Ever since my cousin started playing college sports, college athletics have been a part of my life. I was raised in Fayetteville, AR where the Razorbacks are located. In Fayetteville, where I was raised, the Razorbacks are a part of everyone’s life. You see the players on billboards on the side of the highway and restaurants with the Razorback theme, In other words, college sports are a big deal to me. I had always enjoyed watching but it wasn’t until my cousin started playing for Southern Arkansas University, that I realized how unfair it was to student athletes that they only received a scholarship for their efforts. The way the NCAA treats its athletes was so enraging that I decided to inform my Composition teacher and classmates on the topic of paying athletes. Most people know that college athletics is a multi-billion-dollar business, but don’t realize how poorly compensated players are in comparison to their workload. In researching this, I found that college athletes should be paid, but also be allowed to make money based on their own name.
The NCAA, which is the organization in charge of college athletics, is a big company. At the base of the organization keeping it alive, but not being paid to do so, is the student-athlete. According to Seene (2017) the NCAA made an estimated $771 million just from the annual basketball championship tournament, the March Madness, TV contracts. The organization lists itself as a non-profit making these athletes amateurs instead of professionals which allows the NCAA to not pay them for their efforts. The NCAA pays coaches and everyone involved in every part of the game, except the people actually playing. Vanderford (2017) says Tom Izzo, Michigan State basketball coach, made over $400,000 from the schools Nike apparel deal alone. The student athlete deserves a slice of the pie they play a big part in creating.
Another important argument for paying players is their value. Fans are attracted to players. They drive hundreds of miles every Saturday, not to visit the campus and take a tour, but to tailgate and spend money supporting the players. College athletes provide many families around the country with almost 24/7 entertainment. According to Volner (2017) over 26 million people watched the college football National Championship Game. With its still growing popularity, the business of college sports stands to continue to hit new heights each year. At some point its most critical employees deserve to reap the benefits of their work. Some people will argue that their scholarship is their compensation, but if that is the case, then it’s not fair. Athletes are worth much more than their scholarship according to research done by Vanderford (2015). He says at the University of Texas a typical football player is worth $578,000 per year to the school. After seeing that number, it is easy to see the $37,000 their scholarship is worth pales in comparison. Not only is it peanuts compared to the amount of money they bring in, the scholarship isn’t even sufficient enough to get through college. Athletes like Wakefied (2017) complain about not having money for emergencies or things like gas and entertainment. The athletes are grateful for their scholarships but other scholarship students earning potential isn’t restricted, and student athletes deserve to enjoy that same freedom.
Finally, these athletes deserve to be paid because of their workload. Student athletes do a ton of behind the scenes work in order to perform and execute at their best during games. This could include a variety of things from practice, individual training, weight lifting, mandatory study halls, team meals, 3-day road trips, team meetings, or watching film according to Wakefield (2017). Everyone sees their end result when they are on TV, but people seem to forget that is a very small percentage of the work they actually get done. Wakefield constantly mentions that football at a major D1 school is more demanding than having a full time job. But the amount of time is just one example of their workload being extreme. Not only are they required to devote an unfathomable amount of time to their sport, they are also being pressured by millions to always be at their best, on and off the field or court. It isn’t enough to just attend the game. Fans, coaches, and the players themselves put incredible pressure on these young adults to be perfect. They face having scholarships taken if they don’t achieve what the coach is expecting of them. This uncertainty causes the players additional stress to an already extremely stressed demographic: the college student. These factors make their workload seem almost unbearable to most people. These athletes have to not only bear with it, but they must do it gracefully as they represent their institutions.
One common argument against paying athletes is that they are amateurs, if they want to be professional and make money, they need to make it to the major sports leagues. While this outlook seems like a fair point at first glance, it actually helps prove why they should be paid. As Wakefield mentioned Universities pay science students to work in labs all the time. Athletes are the only students on campus with a limit on the money they can receive in exchange for their talents. It could be argued that the NCAA is the major leagues for some of these athletes because when college ends so will most of their careers. Daden (2001) provides a solution for paying athletes and still keeping them amateur. He proposes that players receive “laundry money” as a part of their scholarships. In this case players would be given about $150 a month to spend on whatever they need. This would begin to solve student athlete problems.
College athletes are up against a powerful organization, with a business incentive to remain the same, on their road to fair compensation. The athletes need to come together and present themselves as more than just students, but as extremely valuable employees. People in general have to be willing to look at things from an athlete’s’ perspective and not from just the performances we see on TV. Student athletes are a key instrument in building university brands, and hopefully in the future those universities will start paying the students that are most directly responsible for its earnings: the athletes.