Top 10 Reasons College Athletes Should Be Paid
When the NCAA was founded by President Roosevelt in 1905, the institution was committed to the idea of not providing a salary or stipend to the student-athletes who took part in its organization. It is based on the idea of amateurism, and this was a notable idea at the time.
But, over a century later, the NCAA is no longer recognizable compared to what the organization used to be. The NCAA has modernized to take full advantage of the new kinds of sports fans and especially the new kinds of media. Today, sports and athletics in the NCAA draw in around $11 billion every year for the organization. Its coaches and administrators make staggering amounts of money. From high salaries to performance bonuses, it seems that the NCAA is a very profitable business considering it is a non-profit organization.
Yet, despite all of this cash floating around, the players who make the organization work do not see any of this money. In fact, they are barred by NCAA regulations from capitalizing on their status as great athletes at all. The organization argues that student athletes are provided with full scholarships and a free education. While this was previously a great incentive to work towards a career as a college athlete, the billions of dollars that are poured into the industry every year seem to be disappearing into black holes including ever-increasing coaches’ salaries and brand new stadiums.
Now, collegiate sports teams are fighting back against the NCAA standards. Whether in the press room or in the court room, the NCAA cannot seem to come up with a valid argument other than, “This is our tradition.”
In the 21st century, the NCAA tradition no longest exists. Here are the top ten reasons why student athletes should be paid for their hard work and talent.
10. College Athletes Spend an Average of 43.3 Hours Per Week Dedicated to Their Sport
The average American full-time work contract usually stipulates that the employee will work between the hours of 8 AM and 5 PM five days per week. Salaries are also usually based around a 40 hour work week.
If the average NCAA college football player in Division One spends over 40 hours a week on their game, then they are working the same amount as those in full-time employment do. These hours are distributed over training sessions, games, travel and other required sessions that student athletes must attend in order to remain on the team and keep their full scholarship.
But, college athletes are not required to simply play sports 40 hours a week. Their schedule also includes a full-time college schedule that they must maintain if they want to stay in the school and continue playing college sports. If a student has 10 hours of class each week and puts in the recommended four hours of study for each hour of class, then athletes spend 50 hours each week studying and attending mandatory classes and study halls.
This means that college athletes have to work 90 hours per week just to remain in school on their scholarship. This is the equivalent to working two full-time jobs with a side job on the weekends just to pay their bills.
For NCAA executives, administrators and support staff who start feeling the burn around hour 42, they should remember that their student athletes’ jobs are not only intellectually demanding but brings them to the limits of their physical endurance as well.
9. College Athletes Struggle to Make Ends Meet
One of the biggest reasons that the NCAA has defended its policies on paying college athletes is because these athletes are often on full scholarships that cover tuition, accommodation, fees and meal plans at the university they attend.
While these costs are all covered. There are many costs associated with being a college athlete that the tuition doesn’t cover. There are crucial expenses that are not covered by scholarships. For example, athletes who spend 90 hours a week training and studying will often find themselves starving well after the university’s dining facilities have closed. There is no room in these scholarships for providing students with additional dining options. Instead, these costs have to come out of their own pocket.
There are also additional costs for sports that are not covered by scholarships. Renting or buying suits for mandatory banquets and fundraisers is expensive, especially when the athlete has no choice in whether or not they can attend.
To many people, these things seem like a small price to pay for a full scholarship. But, it is important to remember that these scholarships are the only means through which many athletes can make it to college. Many college athletes do not come from privileged backgrounds, and their performance at their sport is one of the few chances they feasibly had at going to college. Many also cannot rely on their parents for the extra money they need to live.
To feed and clothe themselves, these students often wind up getting part-time jobs. If a student works 90 hours a week at their unpaid “job,” and then spends a further 10 to 15 hours at a paid job, then they are working around 100 hours each week for four years simply to be able to feed themselves adequately. All of this happens while their coach will often make a comfortable six figure salary.
8. Paying Students Would Only Make the Sport More Competitive
The NCAA often states that paying college athletes would destroy the competitiveness of the sport. However, this makes little to no sense. The NFL pays its players based on their worth and their performance. The tiered payments offered to professional players only motivate them to work harder to maintain their rankings. This hard work also leads to salary increases in the form of media events and sponsorship deals. Suggesting that payment has ruined the competition in the NFL is incredibly misinformed.
If the NCAA paid its athletes, the students would not have to add extra stress worrying about where they will get their money from. If students did not have to worry about their finances, they could spend more time focusing on their game and their classes. This helps prevent tired and burnt out athletes from underperforming on the field.
Instead of chasing part time jobs, athletes could focus more on their game to earn higher rewards. They could use the extra energy and ambition and throw it straight into their game to become a bigger, better competitors which would in turn make the NCAA more money.
7. The Money Earned from Athletics is not Automatically Reinvested in Education and Research
If it were the case that the success of a school’s sports teams directly affected the amount of education and research funding that the school received, it would be more difficult to argue that the players should receive a cut. After all, they would be contributing to a school that was helping pursue their educational and professional goals.
Unfortunately, most of the vast revenues taken in by college athletics programs every year do not go directly to the classrooms of the university. If they did, Texas and Alabama would have more academic opportunity than any school in America. Instead, the profits of athletics are shared between administrators, coaches and athletic directors.
Sometimes, money is actually taken from the school to fund sports. The University of Tennessee took $18 million out of its scholarship and fellowship funds and decided to invest it in the athletic department instead. At the time, the school was looking for new coaches and that kind of capital would have attracted prominent names. The school also announced that it did not intend to replace these funds itself and instead was hoping that private gifts and donations would make up for the loss.
Of course, some of the biggest athletics programs do give back to their schools. Alabama contributes a portion of its football proceeds to funding non-athletic scholarships as well as school development. However, this reinvestment does not reflect the net worth of the football team alone which is suggested to be over $100 million.
6. Colleges Recruit Top Talent in Academics and in Sports Because of the Status and Fame of Their Sports Teams
Colleges can be more selective in their admittance procedures when their sports teams are famous or successful. Many of these universities fall far from the top 10 colleges in the world or even the country. Yet, they are able to run admissions procedures and charge tuition rates that reflect those of Ivy League institutions.
The year that Boston College’s quarterback won the Heisman Trophy, the number of students vying for admission to the college grew by 25 points in a single year. It was not just the number of applications that grew- the quality of applications grew in similar proportions. The average SAT score of the freshman admitted in that year jumped by 110 points. Doug Flutie, a single student athlete, created this huge raise in interest with his talent and passion for the game and it seems that only Boston College was rewarded.
College sports teams often do much of the school’s marketing for them while simultaneously generating revenue. Relatively small and unknown schools like Gonzaga University in Washington are known almost entirely because of their basketball teams. Without these successful players, colleges like Gonzaga would have to spend a fortune on marketing programs to attract out-of-state students.
5. The College Sports Apparel Market Capitalizes Specifically on the Players
If athletes were to be paid for only one reason, it is because the NCAA and universities capitalize on both the team’s success and the players’ status for its own financial gain through the sales of apparel and other merchandise. When universities sell jerseys and t-shirts with popular numbers on them, they are literally selling the personhood of the person whose number is on the jersey.
The sales of apparel featuring student athlete personalities takes the NCAAs profits from sports to a whole new level. Say what they will about the fairness of the scholarship system, public businesses that used the image of an athlete, model, actress or any public figure for their own gain would ultimately end up compensating the individual they use.
Not only is the university allowed to capitalize on the celebrity of its players; but the players are contractually not allowed to do this themselves. NCAA rules state that student athletes are not allowed to use their likeness for promotional purposes or monetary gain. This means that a well-known athlete cannot charge money for the hours spent signing autographs but the university is able to use the athlete to generate hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars through sales and increased enrolment.
Making millions of dollars based on a player’s performance or personality while barring them from accepting even a free taco is not only hypocritical, it is morally questionable.
4. Top Coaches are Rewarded More Than Fairly
NCAA coaches can often earn an average of $100,000 per year. Being that they work for educational institutions and often have several assistants and advisors who help to share the work load, this is a huge amount of money compared to teachers and professors who are inundated with facilitating the academic success of tens of thousands of students.
A $100,000 salary is fair for professionals who draw so much money into the school through the leadership of their sports teams. However, schools with massive sports programs have been known to pay their head coaches millions of dollars. The head football coach at Alabama is reported to have made $5.5 million in the year 2013 and recently received a new contract to the tune of $7 million each year. The head football coach at Texas made slightly less; he brought in only $5.4 million.
Today, it is strange to think that when the NCAA was founded, most people were equally opposed to paying coaches as well as athletes. Many coaches worked primarily for the love of the game. Over 100 years later, the average BCS eligible football coach makes a salary of $2.05 million every year.
If schools believe that spending $7 million a year on a single salary is a good investment, it is difficult to reconcile the schools’ and the NCAA’s stance on compensation for players. After all, money does not seem to be an issue.
3. A Salary Would Help Student Athletes Learn How to Manage Their Money
Money management is one of the most important skills that young people can learn and paying student athletes even a small salary will help them learn how to manage their money. Whether they go on to make millions or are forced to leave professional athletics behind, these skills are both practical and transferable for student athletes.
If anything, the NCAA could consider small stipends for students as an educational gesture, a little would go a long way in promoting healthy money management. Whether you are an athlete or a regular student, figuring out how to go from barely scraping by to having a little extra money is a big challenge.
A small salary would also teach student-athletes how to save. Saving is an incredibly important skill that many young people don’t take part in either because they do not earn enough money to create a savings account or because they do not understand the importance of saving.
Even if the NCAA or the universities paid the students a stipend and put it in a trust fund to be accessed upon graduation might make a small difference in teaching young people how to handle money.
2. Payment Would Help Athlete’s Leave School With More Than Just a Degree
Many college athletes train hard for most of their career with the eventual goal of becoming a full time professional athlete. The main goal of almost any serious athlete is to be drafted at the end of their college career and find themselves in a salaried position on a national team so that they can begin getting paid for their dream.
Unfortunately, many college athletes don’t get drafted by the NFL, the NBA or the MLB straight out of college. In fact, the vast majority of college sports players do not end up playing professional sports at all. Whether they aren’t lucky enough to make the cut or their career is cut short by an injury on the college field, many student athletes give everything they have for very little reward. This means that at the end of four long years, all these athletes have is a degree.
It doesn’t matter if you are a star tennis player or a star academic, simply having a degree is no longer enough to compete for jobs in a difficult market.
While a fully-funded degree is certainly not nothing, it is far below many athletes’ hopes and expectations. For students who work 90 hour weeks for four or five years, the burn out at the end of the road can be difficult and damaging. Paying college athletes would at least help them leave education with a little bit of money to buy them time to find a new path.
1. The NCAA is an $11 Billion Dollar Industry
The NCAA has revenue that rivals many of the country’s biggest public companies. It is never compared to these companies because the NCAA remains a non-profit organization. However, each year the NCAA takes in almost $11 billion in revenue across college sports. The biggest earners are football, basketball and baseball.
$11 billion is more than the annual revenue of the entire NBA or the NHL. It should also be noted that this money is not evenly distributed. The top playing Division I schools contribute more to this figure than many of the lowest members combined.
For example, the University of Alabama took in $143.3 million in athletic revenues alone. This figure is not only more than any professional hockey team in the NHL earns but it is also more than 25 out of the 30 NBA teams bring in annually as well.
While there is nothing wrong with a non-profit organization taking on huge amounts of revenue, it seems that the wealth could be distributed amongst those who are at the heart and soul of the organization: the players.
Although the NCAA pays its top executives million dollar salaries, parents, students and fans do not scramble to snap up the best season tickets to watch some executives play sports. The fans are invested in the players, many of whom have started taking on followings akin to those of famous and established professional players.
If the administrators and coaches in the NCAA want to make the same salaries that their colleagues in the pros do, then perhaps they should also reconsider how committed they truly are to the amateurism that the NCAA was founded on.
Student athletes are stuck between two worlds. While the NCAA constantly affirms its commitment to its root values, it is simultaneously brokering deals with national networks to show live football games to millions of people. Too many college athletes put their heart and soul into what they do and too many come out with any reward.
Many people say that NCAA has an ideal model for creating cheap labor. Not only do they expect athletes to perform in the classroom that performance has to be translated to the field. Should the athlete begin to feel the pressure of the strenuous 90 hour weeks, they are cut from the team and lose their scholarship and their vehicle with which to educate themselves. What the NCAA says when they enforce policies that leave their players floundering both physical and financially is that each player is just a body that is replaceable.
Of course, there is not a real precedent to begin paying a student the same salary as Kobe Bryant; but making sure that they can eat properly should not be an issue for organizations with such huge amounts of revenue. Whether it is to acknowledge their significant contribution to the college or just to ensure that these students leave their college career with something other than a diploma and a “college football injury,” student athletes should be compensated. After all, Americans don’t spend $11 billion a year to watch men in suits make decisions.