College Athletes Deserve to be Paid

By Sam Boorstyn ’16

The National Collegiate Athletic Association, (NCAA), is an organization that runs and regulates intercollegiate athletics. Around 351 member schools are classified as Division 1. These schools collectively generate billions of dollars a year, yet their players see none of this money. This is due to NCAA rules that state that amateurs may not be paid for playing. This system maximizes the revenue for the schools while supposedly “protecting” the players from the influences of professionalism and those who wish to take advantage of them.

NCAA players, the ones that put them on the line to generate billions without seeing a dime, must be paid. There isn’t a logical argument to be made that proves to the contrary. Amateur and student-athlete classifications are simply ways that the NCAA can continue to maximize profits and continue to cheat their athletes out of payment.

On average the NCAA and its members generate over $12 billion per year.  The NCAA also has an incredibly high rate of growth, faster than that of corporate giant McDonald’s. If the sheer magnitude of the NCAA’s revenue wasn’t enough, these billions of dollars are also tax-free as the NCAA is classified as a not-for-profit organization.

In turn, one might ask where these billions of dollars end up. For starters NCAA president Mark Emmert receives a comfortable $1.7 million for his services. Though in comparison with many NCAA coaches, this is simply chump change.  According to a report by USA Today, in 2014, there were 27 NCAA football coaches that received over $3 million dollars.  Alabama’s Nick Saban received an astounding $6,950,203 salary.  In 2014 Alabama had 85 scholarship football players, per NCAA rules. According to the Alabama football website, there are 16 in-state players as well as 69 out-of-state.  According to the University of Alabama’s website, in-state all-inclusive tuition costs $12,591 and out-of-state tuition totals $20,153.  Therefore the scholarships of Alabama’s total roster add up to around $1,592,013. Adding insult to injury, the money that is theoretically being paid by the university for these scholarships is a sum that is generated by the school and in turn paid to the school, yielding a total loss of $0. The university in turn generated $143 million in 2013 solely from athletics, most of which  makes up the sum that they coughed up to Coach Saban and the theoretical dollars spent on athletic scholarships well worth it to say the least.

The NCAA and its member schools make a large chunk of their revenue from selling the TV rights to their games.  For example, sports media mogul ESPN reached a deal with the NCAA to broadcast the College Football Playoff for the next 12 years.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the deal is worth approximately $5.64 billion. How much of this money did the players who will be playing their hearts out on the field receive from this lucrative deal? You guessed it, nothing. As part of the scholarship contract that Division 1 players sign each year to renew their scholarships, they sign away their consent to be on television for commercial use by the NCAA and its affiliates.  Though if these athletes want to play Division 1 sports, they have no choice in the matter.

The claim made by the NCAA on the matter of student athletes is feeble at best.  The argument is simply that NCAA Division 1 athletes can’t be paid because they are amateurs (those who play without receiving payment).  They are amateurs because the NCAA rules say that they have to be amateurs in order to be eligible.  So in layman’s terms, the NCAA’s argument is that their players can’t be paid because the NCAA says they can’t.  This circular reasoning only goes further to show the hilarity of the NCAA’s continued resistance to entertaining the idea of giving their players a piece of the lucrative pie that is revenue from college sports.

When it all comes down to it, the players ARE college sports. There wouldn’t be billions of dollars in revenue, or TV deals, or Nike sponsorships without the players working their absolute hardest to achieve athletic excellence.  Though there isn’t a perfect way to configure a payment plan, some change needs to happen. Whether it is a percentage of the revenue awarded to all players equally, or a system that divvies out money according to a school or player’s value, something needs to be done.  I’ll leave you with this to think about: How is it that the student body president of a college can receive payment from the school, though a college basketball superstar who brings in millions for his school is left without money for food after winning a game?


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