Over The Years The Concept
Over the years, the concept of paying collegiate athletes beyond an academic scholarship has become quite a topic of conversation. You can find people arguing this debate for both sides and having fair points for both arguments. The whole “pay for play” idea would be good for players, to an extent. We need to remember that these are collegiate athletes and not professionals doing this for a living. This debate has just recently surfaced because of an FBI probe that was released nationally describing several schools and players by name that had been involved in “potentially” paying their athletes with monetary benefits. This corruption of the NCAA and the respective sport happens all the time even if we aren’t aware of it. I believe that making it a reality and legal could really benefit the players and even the sports themselves. This is something that really needs to be considered going into the future.
Obviously, we know what profit these universities are able to bring into their pockets based off these athletes. With ticket sales, merchandise sales, and concession sales all coming solely from the level of skill and entertainment that these players are giving on a daily basis, I believe they should be getting some sort of payment for their commitment. If they weren’t bringing in the kind of money that they currently are, I would be the first one to say that being granted a full scholarship and having their education payed for would be plenty for these kids. In my opinion playing a sport in college is a full-time job, especially if you are competing at the highest levels in the country. It is treated as if it were a professional career so to me they should get something. I’m not saying they need to be getting a boat load of cash, but it needs to be something more than just a scholarship.
All the time in sports, you hear of players and teams getting in trouble for violating the rules and having players receive illegal benefits whether it is money or something else and the result is getting achievements stripped from the program. This season in basketball, the FBI released a report that several players and teams were in violation of paying their players through outside resources or giving other benefits to the players and/or their families. This stuff goes on all the time in football as well. “Several recent recipients of the Heisman Trophy have been tainted when the players were found to have received benefits beyond the NCAA’s prescribed limits, and similar allegations are pending against both the still-active 2013 winner and a leading candidate for the 2014 Trophy” (Sanderson). As much as we like to think “pay for play” isn’t happening, in reality it is absolutely taking place. This just shows what schools are willing to in order to bring in millions of dollars of revenue into their school through their athletic programs. “Charges of illegal payments to players, academic fraud (fake courses and plagiarism), and gross improprieties involving faculty and university administrators, arguably to protect huge athletic revenue streams, have surfaced at Penn State, Notre Dame, and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, among others” (Sanderson). Were at a time right now, where the money generated and the skill set that the NCAA is using for their benefit is on full display, as we watch the NCAA basketball tournament.
A few years ago, University of Connecticut’s point guard Shabazz Napier, who was fresh off winning a national championship for his university really expressed his un easiness with the NCAA making money virtually right off him. “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 starving” (Ganim). A lot of athletes feel this way, as they should. It is there name, number, skill set, and personality that the audience and fan base connects with and pays to witness. Napier was also asked if he tends to feel like an employee at times in which he had this to say: “I just feel like a student-athlete, and sometimes, like I said, there’s hungry nights and I’m not able to eat and I still got to play up to my capabilities. When you see your jersey getting sold – it may not have your last name on it – but when you see your jersey getting sold like that, you feel like you want something in return” (Ganim). Imagine if you were devoting all your time to something and you were seeing a huge revenue being driven in and you couldn’t touch any of it. To me, it really just seems they should be getting paid.
There are obviously pros and cons to every decision that you make in life, just as there are pros and cons in the controversial topic of whether or not college athletes should be getting paid or not. Some pros to them getting paid include “limiting corruption from external influences, helping to support their families, possibility that players will stay in college longer, and flat out giving them what they deserve for their efforts” (Lemmons). I really believe that college athletes would stay longer and to me that’s the biggest pro. You see it all the time with the “one and done” players, where they are only there to showcase themselves for a year and they want to head to the NBA and start getting paid. If they were already getting some sort of compensation than I believe they would stay longer. That would be good for the sport, no matter if it were basketball, football, baseball, or any of the other sports. However, whenever there are pros to something there has to be some cons as well. A few cons to collegiate compensation would be the financial irresponsibility of the player, unfair compensation between all players and sports, would be harder to get the athlete to take class and school seriously, and it could even take the competitiveness and the passion for the game right out. You could see both sides of it if you really dive into the discussion.
Obviously “pay” is the biggest thing that separates the college level with the collegiate level. “Collegiate athletics focuses on interests such as student morale, campus public relations, institutional profile, fundraising, and student physical fitness” (Senne). It’s crazy what the NCAA makes on these athletes who are really only competing out of the love of the sport and the “fitness”. The NCAA men’s basketball tournament, known as March Madness, is the main even for college basketball. The money involved is outrageous. “The tournament back in 2008-2009 had a budget of $661 million dollars, where 90% of it was generated through the NCAA’s previous 11-year, $6.2 billion contract with CBS to broadcast the games. This contract was replaced in the last three years of that deal with a 14-year, $10.8 billion contract with CBS and Turner through 2024, which will provide the NCAA with an average of $771 million per year” (Senne). Still think the money brought in isn’t enough to consider giving these athletes a small portion to help provide more food and resources for them? I think it shows the impact these athletes have.
I really wanted to get the opinions and viewpoints of my peers and people I don’t even know to add to the debate. I used twitter and created an anonymous poll and asked whether or not they believed the NCAA should be paying their athletes. I got a wide range of written responses but in terms of just the yes or no response, 64% of the votes said no they should not be paid. Many of them believed that getting their athletic scholarship, which covers tuition, room and board, and textbooks is plenty enough for them. One person actually to my surprise reached out to me to voice his opinion. “This is one thing I’m actually really conflicted on. I know that pretty much every big school does it illegally and to be honest with you, I don’t care as long as the games are still fun to watch. However, I think if you let the NCAA be the one who handles the paying of student-athletes this could be a recipe for disaster” (Beyer). Many believe the NCAA is a corrupt system, many people including LeBron James have said so, because they don’t think they care too much about the athletes as long as they are still able to look good and generate a revenue using the image of the athlete.
There is also an ethical issue at hand in the discussion of paying the athletes, especially in contact and violent sports such as football. It raises the question “Do collegiate sports do enough to protect the health and safety of athletes?” and “Do we exploit college athletes if we don’t pay them?”. Compensation could potentially be an answer to both of these questions. “Those that think they should be paid believe that colleges and universities generating millions of dollars in revenue are unjustly exploiting the labor of student-athletes by not giving them their fair share of the profits. They do not believe that the value of a full-ride athletic scholarship is equivalent to the multi-million dollar coaches’ salaries and television contracts, especially when universities lower their academic standards in order to keep players eligible to win games and generate more revenue” (Hanson). If you believe they should be paid, as I do, this seems to be the consensus reason why. The math of the revenues and scholarships don’t add up.
In regards to another ethical issue that could be at hand is whether the sports do enough to protect the health and safety of athletes. If you’re an avid football fan, then you are definitely aware of the media coverage and scrutiny the NFL has been under and the sport of football in general over concussions. This stuff is going on in NCAA football as well. “Some criticize colleges for treating players as employees, in order to avoid paying medical costs for a debilitating injury. Most schools do cover medical costs of injured players while they are enrolled in school and still officially on the team” (Hanson). This goes for all teams not only football. Players are always getting injured somehow and putting their bodies at risk constantly for the school and that athletic department. Many players will go on to make this a career and will get millions of dollars to play. But what about the players that won’t and are risking their bodies just for four years. They need to be compensated slightly in case something does happen and as they graduate and leave they aren’t left with anything too permanent that they aren’t able to try to fix. Compensating players can do a lot, it’s not just about the money, but it’s about helping these athletes a little more than just an athletic scholarship and giving them a little more support considering their actions are generating millions of dollars that they don’t even get to see.
I gave a small sample list of what some people on my twitter timeline and a couple friends suggested regarding the payment of intercollegiate athletes, but there has also been many other studies asking students what they believed was the right thing to do. “Proponents of payment to college athletes question why the NCAA, many coaches, and administrators are allowed to earn large amounts of money and the student-athlete is limited to an athletic scholarship” (Schneider). Questionnaires were sent out to over 2,000 random college students. The results were right about where I thought they would be. “Overall, 54% of all respondents believed student-athletes should be paid for intercollegiate athletics participation” (Schneider). There were many reasons for this to be the result of the questionnaire. There were also a group of people that were opposed to student-athletes receiving compensation. “Of those 46% who opposed cash payments to student-athletes the most often selected answers were that athletes are already paid through an athletic scholarship and athletic departments do not have enough money for additional payment beyond a scholarship” (Schneider). I believe this is a really good study, even though it doesn’t really dive into the issue, it gives a really good idea where college students and the public stand. “The major purpose of this investigation was to determine the perceptions of college students’ on the issue of paying intercollegiate student-athletes. This indicates that, for the conference studied, college students’ valued the athletes, athletic programs, and the attention intercollegiate athletics brings to their institutions” (Schneider). My opinion falls right in line with what the results of this study were.
Like I mentioned earlier, corruption in the sport of college athletics is happening even if we aren’t aware of it. At the end of February, there were players and schools named in an FBI investigation involving players being given benefits and money. “Players from more than 20 Division I men’s basketball programs have been identified as possibly breaking NCAA rules through violations that were uncovered by the FBI’s investigation into corruption in the sport, according to documents published by Yahoo! Sports” (ESPN). It was extremely disappointing to see this happen especially considering this was involving some of the blue bloods of college basketball. Schools such as Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Michigan State, and many others. This all has to do with agents who are acting unethically and doing things that tarnish the sport, the universities, and the individuals all for personal gain. The University of Utah’s athletic director released a statement following the released reports. “Unethical agents have been an issue in college athletics – particularly men’s football and basketball – for many years despite repeated educational efforts by the schools, said Hill. Personally, I welcome the scrutiny on the sport of men’s basketball because the behavior of some agents, along with reports of other illegal recruiting activities, is hurting the sport” (ESPN). This shows that this stuff happens anyway, by allowing player compensation for their skill set you give yourself a chance at eliminating these outside activities and not allow the sport and many individuals to be tarnished.
With all of this information at hand including pros and cons to the argument, school students opinions, corruption that has already happened and also the ethical questions at hand involving bad agents and sticky NCAA policies you can infer your own conclusion on whether or not there should be compensation. This will always be a heavy debated topic among sports fans and followers of the NCAA. I believe 100% they should be given a small portion of the millions of dollars they bring in with their talents and I firmly believe there will be some sort of change in the future regarding this issue. It may fail but it also may succeed and be a great thing. I think this is worth the rick and could really do big things for the NCAA and the sports themselves.