legal reform of current education laws would allow students to benefit financially.

In the same way, legislative protection and representation of students should be a priority. This can be achieved by establishing a standard for treatment and representation of athletes within their school’s athletic organization. This would allow schools to gain more exposure and provide greater opportunities for their athletes. This can also be backed up by the popularity of college sports. For younger athletes in development, this is a very important factor when selecting them. It would seem logical to allow college athletes who are popular to promote themselves and their schools and organizations.

So, the fact that college-athletes are paid based on the analysis of articles, journals, and books related to the topic, shows the complexity and difficulty of this issue. It is also a reflection of the unfairness of academic institutions in general and the poverty of backgrounds from which student-athletes originate. Additionally, a lack in personal representation and the inability for student-athletes to have any power is what drives outdated policies, which continues to limit the lives of these student-athletes. These policies continue the NCAA to enjoy significant market shares, and generate enormous revenue. However, they refuse to share the wealth that has been created and sustained the organization. The NCAA must ensure that student-athletes have the legal protection they need and can self-represent. This is the only way to guarantee future success, equality, and a supportive future.


  • isabelbyrne

    Isabel Byrne is a 32-year-old blogger and student who resides in the United States. Byrne is an advocate for education and has written extensively on the topic of education reform. Byrne is also a proponent of the use of technology in the classroom and has spoken at numerous conferences on the topic.