Home Business Governance Should Student-Athletes Be Paid? Views from Both Sides

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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  1. I am a college athlete myself, I play for the women’s soccer team at Gonzaga, and if my school were to replace scholarships with salaries the women’s soccer team would most likely cease to exist. Salaries are simply not as beneficial as scholarships would be in the realm of college athletics. Salaries would be subject to federal state tax which would be detrimental to both the schools and the athletes who would both be losing money. Additionally, paying college athletes whose brains are still considered not fully developed gives them full economic liberty to potentially make horrible decisions. With scholarships there is no question where the money is going, it is being invested into their future and showing them from a young age the importance of school and getting a degree, because like you said not a lot of athletes will make it professionally. So, wouldn’t you agree they should be forced to focus on school as well as athletics instead of given the opportunity to blow their money in the first few months?
    As I originally proposed I play women’s soccer and the fate of my sport as well as basically every other sport besides men’s basketball and football would be numbered if salaries were to replace scholarships based on market value. The only money generating sports are football and basketball and they help fund other sports throughout the school. Supporting taking the money that the school recycles back into programs for the athletes and given straight to only the top athletes would wipe out almost all sports.
    Additionally, salaries for top athletes would form a monopoly throughout the top revenue generating schools. No longer would there be a competitive atmosphere surrounding college sports because the few top schools that could offer the most money to incoming recruits will get all the best players. The schools that generate a revenue will only distance themselves more from the smaller schools that cannot compete with the offers of the money-making schools.
    Last but not least, paying college athletes based off their market value is unaffordable for colleges. The average division one athletic program loses eleven million dollars a year, so while it appears as if money is just floating around college athletics that is simply not true. It is not as if the money does not go back towards the players, it is used to provide scholarships, team travel, equipment, medical insurance, improve facilities, pay coaches and advisors, and help make their experience the best possible. While you argued that coach’s salaries are too high considering they aren’t the ones playing, I would say coming from a college athlete who valued the coach at the schools I was looking at extremely high, the coaches definitely matter and having a good one at your school definitely increases your quality of recruits and the team’s overall performance.
    People argue that college athletes are overworked and underpaid but replacing scholarships with salaries based off market value would not be rewarding hard work.

  2. As a student-athlete your job is to represent the school. I am firm in my belief that athletes should not be paid. Playing college sports is almost like having an internship. Most internships are unpaid and you must complete them in order to graduate. I do agree this will be a long debate amongst NCAA officials and others. The only way I could consider paying student-athletes is if all teams of the athletic department get paid as well.

  3. In my opinion, I feel that college athletes should remain unpaid. The term “student-athlete”, states that college athletes are students before they are athletes. In order to play college sports, students must maintain the grades to do so. College athletes are going to college to prepare themselves for the future. Some may have a dream of become a professional athlete but others may have a dream of becoming a doctor or lawyer. Either way most college athletes stop playing competitively after college because they have found a job relating to their college degree. Only a small percentage of college athletes play professionally, and when those athletes do get that opportunity they will be getting enough money from their team and sponsors to be set for life. Plus, I feel that if college athletes start getting paid, it would take the fun out of the sport itself.

  4. Based on the article I have read and my personal experiences playing Division I and II collegiate sports I agree that athletes should be paid. Society does not make a big topic about collegiate students that have earned full academic scholarships and still has the opportunity to have a job during college. Having the athletes being paid would be equivalent to an athlete having a part-time job during college to cover the cost for basic college needs. Needs such as food after the cafe has closed, gas money for travel, money for personal needs and so on. Athletes need to be compensated more for what they do and bring to the university.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.


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