After a NCAA tournament basketball game, UConn guard, Shabazz Napier, told reporters, “I don't feel student-athletes should get hundreds of thousands of dollars, but like I said, there are nights that I go to bed and I'm starving,” (Ganim). Napier was a prominent player for the UConn men's basketball team's 2014 National Championship win (Ganim). The great debate of whether or not college student-athletes should be paid invokes many opinions, and many of these are supportive for paying college athletes. Like regular students, athletes are expected to maintain a certain level of academics, but on top of that they are also accountable for almost 40 hours a week solely devoted to their sport. Furthermore, student-athletes are bringing in a large amount of revenue for their schools and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which currently produces $11 billion dollars annually from college athletics (Edelman). College athletics is a billion dollar enterprise; therefore, college athletes should be paid for their hard work, dedication, and unconditional commitment to their school.
It is often argued, that athletes do get paid in the form of athletic scholarships. Yet, out of the 460,000 collegiate athletes in the NCAA only 150,000 are awarded with a form of athletic financial aid. Athletic scholarships come in two forms; full-scholarships and partial scholarships. Full scholarships cover tuition and fees, room, board, and course-related books, and are only awarded to 2% of highschool athletes, however partial scholarships, which most athletes receive, only cover a fraction of these costs (“Scholarships”). The types of scholarships an athlete is able to receive depends on the sport that he or she plays. College sports are divided into two groups, headcount sports and equivalency sports. Headcount sports include Division I football, men's and women's basketball, women's tennis, volleyball, and gymnastics; any scholarship offered by these sports will be full-scholarships (Leccesi). On the other hand, all other collegiate sports are equivalency sports, this means that coaches are able to divide a scholarship among several players, so each gets a fraction of their expenses covered (“NCAA Athletic Scholarships…”). However, not all college student-athletes receive scholarships, many of these athletes are “walk-ons”. Walk-ons are simply athletes who receive no form of financial aid, and make up a large percent of NCAA athletes. For example, in Division I alone, 46% of student-athletes are walk-ons, while in Division II 39% are walk-ons. Overtime walk-ons are eligible for financial aid, but most often it is only partial and comes after being on the team for a few years (Leccesi).
College athletes have to balance the workload of any college student, as well as the schedule of a full time athlete. It is often argued that college athletes are paid by the scholarships they receive, meaning that a free education should be enough. But, Richard Sherman, NFL Seattle Seahawks cornerback argues, “No, I don't think college athletes are given enough time to really take advantage of the free education they are given,” (qtd. Volk). This is because college athletes spend anywhere from 30 to 40 or more hours a week dedicated to their sport, which, by hours, is the equivalent to a full time job (Jacobs). The strenuous, daily schedule of a college athlete is best put by Richard Sherman: You wake up and have weights at this time. Then after weights you go to class and after class, you go maybe try to grab a quick bite to eat. Then after you get your quick bite to eat, you go straight to meetings and after meetings, you've got practice and after practice you've got to try to get all the work done you had throughout the day you've got from lectures and from your focus groups. (qtd. Volk)
Often times athletes are expected to maintain and perform at the same level of college students, but student-athletes are restricted to what they can do, and what they can sign up for, because of their sports driven schedules. College athletes are constantly told by coaches, “‘You're not on scholarship for school,'” (qtd. Volk), yet, most of time college athletes are criticized for not taking advantage of the free education they are given. In contrast, the schedule of the regular college athlete is vastly different. College students spend on average 3.5 hours a day on educational activities, which peaks right before lunch, leaving the rest of day to do as the please (“American Time Use Survey”). College athletes are not given as great of an opportunity to socialize or get a job as regular students.
College athletics bring in a great amount of revenue. Schools like the University of Alabama reported almost $145 million in athletic revenues alone (Edelman). This is just one of many schools bringing in large amounts of money, for example Texas A&M athletics brings in around $192.6 million dollars (Berkowitz). One great source of revenue is the broadcasting of games. Broadcasted games bring in millions, for example the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship brings in $821.4 million off of television and marketing deals. Another great source of revenue is ticket sales, for example the NCAA Men's Championship game brought it $129.4 million (“Where Does the Money Go?”). Other smaller streams of revenue come from membership dues and merchandise. On top of playing and going to class, student-athletes are used to advertise for their schools, actually, success in college sports have seemed to improve application rates. It is often asked, Where does all the money go? To answer that question, the money goes to coaches, athletics directors, and administrators (Edelman).
Paying college student-athletes has several positive attributes. To begin with, paying college athletes provides a source of funds (“Should College Athletes…”). With a packed schedule, athletes have no time for jobs to provide themselves with some “pocket cash”. Paying athletes would compensate for the lack of a job. Another pro for paying college athletes would be the eliminations of shady practices (“Should Colleges Athletes…”). With no legal form of pay, it is definite that under the table deals are made to student-athletes, putting their careers at risk, by paying athletes in the open and legally the threat of suspension or elimination is taken away. It is often argued that paying college athletes would give them the “pro” mentality, this meaning they would get lazy and lose their grit and passion for the game, however, as long as the payment of student athletes is not too large of an amount, the money could motivate them to strive for excellence.
The big question is how to pay student-athletes. To begin with, payment depends on several factors, for example, how much revenue that sport brings in, how well the team does that season, and how well that individual player does. When paying an athlete there should be a minimum for everyone, but for athletes and programs that excel there should be bonuses. Athletes should not be receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars, for this might lead to corruption and laziness, but it should be a substantial amount that the athlete could save and use for personal purposes, whether it is to take care of his or her family or pay for food and other expenses not covered by scholarships. Many people fear that a young player would not know how to control themselves with money, this is why it is often proposed that any money that player make be put into an account. That players could have full access to the account after they graduate, but while in school, a players access to the cash would be limited, and only portions would be allowed to them at a time.
College athletes have a true love and raw talent for their sport. They should be paid for everything they accomplish whether it be on the court, field, or track. With the NCAA being a billion dollar enterprise, it is certainly not at a lack of funds to give some extra support to athletes, whether it come from the salary of overpaid coaches and administrators or from cuts of revenue from broadcasting, tickets, or advertisements. It is not fair that money is being made off of the work of others, and those individuals see none of it.
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