In recent months, the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) and member institutions have been under scrutiny as a rash of scandals have rocked college athletics. The nature of these issues stem from the debate surrounding student athletes maintaining their amateur status as there have been calls to allow schools to pay their players. Two contributors weigh in on whether the NCAA should pay student athletes.
College athletes should be paid
According to the NCAA, there are now more than 450,000 student athletes competing in various leagues and conferences across the United States. While the NCAA emphasizes that most students athletes tend to be focused on the former half of their title as opposed to the latter, it often seems as though the opposite is true.
Many NCAA athletes train on a level that is at or near that of a professional athlete. These are not regular students. While there are caps on the number of hours that a team can play, practice, or train on any given day, they do not account for the time an athlete will spend training on his or her own. But for all the time that they commit to their sport and their school, student athletes cannot be compensated under current NCAA rules. In fact, they can’t even make money off of their own name—although both the NCAA and the schools are able to.
The argument is often made that student athletes are ‘paid.’ According to some, their scholarships plus access to top quality facilities account for enough, but the vast majority of NCAA athletes are not Johnny Manziel. They aren’t on full scholarship, and they couldn’t sell autographs even if they tried. In fact, a comprehensive report from the National College Players Association called The Price of Poverty in Big Time College Sport concluded that 86 per cent of college athletes live below the poverty line. Unlike regular students, student athletes can’t hold a part-time job during the school year.
College sports are a billion-dollar industry. It makes sense that the people driving the industry should receive fair compensation. Paying student athletes a salary would be a huge boost for those who aren’t on full scholarship.
For the past few years, the NCAA has run a commercial explaining that most student athletes “will be going pro in something other than sports.” For those that do go pro, large salaries are commonplace. Often, especially in football and basketball, these players have not been properly equipped to manage this money. According to a Sports Illustrated article from 2009, about 60 per cent of former NBA players declare bankruptcy within five years of retirement. There are a number of factors that contribute to this, but a lack of experience handling money is certainly a part of it.
In response, schools—or even the NCAA—could set up programs to help players learn about how to take care of their money. This experience would be invaluable—not just for future professional athletes, but for those entering other fields as well. Perhaps with such a program, we would see fewer retired professional athletes in the news for negative reasons.
A system where student athletes receive a salary would require a lot of thought and certainly won’t appear for at least a couple of years, but it is high time that these top-tier athletes get paid what they’re truly worth.
– Wyatt Fine-Gagné
Maintain amateur status
For years, there have been highly vocal members of the sports community who believe that NCAA Division 1 student athletes should be paid for their integral role in the multibillion-dollar college athletics business. With athletes such as Johnny Manziel and Anthony Davis taking the nation by storm with their captivating play, this argument is once again at the forefront of sports discussions. In addition, the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit and the rash of scandals involving illegally paying athletes gained this issue enough traction that it has the potential to reshape the NCAA. I hope to put this argument to rest once and for all by advocating that student athletes in the NCAA should not be paid.
It is important to remember that all NCAA athletes are student athletes, with ‘student’ coming first. No matter which school they attend, athletes are still enroled at an academic institution dedicated to higher learning. Colleges need to treat their athletes as students and not as assets, like their professional counterparts do. By paying their athletes, colleges would be sending the message that playing sports is more important than getting an education; this is a message that we cannot afford to send to the future generation. With less than two per cent of college athletes going on to play professionally, colleges must ensure that their student athletes focus on getting the best education possible so that they are prepared to succeed in whatever career path they choose after earning their degree.
In addition, what some fail to realize is that the majority of student athletes are already being paid for the work they do. Student athletes who are attending college on a scholarship are receiving free tuition, books, housing, and meal plans. On top of that, they receive professional level coaching, strength and fitness training, as well as support from athlete trainers and physical therapists. The sum of the costs of this total package can max-out at anywhere between $50,000 and $100,000 per year. It is clear that the benefits NCAA student athletes receive indeed constitute ‘payment.’
A final point to think about is the message that colleges would send to other students by paying their athletes. If American colleges began paying their student athletes, they would be belittling the work of every other student in the institution. What sort of message is being sent when a quarterback on the football team gets a paycheck for throwing touchdowns, while other students labour through all-nighters studying for MCATs in order to fulfill non-athletic dreams without getting paid? It is certainly not fair to reward only athletic achievements with monetary compensation while ignoring the achievements of others.
NCAA student athletes are not professional athletes. They are students, some of them barely out of high school. Colleges have to recognize that student athletes are still learning valuable life lessons, such as how to manage money. That is why NCAA athletes should not be paid.
– Drew Allen
Editors’ pick: pay the students
Although long-standing tradition dictates that college athletes should maintain their amateur status, college athletics have developed into a wildly lucrative industry. However, the system still operates on a flawed business model that assumes little to no revenue. Therefore, colleges must be willing to adapt to the realities that institutions and students face today.