Open Mic: Why College Athletes Should Get Paid...and Paid Well

Michael PeresContributor IMay 13, 2008

There are certain topics that get under my skin as a sports fan.  I love reading headlines and seeing recaps from games that went into triple overtime, saw a player hit three home runs in the same game, or created a new record while an old one was broken. 

However, it drives me crazy to read about things like Roger Clemens having a relationship with a 15-year-old girl, Marvin Harrison saying he did not shoot a certain gun, and OJ Mayo taking illegal benefits.

Most of the off-the-field stories consist of real news that as sports fans, we would like to know.  But I personally don't care if OJ Mayo, or any other college athlete for that matter, gets a secret amount of cash to spend as he sees fit. 

The only time something becomes a big deal and causes SportsCenter to interrupt with breaking news is if the news involves a high-caliber athlete.  To me, there isn't a difference between OJ Mayo getting a house in his name and some University of Texas player drinking at a bar for free during his whole college career. 

They are both getting something that they didn't pay for.  They are both using their status as a college athlete to get what they want.  On top of all that, neither one of those examples helps them play football on the field. 

These guys aren't using steroids or going to jail on drunken driving charges.  They are poor college students who will take anything thrown at them to make college more fun and a little easier.  If some random agent wants to buy a player a BMW to drive around in while he's in college, who is that hurting?

I do realize that if this started, it will open the floodgates, and pretty soon the high-profile collegiate athletes will be no different from Lebron James or Peyton Manning. 

One of the reasons I love college sports is the purity of the game.  While there are several players out there who are playing just for the scouts, for the most part everyone on the field or court is playing to win and only for that reason.

Paying college athletes is the best solution.  I know it sounds wrong and feels like I should be slammed for just writing that, but why not? 

Sometimes, the athletes put in more time and work than some people do at full-time jobs.  They do receive a scholarship, but at the same time if they didn't most of them could apply for financial aid and grants to cover most of their expenses anyway.

Paying athletes on a yearly basis is a lot different than one athlete in particular getting a new hummer or cash under the table, I'll be the first to admit that.  I just think it would be easier to differentiate who is abusing the system if all athletes got something for their time. 

If every athlete out there is making $400 a week, there should be no reason for any "superstar" to want special treatment.  As it is now, most college athletes are broke because they can't get a job with their practice schedules and travel time. 

Athletes should be well compensated for their time.  Paying athletes under the table with money or material things will never stop.  As long as the players aren't getting paid and don't think they will get caught, there will always be someone with too much money or too much ambition that will give them whatever they need knowing it will come back ten fold down the road.  

Collegiate athletes provide entertainment for the whole country and put in countless hours a week to make sure they play up to society's standards.  It's about time we pay athletes what they deserve so we can start turning on the TV and hearing about how close the NBA playoffs are and stop hearing about 19-year-olds taking money.