Should NCAA Athletes Be Paid?

NCAA LogoThe debate over whether or not college athletes should be compensated remains a very hot topic, one that no one has found an answer to. Last week, Georgetown University’s Black House posed this same question during their Hourglass Discussion, and there were plenty of diverse ideas to go around. Both student-athletes and regular students offered their views on whether or not the NCAA should allow for players to get paid.

Since it’s inception, the NCAA has maintained that college athletes are amateurs who should not be paid for their services. Individuals who disobey this crucial rule are subject to fines, suspension, or even getting their wins erased from the books. Opponents argue that athletes should not get paid because they receive scholarships that cover their expenses for the academic year, which is compensation enough. However, this is simply not the case. Not every college athlete receives a full scholarship. In fact, many athletes are the recipients of partial scholarships, which means they have to pay for the remaining cost with additional aid. If for some reason students cannot find outside assistance, oftentimes they take on additional jobs to make ends meet. This is extremely problematic in that student athletes seemingly have to choose between whether or not they want to focus entirely on their sport or entirely on academics. A student who has mandatory practices multiple times a week, games/meets to attend and also works (in addition to being active on campus) is a tired student. How effective will they really be in their sport or in the classroom?

One of the biggest storylines this past NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament was the gruesome injury suffered by Louisville’s Kevin Ware. The guard broke his leg during the Cardinals’ game against Duke University on March 31. Luckily for Ware, his medical expenses were completely covered. One cannot say with certainty that Ware’s healthcare costs would be paid for had his injury not received such overwhelming media coverage. Under current NCAA rule, athletes are required to have health insurance in order to cover sports-related injuries. However, there is no clear definition as to the degree to which players need to be covered for other injuries. Furthermore, this insurance does not allow for more coverage for athletes. NCAA teams can also decide whether or not they will pay for an athlete’s sports-related injuries. This means that should a student get injured while playing a sport, after matriculation, they may be responsible for thousands of dollars worth of medical bills to pay for.

On the other hand, deciding who gets paid and how much is a complex issue to solve. Surely basketball and football rake in the most money for the NCAA, so those athletes should arguably be paid more. But what form should this take? Should they be paid an hourly wage, or a yearly/semesterly salary? How much more or less should certain athletes be given? Should players who ride the bench get as much as the starters? These are difficult questions to answer. The general consensus at the Black House was that athletes should indeed receive a stipend. This way, no player who needs additional money to cover any personal expenditure should have to work. In theory, this sounds like a plausible idea. In reality though, it will be a challenging plan to execute. With various sports teams to work with, determining how this budget is divided amongst all players will not be easy. In addition, there is the fear that some will abuse what they have been given and focus more on sports rather than education. College athletes are students first, athletes second. Bringing in the concept of payment has the potential to complicate the main objective of higher education, which is to educate.

With all this information at hand, the argument against these players being paid is still a tough one to make. The NCAA is a booming business, as seen by their recent $10.8 billion agreement with CBS/Turner Sports to broadcast March Madness between 2011 and 2024. And that is just for March Madness. Their revenue comes from the hardworking athletes who put in the time on/off the courts (or fields), in addition to being full-time athletes. The risks involved in being a student-athlete are high, something that a full or partial scholarship cannot fully reimburse. College athletes are money-making machines and the amount of revenue generated from their achievements is mind-blowing. They are the ones doing the bulk of the work, yet they cannot be paid for it. While the Louisville Cardinals are celebrating with their new trophies and rings, their coaches may be getting raises.

Ironic, isn’t it?

The question about NCAA athletes and whether or not they should be paid comes down to the NCAA as an institution. As we all know, making changes within an institution is not nearly as easy as one would think. There are plenty of obstacles to overcome and we know how stringent the NCAA is regarding their rules. Yet, this is a conversation that is way overdue and needs to be addressed.

-Sophia Pompilus, Sports Staff Writer

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