I would like to inform you about the life of a student-athlete attending a typical division I university. Coaches are expected to be demanding of their players, but the harsh reality is that their ultimate goal is to break you down before they build you up. Early morning workouts become a part of an athlete’s every day routine as coaches schedule the majority of physical training before 8 A.M. in order to avoid any conflicts with class. A normal student is fortunate enough to have time to recover from the late night they stressed away studying for their classes, while an athlete slowly forgets about the hopeless miracle fantasy that one would call “sleep.”
The fact of the matter is that the life of a student-athlete is spent working what many would consider a full time job for their respected university. Many coaches stress that players are recruited to a school because of the sport they play so what is against paying them for the job that they perform? I know I do not stand alone in these incredibly busy days because this is a standard schedule that many student athletes can attest to. It would be beneficial for an athlete to have extra spending money that goes beyond their scholarship. If you actually break down the numbers for the checks athletes receive from their scholarship and subtract their rent, utilities, food, clothing, and all of the other every day necessities, it’s evident student athletes are living off a tight budget. With the way my schedule is structured it’s not reasonable to take on a job and if was to get a job then I would have to work a night shift, which would affect school and sleep, to critical aspects of being a successful student-athlete.
Numerous games bring fans to sporting events to cheer on their favorite teams. The NCAA generates millions of dollars in revenue from TV contracts, ticket sales, and merchandise. The money compensates coaches and universities for their elite collegiate athletic team, but the student-athletes do not receive a cut. The issue of student athletes not being compensated by the NCAA has been a controversial argument nationwide in sports for nearly a decade. It can be argued that student athletes are already given enough when they get room, board, tuition, and fees paid for. It is a luxury for sure, one that I am very grateful for, however, the hours put in by the athletes are often overlooked. A normal student-athlete week consists of
40-60 hours of training per week on top of being a full time student. Yes, we are getting our school paid for, but it seems like a small cost in comparison to every hour of our time for the four years being planned out ahead of us. Athletes such as Richard Sherman, former football player for Stanford that now plays for the Seattle Seahawks, have spoken up about how ludicrous it is that there is no compensation and how in his time as a student-athlete he has seen many teammates become less successful because of it. Another athlete, Shabazz Napier, a player for Uconn Men’s basketball team, had a famous quote where he reported that he “goes to bed starving” (Napier, 2014). This outcry from a student athlete turned the heads of millions because you would least expect your favorite sports players on the court to have this feeling. Fans and college athletes (before they arrive to their university) see college athletics as an admirable adventure where they are receiving a free education while traveling all over the country, obtaining millions of fans along the way, and fulfilling a dream that they have worked towards close to their whole lives. However, the fans don’t see their schedules, the toll it takes, and they don’t know that some athletes go to bed “starving.” Is going to bed starving and relentlessly exhausting yourself worth a free education? Well, as many would say, it is not. The reward has become less than the risk and if these profound athletes are going to be generating this much money for their school then surely they can receive some type of money, even if it is small, to help them with everyday necessities.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, my entire day consists of basketball and academics. All of this time dedicated to sport takes away from any hope that a player may have to find a paying job. Moreover, the NCAA even prohibits its scholarship athletes from getting additional pay. But this study applies to students with an athletic scholarship, which is only about 33% of the athletes. The other 67% are left with limited amenities and still have the same bearing restrictions
(Schoen 1). These students are still required to devote full-time hours toward their sports career and be left with no benefits in return. Student athletes fortunate enough to have received a scholarship from their university don’t have to worry about the costs of room, board, tuition or books, but those not on scholarship, walk-on athletes for example, are required to cover the cost of all of these items. It’s not reasonable for a university or the NCAA to expect student-athletes to pay for these essentials on their own without having adequate time for a paying, full-time employment. There’s a reason student debt is at an all time high for those graduating and unfortunately student-athletes can’t combat these debts until their playing days are complete. Michael Wilbon, a well known retired ESPN reporter that now writes articles in sports in the Washington Post, would argue that the degree, fame, and benefits are not enough for all the athletes do. Wilbon says, “If 1 billion dollars was taken off the top of the 11 billion-dollar deal between the NCAA and CBS/Turner Sports for March Madness, then that 1 billion dollars could be dispersed among the athletes” (Wilbon 2). Since student athletes already have to dedicate all of their time toward school and sports, it is practically impossible to carry a self-supporting job like normal students. Because of this, it would seem clear that athletes should be fully paid for the job that they have within university athletics.
Another point is the athletes’ Fair Market Value. According to Business Insider, the players on the Louisville men’s basketball team were worth $1.5 million. This study utilized the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement in which players received at least 49% of the revenue. The revenue produced is then split up evenly over the 13 scholarship players on the Louisville basketball team. Another study done by Texas A&M University revealed that Johnny Manziel was responsible for producing $37 million in media exposure for the university during the 2012 football season (Wiggins, 2018). Unfortunately, it’s evident that he didn’t receive any portion of the money he actually generated for Texas A&M because of NCAA regulations. It’s extremely rare for student-athletes to play their respected sport in a professional setting and this realization has led some athletes to question the value in competing in collegiate athletics. In many cases the risk of serious injury doesn’t outweigh the benefits of being a student-athlete marginalized by the NCAA. Contrary to popular belief it’s actually cheerleaders, non-scholarship athletes, that have more catastrophic injuries (73% of them) than any other sport in colleges (Bakar et al. 1). There are other risks involved in being a student-athlete besides injury, such as the risk of taking on immense student debt because there’s simply not enough time outside of athletics to earn wages from employment. These risks may appear worth it for the small number of student-athletes who are blessed enough to play their sport professionally, however, the vast majority of student-athletes continue to feel the effects of these risks even once their athletic careers have come to an end. “Long practice hours, diminished fan attendance, and life on a different schedule from most students can take their toll on young athletes-as can the physical intensity of the sport itself… Most athletes want to keep their scholarships, but the demands of high-level college athletics can be challenging” (Rennie, 2014). If sports generate money for college athletics, and this plays a negative factor towards college athletics, then why can it not be changed? Student-athletes come to a college normally to satisfy their athletic careers and then once they get there it becomes a job of “this is how I’m going to pay for my school.” Is it really enough to expect this from a young college student and all while the university is making millions off of their name and likeness? All this goes on why some athletes barely scrape by to afford food to fuel themselves properly for their collegiate sport and performance in the classroom. Rennie highlights that college athletics becomes bigger than just the sport, it becomes a job, and about just getting through. As the President as the NCAA, should you wish for these top-performing athletes to feel this way? Try to imagine better off the NCAA would be where the athletes could live more comfortably and could make sports their main focus. That would make for a much better, fair, and more competitive organization.
College athletes should not feel like they are barely staying afloat when there is enough money to go around for most programs without negatively affecting the association. The NCAA has annual revenue of nearly $1 billion. 81% of this revenue is generated from media rights. It’s simple to see that this money wouldn’t be made without student-athletes competing for their universities. Meanwhile, the athletes fail to make any profit from their athletic contributions outside of their scholarship. The NCAA signed a contract with CBS valued at $10.8 billion in 2010. According to the NCAA, 96% of the revenue from this contract will be utilized to benefit student-athletes. But what are the different ways that this money actually benefits student athletes? Where is all of the money truly allocated? In reality, the majority of the money is spent in ways that help the NCAA make an even greater profit off of the student-athletes. Michael Wilbon said, “The BCS’ new deal with ESPN was based, in part, on paying more money to schools/conferences with regard to what has been called ‘population centers.’ Of the $174 million distributed from five bowl games, 83.4 percent went to six conferences in 2011” (Wilbon, 2011). These population centers are places where there will be the most people, which in turn makes the most possible money for the NCAA. Why does the National College Athletic Association do this? It’s simply because the NCAA is a greedy corporation that is not for the students, but for the money. A common argument used by those who are against compensating all student-athletes is that not every collegiate sport earns revenue for their university. In fact, many collegiate sports actually cost money for their schools to maintain. If every athlete in the NCAA were compensated minimum wage it would be about $5.6 billion dollars per year. There are only $2.7 billion in scholarships awarded each year, so that proposal would not suffice. A more practical idea is only paying the athletes who generate revenue for their universities. Michael Wilbon makes an exceptional point in an article from ESPN when he states, “I’m interested in seeing the people who produce the revenue share a teeny, tiny slice of it” (Wilbon, 2011). If all the players on the football and men’s basketball team were paid minimum wage, the school would spend no more than $120,000, which is barely anything compared to the school’s athletic budgets.
It’s from my own personal experience that I believe student-athletes should be further compensated for their efforts competing in collegiate athletics. As a student-athlete, I witness first hand the countless hours my teammates and I are required to dedicate to our sport in order to put the best product possible on the court. A product that ultimately provides the university an opportunity to create revenue and further raise money through various donors who enjoy athletics. I’m beyond appreciative to have received a scholarship for my athletic abilities, however, it can be frustrating to feel taken advantage of when there’s room in the budget for student-athletes to receive a share of the profits being produced. There’s many athletes, including myself, who struggle to make ends meet at the end of the month because athletic scholarships are covering the bare minimum costs of necessities, while leaving us responsible to find additional funds without the ability to do so. I understand there are many concerns regarding assisting student-athletes beyond their scholarships, but it’s critical that the NCAA takes a further look at the situation and comes up with a solution that treats athletes in an equitable manner.
One of the concerns the NCAA has with paying student-athletes is how it would affect recruiting. There is a large possibility that schools with more money would come at a larger advantage and it would change recruiting completely because college coaches would no longer have to sell their school, they could just simply offer the recruits substantial amounts of money. This could be a large issue for sports so each division would have to have an equal amount of money distributed to make this fair. That way when Kentucky and Texas recruit against each other there is an even playing field. This type of change can be scary because it will undoubtedly change the name of the game, but people forget that change does not necessarily mean “bad.” In fact, compensating athletes would increase athletic performance by removing financial stress, allowing them to fuel themselves with proper foods, and help keep them in school to receive their education (which should really be the top priority of the University) instead of leaving college early to go to the league in order to make money right away. Although there are undoubtedly valid points behind why student athletes should not be compensated, I truly believe that education and the well being of an athlete is more important than anything, especially when they are generating money for the NCAA that can very easily be shared.
Mr. Emmert, it is clear that there is a great reward that comes with being a collegiate athlete. Having the opportunity to compete for a team manifests a huge part of the development of character. Time management, all kinds of people and relationships are made with alum and fans along the way, and the instilled knowledge of hard work are all major benefits that are emphasized in the lives of athletes. However, it would be wrong to ignorantly ignore that there are some weaknesses in the association that regulates college sports. Looking at the revenue generated through the athlete’s performance and image, while keeping in mind the lack of compensation, violates the justice and equality of financial disbursement throughout the system. Since the founding of the association, the NCAA has made a “commitment to academics and student-athlete success” (Ackerman and Scott, 2016) to provide a haven of healthy competition. Justifying athletes being granted the stipend money they earn is found to be a core concern in the mission statement. I do not believe it is too much to ask for something, literally anything, if even small, to help athletes such as Shabazz Napier who go to bed starving. Overall, the well being of the athlete as far as education, financial security, and mental/physical health should be a top priority for the NCAA.