As a former student-athlete and longtime college sports fan, this is a topic I’ve kicked around more then once. Is it a matter of protecting the purity of amateur athletics? Or is the NCAA simply unwilling to share a portion of the billion dollar pie? I side with the notion that athletes should be paid, and I’ll tell you why.
NCAA: The Money-Making Machine
Let me set the stage by providing some statistics, I think you’ll notice we’re talking about more than a few pennies here. In 2014, USA TODAY Sports reported that the NCAA made more than $1 billion for the year. Not to mention, 24 school athletic programs made more than $100,000,000 in the 2014-2015 athletic year. In 2014, the University of Alabama reported $143.3 Million in athletic revenues — more than all 30 NHL teams and 25 of the 30 NBA teams. Let that one sink in for a minute.. Keep in mind, while universities and the NCAA rake in enormous profits, they don’t have to pay for the labor that is actually generating said profits. In 2015, a single ticket for an NCAA Men’s Final Four game cost $1,151.98!
Do the scholarships many of these athletes receive hold monetary value? Of course. The value still pales in comparison with the profits being collected because of their efforts. All arguments aside, the reality is, colleges and the NCAA are exploiting and profiting off the backs of unpaid college students. Something else to consider, the amount of time student-athletes must devote to their respective sports. Results of a 2011 NCAA survey showed that division 1 football players averaged 43 hours/week, baseball players averaged 42.1 hours/week, and men’s basketball players averaged 39.2 hours/week. This, on top of actual class time and homework, leaves zero time for a job where they would actually get paid. Journalism students can freelance for professional media companies, music students can use their skills to earn money on the side, so why are student-athletes treated any differently?
Paying Athletes: The Upside
Despite being the reason and ones responsible for generating these enormous profits, the athletes are the only people not seeing any of the money. For me, this is reason enough to start forking it over. Those of you still not convinced, here are some other potential benefits to paying them.
It’s common to see athletes leave college early for the bright lights of professional sports. Why? THE MONEY. Now, I recognize that not every player turns pro early for this reason, but you’re kidding yourself if you think it’s not the driving force majority of the time. Paying student-athletes wouldn’t stop all of them, but for those players on the fence, think how much easier the decision to stay in school would be if they already had money in their pocket. So many of these student-athletes come from low-income families, struggling just to make ends meet. If I were the athlete in this situation, I would absolutely cash in on my physical talents while I had the chance. If we want these kids to value their education, give them incentive to stay.
The way the system is setup currently, makes me wonder, what is it teaching the kids? That it’s okay to exploit others as long as you’re making a profit? Maybe that’s a stretch, but I think it’s still worth asking.