College Athletes Do Not Deserve to Be Paid, Now or Ever

William BoorCorrespondent IJune 7, 2011

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 04:  Quarterback Terrelle Pryor #2 of the Ohio State Buckeyes looks to pass against the Arkansas Razorbacks during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome on January 4, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Whether or not college athletes deserve to be paid seems to be an annual offseason debate.

Those in favor of paying the players often begin this argument by stating the fact that coaches and universities make millions and millions of dollars off of these athletes, while the players—the ones people pay to see—are not being paid.

The other side always counters and says that the athletes are given a free education and everything that entails, which is worth plenty of money.

Those against paying athletes also often mention Title IX and talk about gender equality saying you cannot pay football and basketball players while ignoring other non revenue sports.

While the argument seems to resurface in the same circular motion each summer, people never seem to understand that collegiate athletes do not deserve to be paid; a college education is plenty of compensation.

As far as Title IX is concerned, a university would need to pay all athletes, but not necessarily in equal amounts. Yes this is unfair, but that is simply the nature of the beast. Those that earn more revenue deserve more income.

Others argue that non revenue sports should not be paid at all, but that is simply ludicrous. The WNBA certainly pays less than the NBA, but it does pay. If you are going to pay some athletes then all athletes deserve to be paid. Otherwise the universities will face a whole slew of discrimination lawsuits almost immediately.

While deciding how much to pay athletes from different sports is an interesting topic, it is also an irrelevant one because athletes are not paid now and never should be paid in the future.

Paying athletes would potentially help avoid recruiting and other “pay-for-play” scandals that are all too prevalent in Division I football and basketball, but athletes already have a pretty sweet deal, and there is no need for the pot to get any sweeter.

In his column on the school’s website, Penn State assistant coach Jay Paterno, Joe’s son, perfectly illustrates why collegiate athletes do not deserve paychecks.

“Let me start the argument by making a proposal to parents and students alike,” Paterno writes. “I am going to ask you to work no more than 20 hours a week for 21 weeks—with at least one mandatory day off every week. For another 23 weeks you’ll work no more than eight hours a week. You’ll get eight weeks off. (These are all NCAA-mandated time limits).”

That is a total of 604 hours of work throughout an entire year. It averages out to 11 hours per week. How many of you either have, or know someone who has a part-time job and works more than that?

While most students with part-time jobs receive $8-$10 an hour for their work, student-athletes receive an education and housing.

In Paterno’s column, he breaks down these figures for Penn State students. As PSU is irrelevant to this column, here is how the numbers stack up for the Sun Devils.

At Arizona State University, the average cost of tuition plus housing comes to about $15,921 for in-state students and $28,521 for out-of-state students. These numbers do not include the extra money allotted for books or the immeasurable fees for the special access to tutors and other academic success tools that are often given to athletes.

This means that at ASU, in-state athletes are “paid” $26.36 an hour, while out of state athletes are “paid” $46.77 an hour.

Think this sounds like a good deal already? Well, let’s not forget that these student-athletes will graduate with a degree comparable to the average student, but will not be in the $20,000-$30,000 debt that so many students find themselves in after graduation thanks to student loans.

Student-athletes, on average, work less that the traditional student but are given a lot more in return.

Some may be quick to point out that walk-on players do not receive scholarship money, yet are still required to put in all the time and effort that scholarship players do.

While this does affect some people, there are not a lot of players that fall into this category as there are about 25 non-scholarship players on the ASU football team and about five on the basketball team.

It is unfortunate that they have to put forth all the effort without the reward of a scholarship or the free time to get a part-time job, but when it comes down to it that was their choice.

The good walk-ons wind up earning scholarships down the line anyway, so they reap the benefits of scholarship players for two or three years rather than four—still a good deal.

Those that do not earn scholarships had to know what they were getting into when they decided to walk-on to the team. They know that they are unlikely to get playing time or have a major impact on the team, but they choose to do it because it is something they love to do.

There is no problem with doing something you love to do, but there are consequences for every action. The consequence for a walk-on athlete choosing to walk-on may be that he has no free time and is unable to find a part-time job. Most people may not like to hear this, but it is no different than a regular student deciding he really likes to play video games and spending his whole day playing games rather than getting a job.

People are often dissatisfied and feel that athletes are taken advantage of by universities and not properly compensated, but that is only because they have failed to look at the numbers and acknowledge how sweet life is for the student-athlete.

If we asked most students and parents in America if they would be willing to play a sport that they love and enjoy while getting $30 an hour instead of working at a bowling alley, sandwich shop or grocery store for $8-$10 an hour, what do you think they would say?

What would you say?

The next time you are tempted to think student-athletes deserve to be paid for their services, walk around a college campus and see how many kids are making that kind of money. See how many kids are struggling with minimum wage jobs. Think about how much money you are making while in college, or how much you made while in college.

Athletes may never touch the money they receive and it may never be present in their checking account, but they already have a pretty good thing going for them. Paying them would simply be corrupting the NCAA even further—if that is actually possible.

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