One of the biggest controversies in recent years in collegiate athletics surrounds the payment of college athletes. There have been far too many cases in which black-market payments have been made and for this reason the issue needs to be resolved. College athletes, by definition, are amateurs. Hence, they are not allowed to receive additional compensation for the sport they play, including salaries, endorsements, and memorabilia royalties. Opinions on this matter vary person to person. On one end, people believe that the privilege of a full-ride scholarship is enough payment and that in order to remain an amateur enterprise, student-athletes should not be paid. However, others point to the fact that student-athletes contribute to the massive revenue of the NCAA and deserve some of the money. Others argue that a majority of student-athletes live below the poverty line. The short answer to the question of whether athletes should be paid is no. However, it is a little more complicated than that. In this paper, I will discuss why student-athletes should not be paid, but also deserve the opportunity for endorsements and other methods of personal compensation.
There are two primary arguments for the payment of student-athletes. The NCAA has lucrative TV and endorsement deals that make hundreds of millions, even billions of dollars. The deal between the NCAA and CBS for the three weeks of March Madness totals $10.8 billion, and ESPN pays $500 million to the BCS (Wilbon). Of these billions of dollars, the players receive none. A 2011 study called “The Price of Poverty in Big Time College Sports,” found that “the average FBS football and basketball player would be worth approximately $121,048 and $265,027” (Huma 16). However, this simple fact, though truthful and valid, is far inferior to the importance of keeping college athletics amateur. Others would argue that college student-athletes are generally poorer and the full-ride scholarship doesn’t cover the price of college. It was found that 85% of college athletes lived in poverty and “full-ride” scholarship fell short by $3,222 annually (Huma 16). Again, these statistics are valid. They offer insight into some of the struggles of being a student-athlete. However, I would argue that student-athletes are not unique in this regard. Most college students in general come out of school with debt. Full-ride academic scholarships do not pay any more than full-ride athletic scholarships. True, student-athletes spend countless hours practicing, representing the university in competition, and essentially earning money for the school. However, college athletes are not meant to be tools for profit. Their primary objective is to receive an education. Considering all the preferential treatment most student-athletes on top of a free education, student-athletes should remain amateur and should not be paid. Student-athletes are exactly that: students who participate in varsity athletics. Theoretically, a prospective student-athlete does not attend college to play athletics; rather, they use their athletic prowess to earn a right to attend certain universities and receive a free education. These scholarships can value greater than $100,000, and in some instances, over $200,000, depending upon the tuition costs at a given university. The NCAA consistently releases new commercials with the same basic message: “There are over 400,000 NCAA student-athletes, and just about all of us will be going pro in something other than sports” (“Became a pro”). Student-athletes are there to earn a degree. While yes, a number of their high profile teammates will go on to play professionally in their respective sport, most will not. Students in college don’t compete for the paycheck. They compete for their love of the game. They compete for their school. The pride of winning for one’s self, teammates, coaches, university, and fans cannot be rivaled by the pride of playing for a