The NCAA generated $912.8 million dollars in revenue in 2013 alone- yet the players, the ones generating the revenue, received nothing. Should the players be paid for their services? How about when the NCAA directly sells the names and likenesses of the players on jerseys and video games? Many would argue yes.
With the NCAA being such a big business, why not pay their by-proxy employees? Teams, conferences, and even coaches receive extra money when their teams win bowl games, championships, etc.- so why shouldn’t the players? The clipboard-carrying guys in suits on the sidelines live affluently, while the players live destitute lifestyles.
It seems like every other week you turn on the TV and see another college star busted for selling their autograph or accepting gifts given to them because of their athletic pedigree. These players are so desperate for money that they are willing to jeopardize their own careers and educations.
Shabazz Napier, star point guard of the 2014 NCAA champion UConn Huskies, stated honestly, “Sometimes, there’s hungry nights where I’m not able to eat, but I still gotta play up to my capabilities.” Ironically, in the championship game in which Napier led the Huskies to glory, 79,000 fans paid an average of $500 a ticket, while CBS paid about $800 million to broadcast the tournament.
How can the star player on a championship team of one of the most profitable sporting events in the world not have the money to eat at night?
Recently, the NCAA voted to allow the ‘Power-5’ conferences, and independent team Notre Dame, to make their own rules. One of the first rules instituted is expected to be a minuscule payment to the players- enough for food, clothes, and the occasional trip to the movie theatres. This is a huge step for college athletes everywhere, but it is still far from compensation.
On the other hand, proponents of not paying players argue that the scholarships the students are receiving are sufficient. As valuable as a quality education is, it does not cover living expenses which some athletes can’t afford. With the demands placed on a high-level collegiate athlete, it is an arduous task to play a Division I sport, get a four year degree, and work a job to support themselves- let alone an 18 year old college student.
The debate over paying players for their hard work has recently started to heat up. Some college athletic unions are referring to players as employees, while the NCAA states that education and employment can’t coexist. The video game franchise NCAA Football has been postponed after the 2014 edition barring a breakthrough in the player-payment debacle. Although the game has never used the actual names of collegiate athletes, there is a widespread sense of wrong-doing. If ‘QB #1’ has the same number as the real player, has the same face as the real player, and plays for the same team as the real player, does it make a difference if the player’s name is attached? Said players likenesses and skills are being marketed and they aren’t receiving a dime.
Another problem that could be solved by paying athletes is delaying their transition into the next level. Nowadays, predominantly in basketball and football, too much talent is being lost to players leaving early. The talent pool isn’t what it used to be, because players are leaving as underclassmen as the allure of escaping the impecunious lifestyle of college increase. Why live like a peasant when you could sign one contract and live like a king? The professional basketball and football leagues lure away all the special talent, so they can not be enjoyed at their finest in their college years. The NBA, especially, picks the college basketball talent pool dry. So much so that in 2006 the NBA banned drafting high school-prospects, revealing how many talented players were skipping college. Once-in-a-generation players like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, and more were all unable to be seen in a college uniform- more than likely because of the impoverished college lifestyle that they would have had to endure.
Collegiate athletes aren’t being outlandish at all with their cries for compensation- they aren’t even asking for their actual deserved piece of the proverbial money-pie. Most athletes can’t even afford for their families to come watch their games in person. They just want enough to make life a little easier. How much would a couple thousand dollars per player hurt a $900 million dollar per-year industry? In professional collective bargaining agreements, profits are split almost 50/50 between players and executives/owners. Paying collegiate athletes a meager salary, compared to how much cash college athletics reel in, would allow them to focus on their education and honing their sport, while not going to bed on an empty stomach. As a result, players would stay in school longer and the talent pool would increase substantially. The NCAA needs to pay it’s student-athletes at least a fraction of what they deserve.