Should College Athletes be Paid?

It’s been a major issue for years now, not only in the world of sports, but in the news around the country. The question up for debate is, “Should college athletes be paid?” On one hand, these athletes are primarily students, and some say that they should be treated strictly as amateurs. On the other hand, student athletes, especially men’s football and basketball players, bring in millions of dollars both to their respective universities and to the NCAA, the governing body of collegiate athletics. People argue that the players should be compensated for the money that they help earn.

I believe student athletes should not be paid. They are at school, and they are amateurs. In addition, many athletes are being paid with scholarships. Athletes need to cherish their education and realize that a free tuition for four years at a university can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

However, there are flaws with the current system. While some athletes may be on a scholarship, that doesn’t necessarily mean everything is paid for. In April 2014, after the University of Connecticut won the NCAA men’s basketball championship, CNN reported that UConn’s star player, Shabazz Napier, sometimes goes to bed hungry because of an insufficient meal plan provided by the school. Napier says, “I don’t feel student-athletes should get hundreds of thousands of dollars, but like I said, there are hungry nights that I go to bed and I’m starving.”

It does seem a little strange that Napier generates millions of dollars, yet he still sometimes does not have enough food to eat. NCAA schools need to provide their student athletes with not only tuition, but also room, board, and ample money to eat and be healthy. While I do not believe that these athletes should be earning a paycheck every month, it should be mandatory that these schools provide their student athletes with all the resources they need to succeed.

What makes it even more difficult for student-athletes is that due to the strict amateurism laws of the NCAA, student athletes are not allowed to profit from their likeness or brand, or have any kind of job whatsoever. In other words, they are not allowed to make any money. So when your school’s meal plan isn’t sufficient, and you have no way to make any money, what can you do?

Other students have the ability to have a job and earn their own money, so why should student-athletes not be able to do the same? While I don’t believe that athletes should be allowed to have a job within the university, which would lead to corruption, I do believe that having a job outside of the school should be completely legal.

Another issue stems not from the NCAA, but from professional sports leagues, specifically the NBA and the NFL. These leagues impose an age limit for their athletes, which means in order to continue playing their sport before they are age eligible, they must either attend college, or in some cases, play their sport in Europe or another country before they enter. This means that if these young athletes want to make money through their sport, they must either wait one or two years, or play internationally. Top athletes often attend college only until they are eligible to enter the NBA or the NFL, then leave before they graduate. If the NBA and the NFL removed their age limits, it would help return college athletics to what is should be with true amateur competition between schools.

However, many people would disagree, because they believe that athletes should be better compensated for the money that they bring to their school. You can read about Northwestern football players’ attempt to form a union, with the belief that they should be paid due to their contributions to the University. You can also watch ESPN’s documentary Sole Man, where former NCAA basketball player Ed O’Bannon takes the NCAA to court over the issue.

Many other controversies regarding the NCAA and paying athletes have occurred in recent history. The first big NCAA controversy happened in 1987, when Southern Methodist University’s football program received “the death penalty” for the violation of NCAA rules. More recently, the football programs of the University of Miami and the University of Southern California have come under fire for violations. These scandals, and many others, have raised awareness over the problems with the NCAA and spurred debate about how the college sports system needs to be changed.

There are dozens of stories and debates about this issue. I encourage you to read them, and learn more about this important issue. With so much debate going on right now, we could soon see changes that could impact the world of sports forever.

Please comment below with your opinions on the NCAA, and let us know whether or not you believe NCAA student-athletes should be paid or not.

Feature Photo Credit: NCAA


About the author

Dalton Ruh is a senior at Collegiate.