First and foremost, this is an opinion piece that does not necessarily reflect the values of FlurrySports. That being said, let’s jump right to the elephant in the room. It is time to pay college athletes. Year after year we see Division 1 athletics becoming a bigger and bigger entity, specifically football, basketball and to a smaller extent but still in dominating fashion, baseball and softball. There are bowl games, NCAA tournaments selling tickets for hundreds of dollars, sponsorships of literally everything, including the ladder they use to cut the nets, as well as the sale of hats, t-shirts, jerseys, etc. Yet, not a single cent goes to the people that actually contribute to the brand value of the school or sport.
In recent years, the NCAA has come under fire for various things, from Shabazz Napier using his post-National Championship presser to talk about being hungry at night, Ed O’Bannon suing the NCAA for them using his likeness years after graduating UCLA and still not paying him, being able to search for a Johnny Manziel or Jadeveon Clowney jersey on the NCAA Official Website and the website bringing you to a Texas A&M #2 and South Carolina #7 jersey, among other controversies. Only in the NCAA can the player who has their jersey purchased by hundreds, if not thousands, appear in ads or sign autographs and not make money. But the kid in the campus bookstore makes $9/hr, the student in the campus media department makes $10/hr, and someone can take that free autograph and go sell it for pure profit. Just last week, the University of Maryland had a promotion that would give a lucky student $10,000, if a football player returned a kick for a touchdown. As you can probably guess, the athlete who returned the kick would get nothing. What a joke. Furthermore, the NCAA has gone as far to limit NCAA athletes from earning money on non-sports related earning that has nothing to do with their likeness. Two such incidents happened here in my home state of Wisconsin. The most recent was last fall when a UWGB volleyball player posted on Facebook that she wanted to start a GoFundMe page to pay for her parents to be able to fly over from Poland to see her graduate the following spring. This is apparently an NCAA violation. Another occurrence involved a Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball player who had an English class, which was collaborating to write a book that all the students could make a few bucks from. In both cases, literally any other student could start that GoFundMe or write the book and keep the money for what they contributed, but an NCAA athlete couldn’t? To me, this is beyond ridiculous and shows the NCAA flexing their muscles and furthering the monopoly of college sports.
Now of course the obvious argument is that they get paid already, in the form of a college scholarship. It’s a very fair argument, but don’t be fooled, this is very flawed. In 2013, a documentary was produced called Schooled: The Price of College Sports. If you have the time, it’s on Netflix and is a really good watch. In this film, there are a few rebuttals to this argument. First and foremost, the estimation of the value of then-UCLA star running back Johnathan Franklin’s scholarship being $28,000, meanwhile the estimated cost of a year at UCLA was $31,500. Now did this money come out of Franklin’s pocket? Probably not. However, as many college athletes will tell you, including Josh Rosen, the now UCLA starting QB, there is very little time to even be a student while being an athlete, let alone make any spending money. Being a student at Division 1 school, UW-Green Bay, I can personally say I have only seen a handful of college athletes who find a job that has the flexibility to schedule them to work. I have also seen athletes having to pay their own money to play the sport they have a scholarship for, whether it be having to pay out of pocket for the team spring training trip on the softball team, not having school sponsored transportation to practice for the ski team, or even the cheer team having to pay for their own uniforms. Maybe this is an occurrence at other schools and I just haven’t been exposed to it, maybe it’s the struggle of a mid-major during budget cuts, but regardless, it does seem off. Let’s not forget that not every athlete is on full scholarship, as there are partial scholarships and walk-ons. Also as we have seen time and time again, with schools like UNC getting busted for “paper classes” are lessening the value of that “free degree.”
Another argument is that they play for the love of the game, with the hope of being seen by scouts and going pro. This notion to me is utter nonsense. With the exception of baseball, there are virtually no true minor leagues that serve as an alternate to college. High school players can play professionally overseas instead of going to college, but this only has worked for a handful of players since the NBA stopped allowing high school players to be drafted. In fact, I would argue that NCAA actually devalued the education these players are supposed to get with the one and done rule, but as long as it makes them money in March, it’s okay, right?
The notion of amateurism is a concept that was developed to avoid paying Workers’ Compensation to injured athletes, and while there aren’t too many times that an injury releases a student-athlete from their scholarship anymore, an athlete can lose their scholarship for poor play, among other factors, at any time as it’s only a one year contract. Make no mistake, the NCAA is a business, and business is good for everyone, but only about 3% of college athletes go pro in sports.
The final argument is that figuring out a system to pay them would be “too hard.” This drives me nuts. There’s also the issue of whether or not there would be equal compensation for a star football player as there would be for the backups on the rowing team. I am a communication student at UWGB and while math may not be my biggest strong suit anymore, I have a potential solution that admittedly probably has holes, but it makes it a fair playing field. Part of each scholarship and/or Federal Financial Aid Package could include a work study, which any student can qualify for. Speaking from personal experience, this is usually somewhere between $1,200-$2,000 per year. It could only be earned during practice and games, and have this figure be a set number by the NCAA. Doing it that way makes it a fair playing field at every school. The NCAA should then allow players to make money on their likeness, as this will ensure that stars get their market value for performance. Yes, this is probably flawed, but that’s just a start from someone who works two jobs and an internship. Athletic training students get paid to work at games, but athletes don’t. Something seems wrong, so just pay them. Please.
Do you agree or disagree? Comment below or tweet to me @fischstix20 what you think of this.