Should college athletes get paid? I constantly hear this question tossed around and while everyone has their opinion it’s quite clear that colleges and universities make big money off their athletic programs. Before I get into the argument on whether or not college athletes should be paid let me point out three things. (1) The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), colleges and universities earn billions of dollars from athletics with a lot of it coming from big named sponsors such as Nike, Pepsi, Fed Ex, ect. (2) Athletes are recruited for entertainment purposes and not academic purposes. (3) Paying athletes is as much a part of college sports as recruiting. Some schools get caught. Some don’t.
Let’s start with point #1. The NCAA, colleges, and universities make mega bucks off collegiate sports, especially football. The Texas Longhorns football team was valued at $119 million dollars for the 2009-10 season. $30 million came from alumni and fan donations just to get in line for season tickets. These people donated $30 million for the CHANCE to get season tickets. Gatorade and Nike also paid big money just to sponsor the Longhorns. Texas made it to the BCS National Championship game that year and out of all the money generated the players were only allowed to receive gift bags of up to $500. That’s it. Players are walking around here acting as representatives for their respective colleges and universities, donning Nike apparel and drinking Gatorade while the NCAA is getting paid off of all of that.
Point #2. Athletes are not recruited for academic purposes, but for entertainment purposes. Colleges don’t care what an athlete’s GPA is or how well they did on their ACT/SAT; all they care about is athletic ability. No one cared that Derrick Rose didn’t actually take his SAT. Memphis found out about it way before it was national news, but they still allowed Rose to play. If they could have found a way to keep it under wraps it would still be an unknown violation. The point is they didn’t care about his academics. They recognized that Rose was a talented guard and did what they had to do to make sure he was in a Tigers jersey. Athletic departments are all about winning. Winning means sold out stadiums and big money endorsements. Which means more money for the NCAA, colleges, and universities.
Point #3. Athletes are already getting paid. They may or may not be getting big money paydays, but they are definitely getting paid. What do you really think happens when high football school players show up at national signing day, having already verbally committed to another team, and all of sudden they have a change of heart? Instead of signing with the team they verbally committed to, they sign with another team that had been recruiting them. You think it’s just because they really had a change of heart? Or because they wanted to stay close to home? It’s probably because the other team offered them more of a financial advantage. Kentucky and North Carolina aren’t at the top college basketball just because of tradition like most people would lead you to believe. Those teams have big money college basketball programs that can afford top talent.
Do I think that athletes should be paid? I’m kind of on the fence when it comes to that issue. On the fence meaning that I have both legs draped over one side of the fence and I’m just barely holding on to the top because I’m not quite ready to let go. What I’m trying to say is that while I’m leaning more towards letting college athletes get paid, I recognize that a majority of college athletes receive major benefits like full scholarships, free tutoring and world class athletic training. I also recognize that paying college athletes would be a little more complicated than a simple rule change. While the debate will continue to rage on I’m not sure if athletes will ever be able to get paid “legally” while in college.