NCAA Debate: Why We Need to Start Paying College Athletes

Sam KlineCorrespondent IOctober 15, 2010

R. Jay Soward in 1998 as a Trojan
R. Jay Soward in 1998 as a TrojanBrian Bahr/Getty Images

In light of the recent Sports Illustrated article about former agent Josh Luchs’ memoirs of past misdeeds, public backlash decried the players’ collective sense of entitlement upon discovering that most of the money agents give collegiate athletes goes unrepaid.

But the universities are guilty of a sense of entitlement, too.

While colleges provide a stable growth environment for student-athletes, these scholars are expected to sacrifice their bodies and often play through injury while maintaining a daunting curriculum of classes, all under the media’s watchful eye.

Many of these athletes under scholarship hail from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Just because they’re not charged tuition doesn’t mean that the financial woes for their families back home will suddenly be put on hold. Meanwhile, the school reaps tens of millions from gate receipts, merchandise sales, and television deals from their hard work.

Contrary to what the NCAA would like the public to believe, most top-tier athletes aren’t attending university so they learn how to apply their kinesiology degree toward a skilled trade. For the most heavily-recruited players, college is merely a stepping stone toward a lucrative professional sports career.

However, the reality remains that 99 percent of student-athletes will not go pro. Regardless of these prohibitive odds, the premier recruits under scholarship are forbidden per NCAA regulations to take additional employment during school to support themselves and their family.

Agents know the kids can’t work and that money is the easiest way to leverage a relationship with athletes from poor families. Furthermore, the agents figured if they don’t pay the student-athletes, some other desperate representative will.

The ruthless mentality that the current system inadvertently fosters needs to be overhauled. Here are three steps that the NCAA can take to curb the hypocrisy that permeates college sports.

  • Pay a stipend to all athletes under scholarship - The excessive revenues enjoyed by the university should trickle down to the athletes that elevate the school to mainstream prominence. When an athlete toils while the college reaps financial benefits, a lack of remuneration is unfair. Given Title IX implications, athletes under scholarship in all sports should be paid by the university, but football players should get more than, say, lacrosse players given the disparity in revenue generated between the sports.


  • Ban agents and associated reps from college campuses - Agents, player representatives and runners provide little more than a distraction for student-athletes with dollar signs in their eyes. Mandating that students stay away from agents would be impossible to enforce, but banning agents from campuses except for rare exceptions (graduation and “pro days”) would enable university compliance departments to at least say they are trying to be part of the solution with such legislation.


  • University compliance departments need to expand immediately. As the Sports Illustrated article implies, the NCAA lacks sufficient personnel to enforce violations between student-athletes and player agents. Many schools are understaffed given their scope of responsibilities in compliance. Since athletic departments are comprised of hundreds of students, one shouldn’t be surprised with the widespread corruption in regards to college athletics.