Pay for Play, should college athletes be paid?

Recently, the debate on whether or not college athletes should be compensated has been an extremely hot topic. With the billions of dollars schools generate in revenue off of their athletes, the question on compensation for athletes is a fair one to ask. In my opinion, college athletes should not be compensated for reasons that go much further than pay-for-play itself. Ultimately, there is no right answer to the question, and there is simply no fair way to implement it.

As stated before, paying college athletes has been a widely discussed topic in the past 5 years. With lucrative television, radio and sponsorship contracts being signed each year by major universities, the question has been raised as to why the athletes are receiving nothing in return for the money they earn their schools. Billions of dollars in revenue are generated each year by major college athletic programs. Player’s jerseys are being sold, their likeness is being used in video games, yet they aren’t receiving any money from it.  So, shouldn’t the players receive the money they earn for their school, instead of the coaches and athletic directors who watch from the sideline? Shouldn’t they earn at least a slice of the cake, when they are the one’s actually generating the money? In short, the answer is no.

The most obvious reason why college athletes are not paid is because they already are. According to the NCAA, over $2 billion dollars are provided in athletic scholarships each year to more than 126,000 student athletes. The average value for a full athletic scholarship to a Division I school is over $25,000 per year. For an out-of-state student, the average value of a full ride is over $35,000 per year. Over $75,000 throughout four years is plenty of compensation for an amateur athlete. College athletes also earn things that can’t have a price tag put on them, such as publicity and connections with coaches at pro levels, as well. Sure, these benefits do not equate to money in their pockets, but they are perks that regular students certainly do not receive. There is no reason to pay these amateur athletes even more money when their average annual salary, in terms of benefits, exceeds what most working-class people earn per year.

In a study done by USA Today, only 23 of 228 Division I athletic programs managed to run a surplus in 2012. Every university that is running at surplus is in a BCS-automatic qualifying conference. Every Division I school not in a non-major conference loses money on their athletics program as it stands now.

Since this is the case, where would this extra money to pay the players come from? If over 200 schools operate at a deficit and actually lose money, the NCAA wouldn’t even have money to pay their players in the first place. Not every school is Alabama or Texas. Sure, the Ohio State Buckeyes may be able to pay their star quarterback Cardale Jones along with the rest of their team, but a team like the UMass Minutemen could not afford to pay their athletes. The University of Notre Dame actually generates enough revenue that almost $10 million was poured back into the school in 2009, while Western Kentucky University does the opposite; they take $8.2 million from the University to balance their budget. Notre Dame can afford to pay their players, but Western Kentucky clearly cannot. The fact of the matter is that you can’t be spending extra money when you aren’t even making any money. The old adage is very prevalent in this discussion; money doesn’t grow on trees.

One last facet that people who disagree with pay-for-play bring up is that the pedigree of college athletics would be lost. The whole point of college athletics is that these players are not paid, and that every player is on a level playing field fighting for the same goal. Reasons such as these are why many people prefer to watch college sports to professional sports. People tend to enjoy college sports more because these student-athletes are not playing for money; they are playing for pride and love for the game. Most pro athletes only care about the name on the back of their jersey, while college players only care about the name on the front. Some pro athletes don’t care about winning and losing as long as they are getting paid. If we were to pay college athletes, it would be like having another professional sports league. If you want to watch paid athletes, go watch the NFL or NBA. There would be no difference between pro and college sports, other than age. The infrastructure of college sports and the foundation upon which they were built would be tarnished forever if we were to pay the student-athletes.

At the end of the day, there is no right answer to the question on pay for play. The entire subject is extremely complex, and would cause lots of problems if the issue were decided on. The epitome of college sports and amateur athletics is that these players are not playing just for the money, and that they actually care about the team and not just their sport. The overwhelming pride and passion shown during March Madness or college bowl season is something that cannot be matched in professional sports. I firmly believe that collegiate athletics are fine the way they are and should not be changed.  Pay-for-play would ruin everything that college sports were built upon, and change the landscape of college itself forever. Do we really want that to happen?

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