Pay for Play: Should College Athletes Be Compensated?

Brennan ThomasContributor IIIApril 5, 2011

AJ Green Missed 4 Games This Season For Receiving Inproper Benefits
AJ Green Missed 4 Games This Season For Receiving Inproper BenefitsKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Grinding through grueling workouts, practices and games every day of the year, combined with rigorous college courses, student-athletes are some of the hardest working people in the country.

However, as amateurs, athletes cannot be compensated with anything more than a scholarship. College football has become a multi-million dollar business. Universities continue to make money, while all athletes are given is a scholarship. The biggest issue with this is that the expenses required to attend a college exceed the amount that athletes are awarded in their scholarships.

With many of the athletes coming from poor families, athletes are pressured by agents, alumni and fans to take compensation for their hard work. That is illegal under current rules. This raises the question, should college athletes be paid a stipend by the universities as compensation for participating in sports?

There are two major arguments from those who oppose paying athletes. First, it is widely believed that university athletic departments would accumulate a debt by playing athletes.

If schools added a $100 a week stipend to all 200 athletes’ scholarship, it would cost $800,000 a year. Basically, the smaller, less profitable programs would not be able to afford to pay the athletes without other budget cuts.

It is a valid argument because at the end of the year, programs cannot afford to lose money. Frankly, programs would need to find another source of revenue to pay the athletes.

Since some schools would be forced to pay less money or not pay at all due to a small budget, and it would severely hurt their chances of signing better athletes. There is potential that college competition could be worsened by paying athletes.

A scenario similar to the NBA where many of the most talented players flock to a select few teams could occur. Given that recruiting is already extremely competitive, any more advantages could disrupt the balance of power across the country.

The other main argument is that this would promote corruption and injustice. There would need to be very strict laws on how much athletes could be paid, but schools could manage ways around it. It is already possible, though extremely illegal, for colleges to pay players.

If it was legalized, many believe that it would only increase the amount of corruption. As for injustice, many argue that it would be difficult to set a pay scale equal for all athletes.

Since it is really only the football and occasionally basketball teams that make the profit for the university, it would be extremely difficult to pay other athletes equally. Al Dunning stated it best, “Do women's softball outfielders earn the same salary as quarterbacks?"

Guess how the courts will rule when the softball team's lawyers ask that question in court. So Homestate Tech is going to have to pay all 200 of its scholarship athletes the same wages. Anything else would be unfair and likely illegal. This directly relates to the initial point that costs would quickly add up. If they did not, it would result in an uproar. Either way, the colleges would be in financial distress.

However, there is a large assortment of people who support the athletes being paid stating that athletes are often exploited and deserve more compensation. Some argue that they receive a free education, but many of the athletes, especially on the basketball and football team, make a large amount of money for the school and spend much of their college life training.

And despite the fact that they receive a full scholarship, there are costs that are not included in the scholarship. The scholarship covers most of the expenses, but some estimated that actual costs of living are $1,500 more than covered. Since most will never play a sport professionally, they actually accumulate debt in school.

Another important factor is that many of the athletes come from poor backgrounds. To add insult to injury, it is illegal to work a job during the year. This creates a situation where the athletes are faced with a dilemma between taking money and accumulating debts.

Two prime examples of this are AJ Green and Terrelle Pryor. Both players sold memorabilia for relatively small amounts of money. Green missed the first four games of the 2010 season, and Pryor will miss the first five games of next year. Both come from poorer backgrounds. Both bring a ton of money into their respective universities, and yet were desperate for money.

Though this has very little impact on the universities, it often causes violations and crimes. In Allen Sack’s synopsis of the situation he stated, “The NCAA has crafted a payment system that provides a relatively cheap and steady supply of blue-chip athletes collegiate sports and gives coaches the kind of control over them that employers have over employees…a survey of college athletes showed… that the identify themselves more as athletes than as students.”

And at the end of the day, though “student athletes” and their universities claim to have education first, athletes mainly care about their sports. Many athletes do not go to school for education and do not graduate, so much of the scholarship is useless to them. They should not be forced to accumulate debts in college while they make schools profits. Seeing as they are essentially workers, they should be paid as such.

As an athlete who has trained and played with many current college athletes, I am able to relate to the effort that it requires to be a college athlete. My former quarterback is currently at the University of Delaware. When talking about his experiences in college, his first word was football and his second phrase was time consuming.

Every day he has to wake up early for workouts, and then go to class. After class, practice and study hall consume his evenings. It’s an “all work, no play” lifestyle. Because I know what it takes to be a college athlete, I believe college athletes should be compensated.

A small monthly stipend, enough to cover basic expenses, will suffice in reducing the expenses of athletes. It is too much to expect athletes to play for an education and the love of the game. Each year, the issue of athletes being paid becomes more and more popular, so it is time to compensate them before more illegal money is taken.

In order to satisfy all parties included in the “pay for play” scenario, a negotiation would need to be made. The first would have to agree that this is it. There will neither be any more added incentives nor pay raises.

Secondly a pay scale will need to be developed that would allow universities to remain profitable and athletes to stay out of debt. Strict laws will also need to be put in place to prevent corruption. Finally, all the athletes and universities will need to agree on giving some of their current benefits.


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