A recent scandal has shaken college sports to its very core, and has brought one of the most hotly debated questions in sports back into national light: should college athletes be paid for what they do?
This scandal involves several big name basketball universities allegedly paying big-time recruits to ensure their commitment to their school or providing special financial benefits to the athletes, both of which are major violations of NCAA (National College Athletics Association) rules. The headliner in this investigation, which the FBI has become involved in, is the University of Arizona and head coach Sean Miller, who allegedly paid 5-star center and future NBA lottery pick Deandre Ayton $100,000 to guarantee his commitment to the university.
Several other name brand basketball schools have been named in the investigation, with Kansas, Duke, North Carolina and Kentucky headlining a list of about 20 other universities. This pay-for-play scandal could result in major punishments for the schools, including loss of scholarships for the school or having to vacate wins from previous seasons.
After news of the investigation broke, every sports talk show, and news publication gave their opinion on whether or not these athletes should be allowed to get paid.
The NCAA made over $1 Billion in revenue on just March Madness alone last year, according to Investopedia. And that was with a National Championship game with the lowest television rating in 20 years.
Over the next 14 years, the NCAA will make $10.8 Billion on a television contract with CBS and TBS. And since they are considered a “not-for-profit” organization, the NCAA doesn’t even have to pay taxes on that money.
According to data collected by 24/7 Wall Street, the highest paid public employee in 39 of the 50 states is the head coach of a college sports team.
All of these numbers help prove the point supporters of a pay-for-play system are trying to make: the NCAA is a corrupt organization that make universities rich and its coaches richer, while the athletes that make the money don’t see a dime of it.
Stores are selling jerseys with players’ names on the back of it, fans are buying tickets just to see them play and television networks are paying billions just for the right to showcase the athletes’ talents. But, athletes like former Central Florida kicker Donald De La Haye lost his NCAA eligibility because he “used his image to make money” by making a YouTube channel and posting videos about football.
This side of the argument isn’t just about money, however. It is also impossible for some student athletes to take advantage of the education they are given due to the time and effort that is required to be put into a college sport.
According to The Nation, some athletes are devoting forty or sixty hours a week into their sport. How are they supposed to balance that and a full class schedule without letting one of the two slip?
Nobody is concerned with the top prospects getting paid in college: most of them will be millionaires before the age of 25. The main point of concern is for the rest of the players, the ones who have no professional career ahead of them, but are put behind in their majors because of the immense dedication it takes to play a college sport.
The most popular argument for those who oppose compensation for NCAA athletes is that these are college students, not professionals. Scholarship athletes are already getting a free college education, why do they deserve to get paid on top of that?
They get to leave their university with no debt, and they receive certain benefits that other students aren’t given. Free room and board, access to meals via the school’s cafeteria, treatment from some of the best medical staffs in the country and they get to gain exposure to scouts from professional teams.
Some of these kids are getting the opportunity to receive a higher education from some of the finest universities in the country, an opportunity the lower-income athletes couldn’t even dream of otherwise.
ESPN writer Pat Forde tells a story about high school basketball player Allan Guei, who gave away $40,000 of prize money he won in a free throw shooting contest. He gave it to the people he beat out because Guei received a full athletic scholarship to Cal State-Northridge.
“I feel like I was well taken care of to go to school and play the game I love for free,” Guei said. “The position I was in was different from a lot of good kids who needed it more than I did.”
An athlete should not be treated any differently than someone attending a university on an academic scholarship, or even a regular student paying their way onto campus.
There is also almost no way to fairly compensate every athlete on campus. Does the university pay the All-American football player the same as the third string quarterback?
Or what about the less popular sports, like golf for instance. Would a golfer attending Michigan State get paid the same amount as a basketball player, even though the basketball player brings in more money for the university?
Student athletes should be content with getting a free college education and to play the sport that they love.