Over the years there have been numerous debates in regards paying college athletes for the money they bring to their colleges, due to their athletic greatness. Over time, what started as simple competitions organized by students, has become an entire enterprise that strives to provide sports entertainment, in return -of course- for increased revenue. Students used to go to school to get educated and only took part in the aforementioned competitions as a leisure activity. Now, it seems that things have changed and they attend big and popular universities mainly to participate in sports, dedicate almost all their time to activities related to the desired sport and become top athletes rather than top students. Consequently, a system has been created that uses students to make millions of dollars and provides student athletes with economic benefits other students do not have, which is unfair. In other words, Division I athletes should not be paid for athletic excellence.
Division I, as it is currently regulated, has turned into a multi-billion dollar industry. From the variety of sports, football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball are the sports that bring sky high revenues, leaving any other athletic department behind, losing money. It is not by chance that only 23 of the 228 Division I athletic programs ended up with a surplus in 2012, according to an article posted in USA Today (Berkowitz, Upton and Brady). Apart from the money-making sports mentioned before, schools also run other sports such as soccer, volleyball and swimming, among others, which are not as self-supported as basketball and football and rely on revenues from the latter sports programs (Kahn; Suggs). No wonder that Division I coaches earn tremendous amounts ranging from hundreds of dollars to several millions per year (Wieberg). Needless to say, wherever there is potentiality for increased income, many things can take place, including investing money on those athletes that could bring more money to colleges and sports’ departments alike.
The official stance of the NCAA, the governing body of college athletics, is that Division I athletes do not get paid anyhow. But, if they don’t, what keeps the debates about whether student athletes should be paid or not going? Especially after Kevin Ware’s severe injury, while he playing basketball in the Midwest Regional Final of the NCAA Basketball Tournament, earlier in spring, 2013, some people have brought the issue back on the table, asking for college athletes to be paid (Corrigan). With the start of the football season in autumn, volumes raised again. However, regardless of the impact injuries like Ware’s have created to the world, Division I athletes should not be paid, if they are not paid already.
In 2010, Mark Emmert, president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association emphatically said that “We can never move to a place where we are paying players to play sports for us” (Garcia para.9). Besides everything else, it should be mentioned that Division I athletes already get a generous “compensation” that could as well be considered a fat check, which makes the whole debate on whether they should be paid, rather ironic. But, the fact that they do get payments as of now for the income they bring to their colleges, does not make it fair. In detail, student athletes on athletic scholarship receive free accommodation, tuition, and discounts to get their books and cover other costs too (Dorfman). When talking about students athletes playing at more successful universities, they receive a wide array of educational benefits, including life skill training, academic counselling, nutritional advice, and tutoring (Dorfman). All the aforementioned are what economists considers a payment.
Speaking with numbers, student athletes receive services that football and basketball players pay an average of $3,000 per week, in the weeks leading up to the pre-draft workouts (Dorfman). Such services include fitness and strength training and professional coaching from top trainers and therapists, which are all offered to Division I athletes for free (Dorfman). So, taking that amount into consideration, and summing up the value of a scholarship, a student athlete receives education, accommodation, coaching, training and board packages that range from $50,000 to $125,000 annually (Dorfman). Of course, the amount gets higher, depending on the sport they play and whether they are private or public university athletes. Also, the schools’ revenues per year reach more than $260 million (Meggyesy).
Other than that, Division I athletes gain publicity that could boost their career later on. Being recognized and evaluated for a pro team, is much easier when being a college athlete that has reached athletic excellence. All the inside story of one’s athletic performance is more trusted when heard from the mouth of college coaches. This, in turns, makes it easier for a top college athlete student to close larger contracts, once they reach pro, which is also considered a payment.
In a relatively recent survey where college students were asked for their opinion in regards the hot topic of compensating intercollegiate athletes, on top on their scholarship and other aids, about 54 percent of the total 458 students from a Division I athletic conference, replied positively (Schneider).
Why Division I athletes should not be paid?
The educational practices of numerous world famous universities are seriously questioned, when college players reach the point that are admitted to colleges and universities due to their athletic greatness. Kemba Walker, a junior basketball star that plays basketball for the University of Connecticut, has mentioned that the very first he has ever read in his entire life was the Forty Million Dollar Slaves (Layden, para.26). Being accepted in a university only out of sheer athletic performances, even if excellent, does not abide by the reason why students get educated and seek higher education. There are cases when professors put college athletes into easier courses, only to get higher grades (Zimbalist). So, education is jeopardized and certainly devalued when students with weak academic records make it to university.
Of course, there is the other side that puts college players that cannot attend school if not given financial aid via an athletic scholarship, which is considered an exploitation of these students by universities. In addition, some athlete students opt for poor academic institutions, when they could as well chose institutions that would provide them with higher quality education, only because they want to attend a school with greater educational opportunities for them (Wertheimer). Set aside that, there are students that do not graduate or fail to achieve academic success because their mind is se on achieving athletic greatness and do not even try to succeed academically.
Based on statistics provided by the NCAA, only a mere percent of schools finished the 2009-2010 academic year with a surplus in their financials (Garcia).This happens, mainly because any generated revenue by the most income-making sports’ programs, that of football and basketball, is used to cover the salaries of academic counselors, coaches and any renovation made in the athletic facility (Garcia). In detail, only 14 out of the 1,150 schools enjoyed increased revenues during the pre-mentioned school year (Garcia). But, adding up the monetary value intercollegiate teams get is practically impossible, since there are various factors that affect the colleges’ income (Wertheimer). Making teenagers long for the money at such a young age, when they should be worried about getting proper and quality education, is definitely not what education is all about. Indicatively, Matt Howard, basketball player at Butler University said that “Forty thousand dollars-plus a year to play, that’s a pretty good salary for an 18-year-old who has no college education” (Weiner & Berkowitz para. 6). This is totally unfair for other professions, because in no other profession does a teenager with no prior professional experience get such big amounts- that can reach up to $120,000 annually (Weiner & Berkowitz para. 6).
Starting paying Division I athletes is unjust to other students too. Not everybody excels in sports. But, there are numerous students that excel in what they do: their courses. However, no university has ever granted such students with additional payments, or has provided them with discounts or covered their accommodation, and other costs, like they do with Division I players. This is not the proper way to reward academic success and greatness. Scholarships are a good way to motivate a student, and in many cases helps them reach higher education that they would not be able to reach any other way, due to financial problems. Dividing the student body in two categories, those of students with scholarships and those with scholarships, free coaching, free accommodation, free counseling free nutritional advice and many more, just nurture an underlying hate for one group of students to another. The message passed on to teenagers is that one does not always succeed in academic life and enjoy comforts that others do not have because they are good students. They may have devoted the longest hours humanly possible to do well at school and get their degree, but that is not as rewarded and “compensated” as with college student-athletes that do great in football or basketball. Maybe a student with a poor economic background could use some free rooming and education, among others. But that is not going to happen to them, since they are not top athletes.
It may be true that Division I athletes do miracles in terms of monetary numbers for their schools, but if those students start getting paid, then it would be like turning college student-athletes into professionals. One should also consider paying other student-athletes of the not so income-making sports. If one gives grave cause for concern, when does it stop?
Other than that, college players do have much free time to do whatever they want; even work, after their practices. This is not much likely for any other student that has extra-curricular activities, besides sports. Also, college athletes play by their interest, so there is no one making them play. So, why should they be paid for something they have chosen as practically a leisure? In no other case does a student get paid for something they do out of interest, so what makes college athletes different than any other? Maybe it is the money they bring to their schools and the NCAA that makes the difference. But, that should not be of our concern, as we see at the greater public good and fairness.
Many people wonder whether Division I athletes should be paid or not, but facts show that they DO get paid, in more ways than one. For starts, apart from their scholarship, they get free accommodation, food, counseling, coaching, nutritional advice, and the list goes on. From the wide array of sports departments, only football and basketball generate revenue that is enough to pay fat checks for coaches and counselors, among others. Paying Division I athletes for their athletic accomplishments, when no other student is rewarded in any other way for academic excellence other than the scholarship they receive is completely unfair for the student body. Also, compensating students for sports greatness, makes them concentrate more on sports and leave education aside. It should be the opposite. Moreover, paying Division I athletes increases unfairness among students. No other student gets paid for doing what they really like. And, no other student has the chance to a great and profitable profession with no professional experience, than college student-athletes. Finally, there are, indeed, people and organizations that take advantage of college athlete-students and make millions on their backs, which also has to stop. Generally speaking, teenagers should be prompted to achieve academic success first and then go for sports excellence.
Berkowitz, Steve, Upton, Jodi and Brady, Erik (2013). “Most NCAA Division I athletic departments take subsidies”. USA Today. Web. Dec. 12, 2013 <http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/college/2013/05/07/ncaa-finances-subsidies/2142443/>
Corrigan, James (2013). “March madness: Kevin Ware's public agony highlights lure of basketball's NCAA”. The Telegraph. Web. Dec. 12, 2013 <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/othersports/basketball/9965241/March-madness-Kevin-Wares-public-agony-highlights-lure-of-basketballs-NCAA.html>
Dorfman, Jeffrey (2013). “Pay College Athletes? They're Already Paid Up To $125,000 Per Year”. Forbes Magazine. Web. Dec. 12, 2013 http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffreydorfman/2013/08/29/pay-college-athletes-theyre-already-paid-up-to-125000year/
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Weiner, J., & Berkowitz, S. (2011). “USA Today analysis finds $120k value in men’s basketball scholarship”. USA Today. Web. Dec. 12, 2013 <http://www.usatoday.com/sports/college/mensbasketball/2011-03-29-scholarship-worth-final-four_N.htm>
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