Exploitation Of College Athletes Essay Research Paper

Exploitation Of College Athletes Essay, Research Paper

Exploitation of College Athletes

John Paye was a star quarterback at Stanford University in the 1980s. In his senior season at Stanford, the football team had a record of eight wins and three losses. The year after Paye graduated, the Cardinal s record fell to four wins and seven losses. Economist Roger Noll of Stanford University estimates that Stanford s net operating revenues declined by $400,000 the year after Paye departed, yet Paye only received a scholarship valued at $17,000 (Shropshire 72). Through his athletic talents at Stanford, he generated an enormous amount of money for the school, yet he was not given anything besides a scholarship in return. Throughout his career he was forced to perform so that his team would have a winning record. Pressures were put on him not only from his college, but also through the media. Because of contracts between college institutions and media personelle, college athletes are expected to perform well to obtain high ratings for the media. The NCAA has a current seven year $1.7 billion television contract with CBS for the rights to televise its men s basketball tournament (Gerdy 114). CBS pays this enormous amount of money in hopes that the basketball games will draw high ratings, thus increasing its profit from corporations commercialism. Given that both media and colleges benefit financially from their student-athletes, it seems only fair that the athletes be monetarily compensated for their athletic performances.

It is clear that college athletes are being exploited through the universities to which they belong. Many colleges only look at the athletic potential of a high school student and not at the student s academic achievement. A study done in 1996 showed that the average athlete on a top college football or men s basketball team enters college in the bottom quarter of his class (Sack and Staurowsky 96). Included are athletes who cannot read or complete simple mathematical problems. They then exploit these students until they are injured or use up their four years of eligibility (Student-athletes ). Many colleges do not adequately prepare their athletes for the

future. They are only concerned with the present, and how the athletes are performing on the athletic field.

Walter Byers, the executive director of the NCAA from 1952 to 1987, says that college admissions offices and faculty exploit athletes by taking on board poorly prepared students and providing them with low quality course work so that athletes can meet minimum eligibility standards (299). The athletic department s main priority is to keep their athletes eligible for their athletic season rather than pushing them to succeed academically. In 1994, Clifford Adelman, a Senior Research Associate for the U.S. Department of Education, compared the academic performances of varsity athletes to the rest of the student body. He concluded that varsity football and basketball players took longer to graduate, earned lower grades, and pursued less demanding

courses (Byers 301). By providing them with lower level course work, colleges are really not perceiving these athletes as students. The primary focus of these colleges seems to be the revenue generated by the student-athletes.

There are many examples of athletes who have been pushed through college without receiving a proper education from their chosen college. Dexter Manley, a football player from Oklahoma State University, and Kevin Ross, a basketball player from Creighton University, both graduated without learning how to read (Byers 298-299). Both of these men are examples of poor, academically unqualified students who were used and victimized by their athletic

departments. The daily actions of universities should show clearly that educating student-athletes is the primary purpose of their athletic departments, and that the true measure of success hinges upon athletes obtaining degrees (Gerdy 137). In reality, this is not how many universities operate. Brian Rahilly, a basketball player for the University of Tulsa, aimed at playing in the National Basketball Association (NBA) and then becoming a sportscaster. He left school without a degree, and was quoted as saying; I was shortchanged. There are times I feel that I was nothing more than a piece of equipment, like a football or a practice jersey that the Tulsa Athletic Department owned (Byers 298). Numerous athletes share Rahilly s ideas about the idea of becoming a professional athlete, and the elite ones do become professionals. Many of these athletes are leaving school before their eligibility is up and before they earn their degree. This is one reason why the NCAA is looking into giving intercollegiate athletes some financial relief beyond scholarships (Wulf). This financial relief would at least show that universities appreciate the efforts put forth by their athletes. Along with the idea of becoming a professional, various student athletes feel like they were merely property of the athletic department, used to financially aid their


College athletes are clearly not treated as normal college students. John Gerdy, a member of the college athletic community for many years, states that athletic departments view scholarship student athletes as property, bought and paid for with an athletic scholarship (139). Because they are paying for the athlete s education, they feel they have the right to control his or her activities. The athletic scholarship also contributes to the alienation of student-athletes from the general student body (Gerdy 139). The general student body views student athletes with scholarships like paid employees brought to the college to increase their school s visibility. Coaches also look at student-athletes as their employees whom they can control. They feel like they can limit their athletes activities to only those they believe to be important. The NCAA s mission is to protect athletes from exploitation by professional and commercial enterprises, yet the colleges and athletic conferences exploit their young players (Byers 346). Coaches are able to control what endorsements are used by their team, whereas the players have no say. Because of these ties

between colleges and commercial enterprises, student-athletes feel pressure to perform to the best of their ability in order to adequately represent their endorsers.

Student-athletes are under a tremendous amount of pressure while in college. They have to juggle their schoolwork, practice schedules, traveling commitments, and public relations duties. But most importantly, they are primarily used by the universities to increase revenue and gain exposure for the school. The pressure of making schools look good to outsiders is an emphasis to athletes. Universities benefit directly in the form of huge gate receipts, donations to university programs, television revenues and national visibility from athletes performances (Hart-Nibbrig and Cottingham 27-28). For this reason, athletes are greatly pressured to bring in as much money for their school as possible. Because of the drive for a successful sports team to bring in the most money possible for their college, student-athletes are faced with more pressures than the average college student.

Aside from pressures placed on student-athletes from their university, there are constant pressures inflicted by the media. The expansion of major college sports events to the point where they have become important contributors to public entertainment is partially due to the development of the media in mass society (Hart-Nibbrig and Cottingham 17). Television has in fact replaced universities and colleges as the producer of intercollegiate sports. Crucial to this latest sports explosion was the emergence of television as the most potent medium of mass communication (Hart-Nibbrig and Cottingham 26). It is because of television that colleges exploit their players to increase revenue. When television first broadcasted games, it increased attendance at the stadiums by 5% (Lawrence 97). Not only are the schools earning money through the endorsements and television contracts, but also the exposure increases their ticket sales. The success of the television programming is due to the performance of the athletes. If the games are not exciting, ratings go down. If ratings go down, sporting events will be pulled from the television programming. But today, with its growing audience appeal, television is increasing the size of the markets for entertainment products of universities, and thus is directly contributing to the recruitment and exploitation of the athletes signed under scholarships to do one thing: perform (Hart-Nibbrig and Cottingham 28). Colleges and universities do not want to lose the exposure

that they receive through the mass media, so athletes are instructed to make the events entertaining. Although the athletes always try their best to win, the market value of a given college athlete is due to the effects of commentators and the media focusing attention on that individual s skills. So in part, the media controls the future of many college athletes.

Aside from the media placing added stress on athletes to perform, the media exploits the athlete s value as a person. American television/entertainment culture has as its foundation a pattern of production, consumption, and marketing of sources (Gerdy 32). By using athletes as billboards, companies use the media in college sports to promote their products. Corporations such as Nike and Reebok have contracts with college teams so that the players wear the company s logo on their jerseys. While colleges and coaches receive money for these contracts, the athletes only receive the clothes they wear. It only seems fair that the athlete, who is being

used as a billboard, receive some of the money for which he or she is generating for the company, school, and coach.

The greatest negative aspect of the media affecting college athletes today is television. Television is the mobilizing force that has shaped the foundations for the evolution of sports to a new stage of corporate organization, for the presentation of sports on television helps to integrate

more fully the profit motive into the organization of intercollegiate sports (Hart-Nibbrig and Cottingham 39). College sports are no longer just about having fun, but about which team can have the most games televised. Only the most naive individual would believe that efforts to increase national rankings and television exposure, despite the cost of getting there are not the primary motivating forces in big-time college sports (Hart-Nibbrig and Cottingham 26).

Nowadays, cable television offers smaller schools chances to be seen on television and to receive money for their participation. Some such cable networks are Entertainment, Sports Programming Network, and ESPN. These stations have led the way in developing more specialized programs covering a broad range of sporting events. Because cable television allows recruiters to identify sports talent at smaller, non-Division I schools, the added exposure increases movement of college stars into the professional ranks. How can we keep these athletes in college so that they can receive the education they need for their future?

The answer to the previous question is to pay athletes beyond the limit of a full ride scholarship. Some college administrators and sports officials feel strongly that an athletic scholarship is more than enough compensation for the services that athletes provide. On the other hand, college athletes often require more money than they receive under the rules (Shropshire 79). The NCAA does not allow athletes to earn any money if they are receiving a full tuition, room and board scholarship. All other students can sell their skills, or work part time, but not athletes. Student-athletes cannot engage in the same kind of activities and are specifically forbidden to capitalize on the skills that millions of people willingly pay to see (Lawrence 143). This hinders the ability for athletes to have money for day to day expenses. Archie Manning, father of the University of Tennessee quarterback Peyton manning stated, I ve been outside dressing rooms, and I m ready to go to dinner with my family, and I see athletes going back to the dorms who can t afford to do anything (Wulf). Back when Archie played, they received $15 for laundry, and nowadays they don t even get that. Now, television-rights fees have increased exponentially, and

some shoe money has pushed the income of some coaches into seven figures (Wulf). The coaches profit from endorsements and television contracts, so why shouldn t the athletes? Some coaches salaries are over one million dollars a year while the players earnings haven t changed appreciably above that of 39 years ago (Byers 10). Many people might argue that athletes should play only for

the love of the game and should not place such an emphasis on money. However, it is willfully naive to expect athletes not to care about money seeing as though many of them lack the financial resources for a comfortable lifestyle.

A major reason why paying college athletes is not currently implementd is because many think that universities would lose a lot of money in the process. However, this is clearly not true. When looking at how much television pays for college sporting events, the amount of money required to pay athletes adequately is rather small. If you were to multiply $100 a month times

nine months times the 130,000 Division I men and women who juggle sports and academics, the result is $117 million. That is about what a network would pay to televise the college Super Bowl (Wulf). That is just one sporting event covering the possible salaries of all the Division I athletes. It is a fact that 90% of elite college athletes have had contacts with agents (Kirwan). This would not be the case if the athletes were paid a salary, for then they would no longer need the assistance of an agent. Some of the money given to these athletes could be put in a trust fund, payable after graduation. This would eliminate athletes turning professional too early in their career and not receiving the education they need to get ahead in life. As shown by the examples

above of athletes being exploited by their respective colleges and the mass media, athletes should be given a monetary sum above a scholarship for their participation in college athletics.

Works Cited

Byers, Walter. Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Exploiting College Athletes. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1995.

Gerdy, John R. The Successful College Athletic Program. Phoenix, AZ: Onyx Press, 1997.

Hart-Nibbrig, Nand E., and Clement Cottingham. The Political Economy of College Sports. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1986.

Kirwan, William E. Protecting college athletes from unscrupulous agents. The Chronicle of Higher Education. 43 (1996). 17 Nov. 1999.

Lawrence, Paul R. Unsportsmanlike Conduct: the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the Business of College Football. New York: Praeger, 1987.

Sack, Allen L., and Ellen J. Staurowsky. College Athletes For Hire. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1998.

Shropshire, Kenneth L. Agents of Opportunity: Sports Agents and Corruption in Collegiate Sports. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1990.

Student-athletes cut back to jocks. Commentary. The Atlanta Journal the Atlanta Constitution.14 Mar. 1999. 16 Nov. 1999

Wulf, Steve. Tote that ball, lift that revenue. Time. 21 Oct. 1996. 16 Nov. 1999


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