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OSU Allegations Reinvigorate Debate over Paying Collegiate Athletes

HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 31:  De'Runnya Wilson #81 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs makes a catch infront of Ra'Shaad Samples #1 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys at Reliant Stadium on August 31, 2013 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images
Brett StephenAnalyst IISeptember 11, 2013

The recent SI investigative reporting about Oklahoma State’s alleged violations involving paying players has caused the tired debate about paying college athletes to resurface.  It is not a new topic, but clearly one that is not going away soon. 

The argument people inevitably jump to is that the NCAA, and college football specifically, is a multi-billion dollar industry in which coaches and executives profit tremendously with seven-figure salaries while the players are left with nothing.

This argument that the NCAA and its member universities are somehow exploiting players is quite possibly the most ridiculous argument.  

Players are given scholarships worth tens of thousands of dollars and the opportunity to earn a college degree.  And for what?  Playing a game that they love and getting exposure that leads many of them (at least the ones that have an argument to get paid) to financial gain far greater than they could achieve in any other walk of life. 

Are they asked to sacrifice?  Absolutely.  They are asked to give three or four years of work towards achieving this goal and for this sacrifice, their education is paid for.

Is this different from any other student that is pursuing a dream?  Let’s take an aspiring scientist for example. 

Let’s call him Newman (sounds appropriate).

Newman excels in science and academics in high school and is rewarded with a scholarship to attend a university. 

While attending the university, he does research in labs that could potentially bring notoriety to the university. 

His efforts are not rewarded with a salary. 

He does not get his research televised and promoted weekly for potential employers to see. 

He does it because it is part of the deal he made when he accepted the scholarship. 

He does it because he knows that the degree he earns and the experience he gets will set him up to make money doing what he loves to do. 

His contribution to the university does not bring in the financial gains that football does, but he also does not get the financial opportunities of the NFL after graduation.

Football players bring money to the university.  No one is arguing that.  But at major universities, these guys receive benefits that no one in the science labs, music halls or classrooms receive. 

They get food, clothing, accommodations much nicer than standard dorms and they get the chance to showcase their skills on a stage that is as big as it can be.  And to beat a dead horse, they get their education paid for.

They get to pursue their dreams and don’t have to incur any debt along the way.  All they have to do is give three years of “service” to the university.

Where do I sign up?

If they don’t want to make that “sacrifice,” they don’t have to.  They could train on their own for three years after high school or play in a lesser professional league in Canada or the Arena league and then enter the NFL draft, avoiding the “exploitation” of the NFL, but few do. 

Why?

Because everyone knows the benefits and opportunities that college football brings to players. 

Yes, the NCAA rakes in huge profits and is as corrupt as any organization.  But they are in no way exploiting these players.

The NCAA spends tens of millions of dollars annually marketing these athletes to potential employers to ensure that even if football does not provide a career, employers around the world look to hire them based on their degree and skills learned on and off the field.

This “greedy” corporation works for these kids, providing them with a chance to showcase their skills in front of millions of people each and every week of the season.  And while they have their issues, they do a really good job of promoting the “student” side of the student-athlete as much as possible.

Instead of crying over a few thousand dollars, players need to consider their college playing days an internship.  Prove yourself and you can get the job in the NFL and make a fortune. 

Let’s not forget that most NFL players are retired well before the age of 40, so having a college degree can mean a career after football.  There are only so many broadcast jobs to go around. 

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