Should Student-Athletes Be Paid? Views from Both Sides

 

A.J. Green of the University of Georgia had to sit out four games at the beginning of the 2010 season because he sold one of his jerseys to a man from Atlanta who has ties to a sports agent.  Marcell Dareus of the University of Alabama was forced to sit out the first two games of the 2010 season after he attended a party in Miami Beach in May, 2010 and apparently had some expenses paid, at least indirectly, by an agent.  The Ohio State University team had a total of six players ordered to miss games at the beginning of the 2011 season as punishment for selling memorabilia and for accepting impermissible benefits.

This spotlight from the college football season just ended has reignited the debate over whether college “student athletes” should be paid for their athletic service to their schools.  Reasonable arguments can be found on both sides of this debate.  A 2009 study (link provided below) found that the benefits a college athlete receives from a full athletic scholarship come up $38,000 short of covering all reasonable expenses he or she will incur over a four year college career (and this, in some cases, turns out to be short one year from the five years many athletes are now enrolled).

While current NCAA president Mark Emmert is firm in his defense of the current system, many people are calling for some kind of change.  Readers here can click on any of the links found below and find facts and opinions supporting the current system and other positions calling for drastic changes.

Greg Tyler, MPA, JD, MLIS
Mr. Tyler is the Director of the Library/Archivist at the United States Sports Academy. He is also a former practicing attorney.

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8 Comments

  1. Haarnold November 26, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    The question of whether or not to go to college based on financial limitations is an issue for both athletes and non-athletes.  Since there are not requirements for college attendance or graduation in professional sports league, there is no need to pay student-athletes.  Athletes that have the ability and would like to make money playing sports should attempt to move into professional organizations.  If not, those athletes should look for alternate avenues for affording college (grants, loans, work-study) beyond their scholarship allottment.  Paying collegiate student-athletes would remove the emphasis of education and replace it solely with performance.  The small percentage of athletes that perform in professional leagues in contrast to the large percentage of the population that play collegiate sports demonstrates the need to prepare student-athletes for options other than playing sports.  These options become more available through emphasis on post-secondary education.

     
  2. Jeff Wagner March 6, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    The definition of amateur athletes has gradually been eroded since the 1992 Olympics with the debut of the “Dream Team”.  This team was made up entirely of professional basketball players all of which were already multimillionaires.  The spirit of the Olympics is to promote the best of “amateur” sports.  One could argue the Soviet Bloc and Chinese have never used “amateur” athletes.  The United States has long prided itself on maintaining a fairly pure amateur athletics program vis a vis college and university play.  I think paying athletes for their sports is not a bad idea.  For those few who go pro, it can be a great segue into how to manage and market themselves.  For those who don’t, it can be be some well-deserved help in paying for school or other expenses associated with college life.  The biggest challenge would be ensuring fair payment just as Title IX guarantees fair play.

     
  3. Tim Merritt September 25, 2013 at 9:45 am

    Beginning to pay student athletes is a slippery slope. I have a unique perspective going through college as a coach and Grad Assistant. Athletes not only get meals, tuition and apartments paid for, but they also get LEGAL spending cash when on the road. If a student athlete practices a little self control, they can already make a very comfortable living. Opening student athletes up to getting paid on a scale or revenue raised standpoint, there will be more lawsuits than we have already began to see with title IX today along with countless other problems.

     
  4. Erin Diamond May 19, 2015 at 8:26 pm

    Paying student athletes creates a topic that is more than just a black and white issue. The gray area is the pandora’s box that will be open as to where payments are and are not allowed. In contrast to other students at the same college or university, student athletes do not often have time and freedom in their schedule allowing them to get a money making job. These athletes instead use their time and skills to put money only in the university’s pocket. It seems unnecessary to pay these student athletes for their performances on the field. They know that they are essentially playing for free. It is the personal time and effort put in that should be earning these individuals some cash on the side. A university does not own a player’s signature. Just like a university does not own the signature of a student in the drama department who stars in a theatrical production. If schools want to hold these students to rules that prevent them from earning money using the skills they have been taught while in school, this rule should go across the board and all students should be held to this standard. But until schools prevent all students from getting paid for their learned skills while still students at the school, why should athletes be held to different standards.

     
  5. Daniel M July 7, 2015 at 12:29 am

    The current system of college athletics is not flawed as some claims.
    It’s been like this for decades, however, recent shift of the media’s attention brought more focus on this issue.
    University athletes should not be paid on top of their scholarships as that would simply erase the word “amateur” from their status. High school students who receive scholarships and play sports in college do that because they enjoy what they do and not because of the possibility of earning tens of thousands of dollars at the age of eighteen. Besides, as many have mentioned it before me here as well as in various articles talented basketball (for example) players do have a choice. Whether it is financial hardship or simply a personal choice athletes may choose to play sports for money even if that means leaving the US. Those athletes who choose to stay and attend college while also involved in collegiate athletics do so knowing that they won’t be compensated on a salary basis. While it is widely accepted that collegiate athletes receive receive “full rides” they should not get money on top of that.
    Allowing athletes to earn salary would create problems that have yet to be identified. Paying them a pre-determined and ncaa-enforced salary would hardly solve issues of paying them more what’s allowed (assuming that there would be a cap) to make sure a recruit goes to where more money is offered.
    The issue of enforcing Title IX is just another problem that the various athletic associations, school officials, and athletic department employees would face. If you change the law to pay athletes in one particular sport you would have to pay all athletes in all sports, and likely at all levels where scholarship is currently offered.
    As a former collegiate athlete I believe athletes should remain amateurs and focus on their education instead while still having fun on the court. They can easily make up for the “loss of income” later on when they play/compete professionally.
    I find it great that this topic has been brought up and gained a lot of media attention. I also hope that the public will listen to both sides of the argument and come to a conclusion that is in favor of fairness and equality in amateur athletics.

     
  6. Sara Hodgson August 7, 2015 at 9:48 am

    Student athletes who receive complete athletic scholarships may not in the end be actually fully covered for all their expenses during their college experience but I do not believe this means they should start being paid for it. Majority of non athletes come out of college with thousands and thousands of dollars in debt. Athletes need to realize that what they have achieved in a full athletic scholarship is a great reward in itself and many would give up so much just for that. Some students even will go as far as paying to play. For example, while I was in school we started a club lacrosse team because we just simply wanted to play. We did not have a coach, we had to pay out of our own pocket to get into a league, we had to schedule our games, set up our fields, pay officials, pay for traveling to and from other schools, our own food and equipment. It’s a matter of how much you want to play and your love for the sport whether you agree with the school paying you on top of a scholarship or not.

     
  7. Luke Harrigan August 22, 2016 at 7:01 pm

    I think paying athletes is a bad practice to start with. We talk about generation gap issues and everything else. We are creating even more problems with entitlement and this will result in future issues. I have heard of athletes and parents writing cards to thank a coach for a scholarship. This is very uncommon, but this made me see how much this person understands the value of getting an education paid for. College sports are very profitable in certain situations, but getting a college degree paid for is as well. The value of this should be the main focus and not on how much we can help the student athlete get more money to spend on a weekend.

     
  8. Fritz Stoppelbein September 1, 2016 at 6:21 pm

    I don’t think the problem of weather to pay or not to pay college athletes is going to be solved any time soon. It is also not going to be a simple fix. Many ideas have been passed around for how to pay athletes, such as creating a trust fund for post-graduate pay out or even a small stipend evenly distributed among all players. Either way this problem gets solved, someone will be left out. It’s clear that college athletes are being used to make money, and it’s millions of dollars. Those athletes should be reimbursed in some way, either while in school or after. Hopefully the NCAA will step up at some point and make their best effort at correcting this situation.

     

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