Top 10 Reasons College Athletes Should Not Be Paid
Collegiate sports are big money makers, at least that’s what most people think, right? The truth is, the only collegiate sports that really make anything for the colleges are football and basketball, and only the top championship teams really bring in money for their schools. Because the general public sees these teams as cash cows, the debate as to if college athletes should be paid is brought up during every championship season, whether it is the football national championship or March Madness, which occurs each year to determine the champion of college basketball.
There are a number of reasons why people believe college athletes should be paid. For instance, serious college athletes spend more time practicing their sports and playing the game as most people spend at work each week. In other words, being a college athlete is the equivalent of a full time job. Speaking of jobs, since college athletes are spending so much time on the field or court and in the classroom, they don’t have the time to actually work, so many of them have a difficult time making ends meet.
This information certainly supports the fact that college athletes should be paid, but there is a lot more to the debate than this. Just as there are so many reasons a college athlete should be paid for their skills, there are just as many reasons to not pay these athletes. Here are the top 10 reasons college athletes should not be paid:
10. College Athletic Programs Cannot Afford to Pay Athletes
Though it is true that there is a lot of money coming into some college athletic program, there is just as much money going out, and in most cases, these programs are working at a loss. Take Auburn University, for instance. In 2015, the school debuted their newest addition, an almost 11,000 square feet, high-definition screen in the stadium. The glow from this screen can be seen up to 30 miles away, and it came to the university at a cost of $13.9 million.
Now, people who believe college athletes should be paid see this cost and immediately say, if Auburn can spend this much on a screen, they certainly can spend money on paying their athletes. On the surface, this seems like a valid statement. However, what these people do not realize is that the Auburn athletic department posted a $17 million deficit in 2014 and this screen was the equivalent of a ‘Hail Mary’ pass to try to bring more money into the program.
Auburn is not alone in this. You can also look at numbers across the board for some of the top schools in the nation and see that these purchases are not the best investments. Approximately six years ago, Rutgers University made a big purchase: an expansion to the football stadium that cost $102 million. The goal of this expansion was no different than the goal of Auburn…to bring more money into the program. However, today, the deficit for the Rutgers athletic department tops $36 million, which is the same as losing $1 every second for an entire year.
9. Most Elite College Athletes Get Sports Scholarships, Which is Payment Enough
Make no mistake. When people talk about paying college athletes for playing sports, they are not talking about the golf or tennis player from the Division IV school in the heartland of Iowa who has no illusions that they will ever be a professional. Instead, they are talking about the handful of cream of the crop football and basketball players; the players who become household names during March Madness or during the NCAA football bowl season. In other words, they are talking about the elite athletes from schools such as Ohio State, Alabama, Florida State, Duke, UConn and Kentucky.
These athletes almost always get their full tuition paid for, or at least significantly discounted. Billions are given to athletes each year, and in some cases, the average athletic scholarship at a school actually exceeds the school’s tuition. For instance, consider Ohio State, one of the biggest and most well known football programs in the nation. The average in-state tuition at the university is just over $10,000 a year, yet the average athletic scholarship is $17,856 for male athletes. In other words, these athletes are having their full tuition paid for, in addition to other perks.
Even if a student is not actually receiving money towards tuition, they often get expert, NFL level coaching and freebies such as housing, meals, clothing, medical care, and professional development. Oh, and these perks go to those who are getting full rides, too.
8. Playing College Sports is a Privilege
For every high school athlete that dreams of playing in college, only about 7 percent go on to do it. Furthermore, only 2 percent of these people play in a Division I school. What does that tell you? That playing sports in college is a privilege.
College athletes should recognize that the opportunity they have to play in college is something that millions of people dream of and never achieve. Playing in college should be done for the love of the game, after all, that’s what it is…a game. Most college athletes truly love their chosen sport, and don’t want it to ever turn into a job or chore. When it does, the love that they have for the fame is lost.
Most people see playing in college as a fulfillment of their childhood dreams, and most childhood dreams are unconcerned with the money that could come along with a career in sports. Instead, they dream of talking to their team in a huddle, doing their victory dance in front of a crowd of 100,000 after scoring a touchdown and feeling the pride of walking through campus after winning the big game.
The most these students should be getting out of playing in college is the pride, gratification and competition of the game. They should feel the thrill of their victories and the pure agony of being defeated. This is the heart of the game in college, and doing it for any other reason, such as money, lessons the dreams of those who want to be in the same position.
7. There is No Fair Way to Pay College Athletes
When the topic of paying college athletes comes up, there are two trains of thought. First, some people believe that these people should all be paid based on an open market system. This would allow supply and demand to come into play, and a school would be able to pay an individual player based on the revenue that comes in due to their talents. The payment would vary depending on the local market and the deal that each athlete has with the school. However, the questions arise of how the value of a player will be determined and what happens if an athlete is “hired” at a small rate of pay, and then vastly improves over the season. What if a school pays a player a high wage, and they end up getting hurt?
There is also the fact that not every college could afford the players they want to recruit. An analysis was done in 2013 concerning the financial stability of public school Division I athletic departments. What this study found was that only 23 of the 228 Division I schools were running their programs in the black, which would technically mean that only 23 of the 228 schools really had the money to pay a college athlete. In the real world, any business running in the red is very likely not hiring, and there is nothing to stay that a college athletic team that pays its players would operate any differently.
6. Students are Not Professionals
College is a time to learn, and whether a student wants to be an accountant or a professional athlete, they are not a professional when still in school. Students are not paid salaries like a professional, nor do they receive professional perks. As a student athlete, a student is able to gain access to a college education through the participation of their sport. In fact, a student athlete should look at their college sports experience simply as a vehicle to higher education. This access is only available, however, through continuous enrollment in the school, academic eligibility and participation in the sport they play.
On top of essentially earning a free degree, something that almost no other student can do when they go through college, a very high percentage of student athletes graduate without having any student loans. Most other students, however, certainly accumulate these. For those student athletes who still have trouble with money after all of this, there is the NCAA Student Assistance Fund, which will help in the case of difficulty paying for the cost of attendance.
The bottom line is this: a student athlete is an amateur, just like a student accountant, who is making a choice to participate in a sport as part of their overall educational experience. Since this is the case, it doesn’t matter how many touchdowns they score or how many three-pointers they make, as they are not professionals, and they should not make professional money.
5. Paying Student Athletes Will Cause Cuts Elsewhere
If proponents of paying student athletes get their way, it will cost schools millions in salaries. As has been mentioned above, most Division I schools, which is where the elite athletes play, are not making a profit. This, of course, raises the question of where the money will come from.
One of the first things the colleges will cut is the other sports at the school. Anyone who has ever been a high school soccer or volleyball player, for instance, knows that the football team always got the best of the best, while other sports teams suffered. New uniforms? Football team. Uniforms that are 10 years old? Volleyball team. College athletics is much the same, and if the schools start paying their elite athletes, the other teams lose out. In fact, these other athletic programs will likely be dead in the water.
The other thing that could happen when colleges begin to pay their student athletes is that other university programs could be cut. For example, if the university in question has a small art program with only 100 students and the university decides to pay their athletes, you can take a well-educated guess on where the money will come from, and in the process, say goodbye to the art program.
So, yes, the student athletes who are now getting paid are doing quite well, but the students who had programs cut are missing out on their own educational experience.
4. The NCAA is a Not-For-Profit Organization
The NCAA is a not-for-profit organization and is an association of member universities and colleges that share a common goal. Because of its status as a non-profit, it would be confusing for it to be involved in paying athletes. Since the NCAA is the governing body of college athletics, it is extremely unlikely that it would change its stance on student athlete compensation. This is also true, because the organization has been approached many times to change its stance, and thus far, it is unwilling to budge on it’s pay for play policy.
The main goal of the NCAA is to offer educational service to the student athletes that it supports, and it give money to the schools where these students gain their education. Though some people believe that it is not right for all of these student athletes to play for their schools without compensation, others argue that many of the students who would be paid are only a hop, skip and a jump from a chance at the NFL or NBA, where they will make hundreds of thousands of dollars. Though they may not be the NFL superstar, any position as an NFL player pays will pay well. Even players on the practice squad make a minimum of $6,000 a week. When compared with the average US income of $513 a week, those who can graduate from the college football field to the practice squad are doing just fine.
3. College Students are Financially Irresponsible
With more money comes more problems, and adding money to the life of a student athlete, is only going to exacerbate this fact. College students are terrible with money for the most part. They do not know how to manage money, they are buried in credit card debt, and most do not keep a budget. According to research, only about 62 percent of students at a four-year school check their bank account balances and only 39 percent of these students use a budget. This type of practice is exactly how students across the country rack up $1,000’s in credit card debt before they even graduate, and how many struggle for years later to get their heads above water despite the higher salary that often comes with a college degree.
When college students, and irresponsible adults, for that matter, suddenly have access to a lot of money, they tend to go crazy, making purchase after purchase. If the money is managed correctly, there is no worry here, since the person with the money would understand the concept of budgeting. However, since only 39 percent of students actually budget their money, the odds are very high that the money the students would be paid could cause financial issues both now and in the future. College students are reckless, and would think nothing of dropping $100,000 on a car now, but what happens if they are not one of the few that move on to the NFL? With an average salary of $45,000 for those in their first year out of college, it could be difficult to keep up appearances over time.
2. Paying College Athletes to Play Will Not Stop the Corruption of the System
One of the reasons people suggest that college athletes should be paid is because they believe this would stop the corruption of the system. What corruption is this? Well, since college athletes do not get cold, hard cash, they often get other perks, and it goes beyond free housing and meals.
You might know the name Reggie Bush, who was a running back for USC. When he played in college, people started to notice that he and his family began receiving swanky benefits such as the use of limousines, air fare and weekly payments from various sports marketing agents. Eventually, they moved into a new home. Another example is Terrelle Pryor, the quarterback for Ohio State. He was given the keys to up to eight different upscale cars from a local vehicle dealership. This sparked an investigation into not only Pryor himself, but also the athletic department at Ohio State.
So, would giving student athletes a couple of hundred dollars a month change this? Of course not. There are still going to be people in the shadowy background waiting and willing to do business with these kids and give them a handout, whether it is in cash under the table or homes, clothes or cars.
Bottom line here is that the college athletic system is broken, and the solution is not to start paying college athletes. All that this would do would be to create more problems.
1. Paying College Athletes Would Ruin College Sports
Finally, if college athletes start getting paid, it would simply ruin the college sports industry. Athletes play sports in college for two reason: the love of the game and the change to make it to the pros. If these students start getting paid, college and university athletic departments would turn into enterprises, and this would tarnish the college athletic system.
All of the shenanigans that occur in the pros would likely happen in college sports if student athletes started getting paid. Students would start holding out on contracts because they want more money, unions would spring up that would focus on the rights of college athletes, and there would be lockouts if these athletes are not happy with the university they are playing for. People watch college sports because they don’t have these things associated with them, and adding payments to athletes would bring all of these to the forefront.
At it’s heart, college athletics is the way to turn boys and girls into men and women. It teaches students how to be disciplined and driven. Fans do not want to turn on ESPN on Saturday afternoon and see a labor strike at their local university because the students don’t like that they aren’t getting paid more. Instead, they want to see these players hit the field or the court, play without the distractions of cash, and do it for the love of the game.
The debate of whether or not it is appropriate or fair to pay college athletes rages on. Though there are a couple of compelling reasons why college athletes should be paid, there are many other reasons why they shouldn’t. Paying a student athlete would put most universities in dire financial straights, it would cause other programs to be cut, and could ultimately unfairly cause an imbalance in the college spots system as some schools would certainly have more money to spend than others.
Student athletes already receive benefits for playing college sports including a free education, housing, meals, travel, networking and other perks, which give them a huge boost up in life when compared to their peers. If student athletes start getting paid, however, they would not only continue to likely receive these benefits, they would receive many more. This could lead to even more corruption in an already corrupt system and it would create many more issues than are already in existence.
Whether or not the NCAA ultimately decides to pay student athletes is likely not a decision that would come down any time soon, and since the NCAA is a non-profit itself, it is unlikely to happen at all. Until any decision is made, student athletes are best to do what their predecessors have done…play their sport simply for the love of the game.