Student-Athletes are asking “Where’s the money?”

If someone approached you and asked you to dedicate a large portion of your time to a project, but you would not receive any compensation for it, would you say yes? If they were to then tell you they would make a good amount of money off your name and likeness and talent, and you still would not see any money enter your bank account, you would probably say “absolutely not.” This is to many what the National College Athletic Association and schools do with their student-athletes. Colleges and universities make millions thanks to their teams, but not a dime goes to those who work so hard for success for the school. On the other hand, these students usually get scholarships for a free education, which is after all, the main point of academic institutions. The exposure these athletes experience through national television time and learning from the best of the best gives them a chance to win professional sporting contracts and that right there is another benefit they experience. It’s an interesting argument, especially for someone like me who is not a student athlete. I believe that if I were it would change my opinion but I’ll take a quick look at both sides from an outsider’s point of view.

Probably the strongest point being made currently in this debate for the need for student athletes to be paid is the recent college-action lawsuit against the NCAA and the five most powerful athletic conferences filed by four college athletes. It argues, “universities should have the option of paying players” (Weisbrod, 2013). They claim that the NCAA’s ban on compensation is an illegal cartel depriving the student athletes of a chance to be paid for the money they generate for their colleges. Put in layman’s terms, they’re tired of working endlessly only for no monetary reward.

For example, the television contract for the NCAA Division 1 basketball tournament brings in roughly $750 million per year. If your athletic conference has teams that advance far into the tournament, you will receive millions of dollars in payouts from the NCAA. Coaches get that too. Six billion dollars annually is how much the NCAA makes as a whole. Ridiculous amounts of money are being made so can student-athletes still be considered amateurs?

Ellen Staurowsky, a professor of sports management at Drexel University, says that “the term student-athletes is just propaganda to avoid paying athletes.” When the NCAA first began scholarships for college sports in 1953, it formulated a plan of pay-for-play through those scholarships but that it purposely limited student-athletes’ rights to be workers. Years later though, as hundreds of millions are being made from college athletics, the NCAA rules controlling the players needs to change to let them receive some of the financial benefits.

Wait a minute, don’t these young adults get to go to school free of charge (most of the time), play a sport they love and get attention from potential professional leagues? To many, that should be enough. Their scholarships almost always cover tuition, fees, room and board and textbooks according to the NCAA. Add on top of that expert coaching, frequent meals, non-uniform clothing, free medical consultation, free access to state-of-the-art training facilities and free professional development such as media relations, life skills, and they’re still asking for money?

Jeffrey Dorfman from Forbes explained in a column that student-athletes can receive up to $125,000 per year in compensation from their respective colleges. That surely beats most jobs the average students work in order to help pay for school. You can even think of playing on a college team as like an unpaid internship for other students (Block, 2013), except those don’t tend to come with a full-ride.

I can see both sides. Working free isn’t usually one’s idea of a good time. However, at least at my internships, I’m not subject to fan ridicule and angry supporters. In addition, the companies I intern for aren’t making money off my face, my name, my persona, etc. If they were, I may want at least a portion of that. I own my image and brand, don’t I? Then again, when college tuition is extremely expensive and being admitted is competitive, I don’t like hearing that they aren’t receiving anything. They will often coast through university without dropping a single dime on things relating to their education, the thing that will help them in life if they are to not make it on to the big leagues. Even if they do, it’s a valuable thing to have to your name and could help them once their playing days are done. I think this will be a very interesting debate for years to come, one that won’t have a clear ending or a majority opinion.


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