Pay To Play: Why Colleges Should Pay Their Athletes

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Many students become involved in sports but only so many receive the opportunity to compete at the next level. Athletic scholarships can only be given out one year at a time, so the chances of a student getting the opportunity earning one can be slim to none. ¨In 2017, 181,306 student-athletes received a sports’ scholarship, out of the 7.3 million high school student-athletes there were in the same year.¨ Colleges should pay their athletes because they make a vast amount of money from athletics, students could use the money for tuition along with other needs, and if and accident were to happen students would have something to fall back on.

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First, a large amount of a school’s money comes from athletics. “From 2011-12, the most recent year for which audited numbers are available. NCAA revenue was $871.6 million, most of which came from the rights agreement with Turner/CBS Sports.’´NCAA Division I schools made a total of about $9.15 billion from all sports during the 2015 fiscal year. Since these student athletes are indeed majority of the schools income, it is only right that they receive a small portion of the proceeds.The major conferences have an eight-year package (ending in 2006) worth $930,000,000 with ABC to televise the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) at the conclusion of the regular football season. Each team playing in a BCS game currently receives about $13,000,000 and, under the terms of the new contract, will receive around $17,000,000 in the final years of the agreement. Since the teams share these monies with their conference members, the 62 schools involved will divide approximately $116,000,000 in payouts annually. The NCAA has signed a $6,200,000,000, 11-year deal giving CBS the rights to televise its men’s basketball championship. (That’s $545,000,000 a year, up from the $216,000,000 annually with the current arrangement that expires after the 2002 tournament.) The NCAA also makes money from advertising and gate receipts for this tournament. To enhance gate receipts, the finals are always scheduled in huge arenas with seating capacities of at least 30,000, rather than normal basketball-sized venues.

In addition, if the students are not on a full ride scholarship, they could use the money to help pay for their schooling. Even then, there’s a good chance their scholarship won’t even cover the cost of tuition with the average athletic scholarship coming out to approximately $10,400. Outside of football and basketball, the average scholarship is $8,700. “Tuition, room, board and books were compensation enough.” This quote means that the schools already provide students with the necessary essentials they need to get along just fine. The NCAA admits that a ‘full scholarship’ does not cover the basic necessities for a student-athlete. The NCAA refuses to change its rules to allow schools to provide scholarships that equal costs. Each school lists the ‘cost of attendance’ as the amount that all students need to survive financially and academically. A relatively small percentage of post-season revenues can be used to assist universities in providing scholarships that cover costs (NCPA). University recruiters mislead high school recruits by offering them 4-year scholarships even though the NCAA does not allow 4-year scholarships. The NCAA only allows 1-year scholarships that a university can revoke or renew for any reason (including injuries or personality conflicts). A university should be able to give 4-year scholarships and guarantee it in writing if it so chooses. This would help further protect student-athletes and end the deception in the recruiting process (NCPA). There is a difference between a full-ride scholarship and the actual costs of going to college. The NCAA is aware that an athletic scholarship is not enough to cover many things a typical college student needs. Scholarships should be increased to meet the ‘cost of attendance’ amount that universities list for students who don’t have a scholarship.

Furthermore, in the event of a freak accident, the athletes career could end. This might also result in the loss of their athletic-scholarship. Various student-athletes have lost their scholarships while they were still enrolled in college but unable to play due injuries and other issues. Patrick Courtney, who played football at North Carolina A & T State University was one of those unfortunate individuals. Kyle Hardrick lost his basketball scholarship at Oklahoma after he tore his meniscus. Jason Whitehead almost lost his Ohio University scholarship due to his neck injury. As it can be seen, the risk is very real. There are also student-athletes who have to leave school early because they do not have enough money to continue, or to pay their bills and leaving school for a career in professional sports is an easy way of making money (Meshefejian). It is unusual for an athlete to lose a scholarship after an injury, but those worst-case scenarios are part of the reason Huma has helped lead a recent push to unionize Northwestern’s scholarship football players. Under N.C.A.A. rules, players can still lose their scholarships after being hurt, often pay for their own insurance and are generally responsible for long-term health care for injuries sustained on the playing field. Other student-athletes have lost their scholarships while they were still enrolled in college but unable to play because of injuries. Patrick Courtney, who played football at North Carolina A & T State University was one of those unfortunate individuals. Therefore, students should be compensated for that risk.

Some may say that students are not professional athletes; therefore, they should not get paid, and that “Collegiate sports is not a career or profession.” These individuals are incorrect. Students perform the same job duties as professional athletes. They often practice for hours a day 5 for 7 days a week. They generate revenue for the school. Therefore, they should be paid. The students are getting paid in education which they should view as an honor and a privilege.

College athletes should not be paid due to post-eligibility school benefits. College athletes are given 5 years of eligibility and if are on a full ride are taken care of financially. Some athletes go pro before they graduate and often come back to finish school later in their career. Many colleges that provide financial help to returning athletes are members of the National Consortium for Academics and Sports. Started in 1985, the program has helped thousands of former players finish their degrees at no cost to themselves, though they must participate in community-service projects for 10 hours a week. Colleges pay a small fee to join the consortium and cover the cost of the returning students’ tuition. From 2003-4 to 2004-5—the first two years that the NCAA has kept track of returning athletes—there was a 23-percent increase in the number of students who came back, with a total of 849 former players in the top division re-enrolling in those two years to finish their degrees.

Though there are many advantages and disadvantages to paying student athletes, they still deserve it. In conclusion, colleges should pay their athletes because they profit from them, they could use the money, and if something bad happened during an event they could have something to fall back on. Please consider this issue further. Contact the NCAA and petition the restriction of paying these individuals, so we can one day get these athletes paid.   

16 December 2021

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