Sports Debates: Pay College Athletes?

Written & Media by Joseph Hubbs.

The great Tim Allen once said that college is great because it gives us college football. College sports give copious amounts of joy and pride to countless Americans, especially those who went to the college they cheer for. The athletes involved work their tails off every day for our enjoyment. Our country watches college games, purchases jerseys, and analyzes these so called “amateur” athletes to the point where anyone coming into America would think college sports a critical part of our country. And they are, but what do the athletes get out of the exploitation? Nothing, absolutely nothing. Several influential people have tried actively to find a way to give college athletes, mostly football and basketball, some kind of payment for all the money they bring in to the schools. However, on the other side of the spectrum naysayers prepare to do anything that keeps money out of athlete’s pockets.

Tim Allen

NCAA scholarship chart
Image from Eleven Warriors

Here’s the main argument I hear over and over again. College athletes receive payment through scholarships that give them a full ride to school. What the naysayers do not understand, is that the scholarship does not pay for the three thousand some odd dollars for parking, food, and utilities service. Also, a lot of these kids are poor and never could have afforded to get into school without the full ride scholarship. What if they want to go catch a movie on the weekends, or grab a burger after the game? They can’t; they don’t have the money to pay for living and simply enjoying life. Then they snooty sports-haters delight in bringing up the comparison to other students. Academically students get the same deal with scholarships and pay the extra expenses for utilities and life’s enjoyment by acquiring a part time job. So why the heck don’t the athletes get jobs? Well my friends, as an athlete through high school and college, I can attest for these guys that it is not that easy. Time does not allow for a part time job. All of the athlete’s time is allotted to practice, studying film, and analyzing plays, and when they aren’t working on athletics, they are in the classroom or studying. Playing sports is their part time job. Probably more than that because athletics teaches many life lessons, responsibility, and works you harder than any burger-flipping job would. So, I ask you, why do college athletes not get paid for the extra time they put in, like the other students get for working a part time job?

The other half-hearted argument blurted by schools builds a little bit of this last one. It’s not fair to other students and athletes of lesser sports. Uh… no. I don’t think anyone has ever doubted that. When I hear this argument, the sermon I heard my uncle preach emphatically while I was a youngster goes through my head. Life is not fair! Given that I was only 5 years old at the time, those are the only words I remember, so I will reiterate them once more. LIFE IS NOT FAIR! We live in a capitalist economy. We aren’t a bunch of communists, so don’t ask for the same treatment. Is it fair that a doctor get paid more than a writer? Is it fair that a coach gets more pay than a full time professor? Is it fair that my best friend gets paid more to work at McCallister’s Deli than I do across the street at Subway? No! Of course not, but our economy works like this, and no one says anything about that. Like Michael Wilbon of ESPN said, “Alabama’s quarterback deserves more pay than an average sociology major. Now when I say this, everyone gasps, appalled that I would make such a comparison. If you want fair, I’m sorry, but the economy in America probably cannot suffice for your needs.”

Longhorn Network logo slick

It would not be hard to find money to give the athletes. Let’s take a look at some numbers. Colleges last year brought in over $1 billion on March Madness, and $150 million on BCS bowl games. Notre Dame earned $6.2 million for making the championship, and Alabama won its conference $23.6 million. Eventually in 2014, when colleges go to a playoff system, there is an estimated $500 million per year that colleges will receive for TV sponsorships. Last year, the Longhorn Network made $11 million for the University of Texas alone. Televising games brings millions of dollars to the college, and that does not even include ticket and concession revenues made from the stands! Do the athletes see any of it? Absolutely not. They are the ones sweating, performing, pulling muscles, and fighting through pain, but they don’t receive a penny for it. It’s like putting on a concert and not paying the band. The “professionals” of the band refuse to let that happen, but college athletes have no choice… or do they?

Reggie Bush loses Heisman by violating college “amateurism” rules

Here in lies the problem. Colleges stand for amateurism, especially in their athletic programs. Only professionals get paid, not the interns. Shady business lurks behind amateurism all the time. Athletes accept gifts and endorsement deals from sponsors when they are not supposed to. We all remember the Reggie Bush fiasco. He lost his Heisman, and cost USC ten scholarships for 3 years because his parents accepted a house from his agent- an agent Bush wasn’t allowed to have as an amateur. Bush dealt with a major scandal, but for the most part the violations get blown out of proportion. An athlete might receive 50 bucks, get a free tattoo, or make a few bucks for autographs and public appearances- an obvious violation of the promotion of amateurism. But why is it wrong for them to make some money for being good at something? What if I use the non-athlete argument against the naysayers? A violinist at the school could get paid big for playing in a local orchestra. A good writer could get paid to work for the local paper to get some extra cash. Why should it be different for athletes? Most jobs are off limits for them during the year so they can put time towards their sport. In fact, they are often told not to get jobs, and the summer is the only time available for them to work and make money. Two and a half months of work doesn’t exactly provide good money to live by for an expensive college life.

Revenue Chart

Does it seem fair to let the band play gig after gig and not pay them? Game after game, practice after practice, college athletes put in extreme amounts of time, more than any part time job life at college could offer. They deserve pay for their time, and if this qualifies as their scholarship, so be it. But they still deserve to see something out of the millions they earn for the college.


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