The Gurley Predicament: Should NCAA Athletes be paid?

On October 9th, 2014 the University of Georgia indefinitely suspended star running back Todd Gurley for alleged violations of NCAA policy regarding signed memorabilia. With the recent suspension of Gurley, the question of whether or not student athletes should be paid for their work on the field has been brought further into the limelight.

According to the NCAA, (Bylaw 16.02.3) – An extra benefit is any special arrangement by an institutional employee or a representative of the institution’s athletic interests (including fans) to provide a student-athlete or the student-athlete’s relative or friend a benefit not expressly authorized by the NCAA legislation.

In a post 6 months ago on the CFB (College Football) subreddit of the aggregate media site Reddit, a post by an anonymous memorabilia dealer outlined how he used student athletes to profit from their signatures.  This anonymous dealer later said on September 27th that the player in question was “going overboard with getting paid.”  Comments on the Reddit post showed Ebay searches for signed memorabilia that found over 200 signed items from Todd Gurley while only 41 for Marcus Mariota and 30 for Melvin Gordon – all of which at the time were Heisman trophy candidates.   Two weeks later the University of Georgia indefinitely suspend running back Todd Gurley pending an NCAA investigation.  The NCAA found that Gurley must sit our a total of four games as per bylaws for accepting more than $3,000 in cash from multiple individuals for autographed memorabilia and other items over two years.

In the recent years, a myriad of student athletes involved in college football have been found guilty by the NCAA of receiving improper benefits and this isn’t the first time a UGA player has been suspended for the same infraction.  Wide receiver A.J. Green missed the first four games of the 2010 season because he sold his Independence Bowl jersey for $1000.  Whether or not these suspensions are warranted by the NCAA is up for discussion lately.

The controversy surrounding whether or not student athletes should be paid runs deep.  Some believe that schools would not be able to differentiate the money made from academic students – therefore, those who are paying for a degree would also be paying for the schools star running back, even if they had no interest in football or other sports.  However, others believe that the student athletes put in a large chunk of their time to the athletic program and are not able to hold another job while also attending school.  On one hand, the student athletes are receiving a free college degree, but it still comes with a price – the time an athlete puts into their sport can sometimes hurt their academic performance based on how much class they are required to miss.  Although the athletes themselves are not profiting from their work on the field, the schools are receiving massive benefits by having star players on their team.  Even after Georgia running back Todd Gurley was suspended by the University, a #3 jersey could be bought on the UGA bookstores website for $134.95.  Whether or not you believe student athletes should be paid, many believe there should be major changes in the NCAA bylaws regarding benefits that athletes can receive.


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