For quite some time now, there has been a big debate about whether or not college athletes should be paid. Some people believe that a scholarship should be payment enough. After all, a scholarship can be easily worth $15,000 – $25,000 or more per year, plus a career after college that can be worth a million dollars over a lifetime. Additionally, student athletes receive all kinds of perks while they are in college, like staying at fancy hotels, being seen on national tv, and all of the notoriety that goes with being a stare athlete. Its hard to put a price tag on all of that.
However, considering the fact that certain college sports generate millions of dollars for college athletic programs, many people believe the athletes are being used. If the average football scholarship is worth $20,000 per year, yet the university gains $70,000 per year in revenue per scholarship player (please note that this figure is just an estimate – the actual number may actually be higher), the university will profit $50,000 per year, per scholarship player, or $200,000 over a four year period.
It is very difficult to put a numeric value on exactly how much an athlete is worth to a college. A star quarterback will not only help sell tickets, but will bring in plenty of merchandise sales as well. The NCCA won’t allow the universities to sell a college football jersey with a player’s name on it, but they will sell the jersey with the player’s number on it, which is easily recognizable in local, and sometimes national markets. The major colleges earn enormous sums of money on this kind of merchandise alone, yet the student athlete who’s number is being used to sell merchandise will not see one dime of the profits. To say that the student athlete isn’t being exploited in this situation is an understatement.
It goes way beyond that. College athletic programs rake in millions from television and advertising contracts. They also bring in millions of dollars of donations from sports boosters. Yes, salaries need to be paid to athletic directors and coaches, not to mention travel and other costs for the student athletes, and it is great that major college football and basketball programs help fund non-revenue athletic programs. However, the fact of the matter is that, compared to the amount of revenue that student athletes generate for their colleges, what they receive in return is very small.
Here’s where it gets really interesting. An athlete can be “disciplined” for selling their tickets to a fan on game day, yet how much money do the directors of the NCAA earn as a result of the efforts of the student athletes? The reality is that the college athletes quite literally pay for a large portion of the salaries of every person employed by the NCAA. If an executive from the NCAA is able to drive a Mercedes, he can thank a star quarterback or running back for that, and perhaps even several walk ons.
So here is the point: if the NCAA, coaches, and athletic directors can earn huge sums of money from the student athletes, shouldn’t student athletes have a piece of the pie too? This isn’t to say that college athletes should get paid large amounts of money, but it would definitely be nice if their scholarships would pay them a little extra to go out for pizza every once and a while, or buy some nice clothes – just a little extra spending cash as a way of saying “thanks” for their efforts.
If for some reason college athletes could be paid, that opens up a whole new can of worms. All of the athletes on a football team with 125 players work very hard in practice, but only 11can start on offense and defense – do you only pay the starters?. Additionally, if you were to pay more to the star quarterback than you do for an “ok” receiver, you are going to run into a lot of other problems. Having said this, the first thing you want to avoid with paying college athletes is student athletes squabbling how much money they earn or should earn, which happens frequently in the NFL.
The second thing you want to avoid is an uneven playing field. While some colleges at the division I level could afford to pay athletes, many simply don’t bring in enough revenue. If a student athlete knows he can earn more at USC than he will if he plays for his state university, then the playing field becomes more uneven than it already is. Athletes would almost always choose the “money schools” over other colleges. Technically, this happens today more than people realize, because colleges with the most tradition, best coaches, and the best records are usually the colleges with the most money…but, if one college could afford to pay more to athletes than other colleges, the playing field would be even more uneven.
If you are going to start paying athletes, all of the athletes need to be paid the same amount of money, and all of the colleges would need to have the same amount of money to pay their athletes with, which could be pre-determined by the NCAA. Even if this amount was a small amount like $1,000 PER YEAR, per player (which totals ($125,000 per year for a college football team with 125 players), paid every month during the school year, it would be a lot more fair to the student athletes…and most colleges at the Division I level could certainly afford it. For the few colleges that couldn’t afford it, the NCAA could always put up the extra money out of the millions it generates from the bowl game. Another alternative would be to cut the salaries of every executive of the NCAA who has gotten rich off of NCAA athletics by 25%- and give the difference to the athletes…
Most of this article focused on college football programs. The revenues that are generated from basketball programs are even more staggering, considering that the teams, are smaller, the travel expenses are less expensive, and that fewer scholarships need to be handed out, making the profits that the NCAA earns from college basketball programs even more staggering.