The Issue Of Paying College Athletes Essay

, Research Paper

The Issue of Paying College Athletes

The issue of paying college athletes has been debated extensively over the past several years due to various factors. The time involved in participation in athletic practice and competition does not allow athletes ample time to hold side jobs. Also, some proponents of payment for college athletes believe that they should be rewarded for their efforts, which, in many cases, generate income for the school. There are several arguments for and against the idea of paying athletes, and I will discuss these ideas in this paper. I believe that it is necessary for individuals to listen to both sides before they can make a valid judgment on which side of the issue they support.

Until just recently, college athletes were forbidden from working during the academic year by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). However, that was changed when members of the NCAA committee voted to allow athletes to hold part-time jobs in their off-seasons. Until that vote was taken, student athletes at Division I schools have been eligible to receive full scholarships, and many believed that these full rides were more than generous (Lee, 1). The main reason that athletes previously were not allowed to work was the fact that the NCAA did not want them to run the risk of being involved in exploitation by professional and commercial enterprises ( Brawn, Not Brains , 22). The NCAA feared that student-athletes might be overpaid or favored by local employers due to their status as college athletes, and they did not want athletes to have this risk. The ruling to allow student-athletes to have part time jobs was the first step toward allowing them more in terms of financial freedom, but many believe that this ruling is not enough.

Of course, some believe, allowing athletes to work in the off-season will benefit their eventual job searching and allow them to make a little extra spending money. Before this ruling, many athletes did not have opportunities that traditional athletes have had because they could not networking nor learn about the intricacies of the business world. Now, their freedom has been expanded somewhat, and they will benefit from opportunities to learn some of the details of their planned career paths. However, they are still not allowed to work during the season, and they probably do not have the time to work anyway due to the time constraint that sports have on their lives. Plus, the part-time jobs that these athletes acquire during the off-season in most cases will not provide sufficient spending money, especially for athletes that receive money only for tuition and not for living expenses. Many athletes receive only partial scholarships anyway, and therefore have to provide the rest of their tuition money by their own means. Part-time jobs in the off-season will not provide them with enough money to pay their tuition and living expenses. Also, many athletes come from low-income families that are unable to provide financial support to their children for college expenses (Rawling, 7).

Due to the fact that part-time jobs may not be sufficient in many cases, there are many proponents of paying college athletes to play college sports. Although star athletes in college receive a free pass to college, the pressures of sports make it hard to do much studying. Not every high-school sports star has the brains for college, anyway, so colleges, to stay competitive, lower their standards for admitting athletes. They allow athletes who could not otherwise hope to get into college a chance to go. That is why the graduation rate of the teams that have recently reached the final four in basketball is roughly 25%, and some of the graduates transcripts are stuffed with courses like ceramics.

As for the athletic scholarships, they only run for one year at a time. They can be revoked without question, no matter how good the athlete is in class. Athletic scholarships are strictly payment for sport, but the athlete is not paid a wage in traditional terms because he or she has no power to negotiate the wage.

The issue of payments to college athletes is most notably made towards athletes that participate in the revenue-producing sports: basketball and football. The NCAA has traditionally tried to make the distinction between amateur college sports and the professional game. However, this distinction is only applied to the players. Coaches are paid extremely well, in most cases, and media contracts can result in huge sums of money changing hands, going to the colleges. In reality, some believe, big-time college football and basketball are comparable to the minor leagues to the pro ranks.

Therefore, some believe that college players should be treated like the professionals they are in all but name, and paid for their work. Those who want to study could take part of their pay in coursework; those who do not could simply take whatever money they could bargain for, and stop pretending to be students ( Brawn, Not Brains, 22). This idea concerning pay for college athletes is a little on the liberal side, but it is not uncommon.

Although pay for college athletes may seem like a radical concept, the large profits made by successful, big-time sports programs, including high-profile coaches with endorsement contracts, are hard to overlook. The players are the ones that are working hard for these coaches and schools to earn them the contracts and the money they receive from final four and bowl bids. Many schools make a lot of money due to the participation of their athletes. Even Walter Byers, a major defender of amateur principles during his 36 years as the NCAA s executive director, has in retirement said that he favors athletic compensation. He said, In light of the hypercommercialization of today s college athletics, dramatic changes are necessary to permit athletes to participate in the enormous proceeds (Lee, 3).

However, those that are against paying college athletes have many excellent points, as well. First and foremost, they believe, the large sums of money earned via scholarship should be fair. In many cases, college athletes earn $20,000 a year in scholarship money alone (Hytche, 1). This is definitely a very significant amount of money. Also, the idea of paying college athletes may cause many problems and questions about various issues. First of all, if athletes are indeed paid for their efforts, it must be determined whether they will be paid on the basis of skill or not, and this may present a large problem. Secondly, there will be questions about payment of athletes in major (revenue-producing) or minor (non-revenue-producing) sports: will they be paid the same? Will athletes participating in minor sports be paid at all? Next, it must be determined if paying athletes will use funds for equipment, facilities management, or other areas: what will suffer due to the use of funds to pay athletes? Also, there will be questions concerning the ability of these athletes to participate in certain activities that are now disallowed: could these athletes have agents and sign endorsement contracts?

Finally, the most important issue that skeptics have about paying college athletes: if a school could not afford to pay the going rate, would it lose out in recruiting, causing the gulf between the have and have-not schools to grow wider? (Lee, 3) This issue could eventually pose a huge dilemma for those that argue for paying athletes.

On the surface, it seems to me that it is rational to pay college athletes due to their huge time constraints and the income that they generate for their respective schools. However, when I look further into the issue and learn the problems that it could cause, I believe that the idea will be very difficult to pull off. There are so many questions and so many issues that could arise with the idea of paying college athletes that I do not believe that it is reasonable. Being a college athlete is very demanding, and it does take a lot of time, but I cannot imagine the NCAA voters ever coming together and agreeing on paying college athletes, especially with all of the problems that it would cause.


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