When some people read the title of this post, they will immediately disagree and cling to phrases such as “student-athlete”, “amateurism”, “free education” and other falsifying phrases the NCAA uses to justify the exploitation of college athletes. Are major college athletes truly student-athlete’s? How would paying athletes affect amateurism? What is the cost of that so called free education to the colleges and universities that provide it?
I always hear people say that athletes shouldn’t get paid because they get a “free education” and get to play a sport they love. What does a “free education” mean exactly? As a former D1 athlete I will let the public in on a secret, its not free. Here is a list of things that come with this so called “free education”: 1) Waking up at 5:30 am to workout. 2) Having your class schedule dictated to you so that you never miss a practice. 3) Not being able to major in certain things because the core courses conflict with your practice or workout schedule. 4) Not being allowed to have a job, God forbid you want to take your significant other to dinner and a movie. 5) Not having the ability to do a summer internship because it conflicts with summer training and 7 on 7 drills. Wow, imagine that your son wants to do an internship because he is preparing for a future outside of football. Seems pretty fair doesn’t it? I think so, but coaches would disagree. If you are fortunate enough to get a D1 scholarship, make no mistake it a is a full-time job. There are no such thing as weekends or holidays. They don’t exist. People think working 40 hours a week at a 9a-5p job is hard, try being a D1 athlete in college. When something becomes a job, you can no longer claim it to be amateurism. If you fail a class, you can stay in school. If you skip practice for a few days, you will be kicked off the team. I don’t want to hear the student-athlete non sense. All the coaches care about is if you will be eligible to play in a bowl game or the sweet 16.
I went to Boston College where the total tuition currently is $65,644. Do you know how much the actual cost of attendance is for a student-athlete on a full scholarship? It is less than $4,000 a year. Something doesn’t add up. There are 85 scholarship football players per D1 program. That is about $340,000 per team. You mean to tell me that these schools are making millions and millions of dollars a year but it cost less than half a million dollars to provide scholarships for a whole D1 football team?
The NCAA earns about a billion dollars annually on what we like to call amateur athletics. They have multi-billion dollar agreements with major networks such as CBS and Turner Broadcasting. The individual conferences and schools have exclusive TV rights deals as well, earning universities millions and millions of dollars a year. That seems like a lot of money to go around, don’t you think? Where is all that money going? Why can’t the athletes get a piece of the proverbial pie?
Coaches and athletic directors are being paid millions of dollars while athletes get nothing. Tell me another industry that the people who have the talent and provide the entertainment make no money at all? I’ll wait. Think about this for a second. I believe there are only 4 states in the USA that a college coach is not the highest paid state employee. That is absolutely mind-boggling to me. The head coach of Alabama, Nick Saban, makes $7 million a year. He has 5 national championships, so I wouldn’t say that he didn’t earn it. All I am saying is that those players that helped him win those championships deserve some money as well.
To be clear, I am not advocating that all athletes get paid; just the really good ones. I am mainly talking about D1 college football and men’s college basketball. Any athletic team that can prove that they are a revenue producing sport for their university should be compensated accordingly. All athletes that play football and men’s basketball for a school in a Power 5 conference should be paid (ACC, SEC, Big 12, Big 10, PAC 12). I also believe that something should be worked out for schools in the other conferences as well but they should not receive the same compensation as the Power 5 athletes. Their schools do not get the same bowl invitations and do not receive the preferential treatment in seeding for the NCAA basketball tournament as the Power 5 school. I also believe there are many women’s teams that should be paid as well, such as women’s UCONN and Tennessee basketball programs for example. They have shown a sustained level of excellence and should be compensated for their hard work. I am all for equal rights for woman, but at the end of the day, their sports do not produce the same revenue as the men’s sports. That is not my opinion, that is just a fact of life. I know Title 9 defenders will fight this vigorously but numbers don’t lie.
Not only do I believe that these college athletes should be paid, but I also believe that they should be able to benefit from their likeness and free market. How many D1 athletes received a settlement check from the case the O’bannon brothers (former UCLA basketball players) brought against EA sports for using our likeness in NCAA video games? I did!!! Has anyone noticed that EA sports has not made an NCAA football or basketball game in years? It was an admission of guilt. They knowingly benefited and profited off of the likeness of collegiate athletes and made millions of dollars. The judge ruled in the athletes favor and claimed EA sports exploited collegiate athletes using their direct likeness and not properly compensating them. How is that any different to what universities do to athletes everyday? As athletes, we do charity events and sign countless autographs. Many people sell those autographs for money. Don’t you think that an athlete should be paid to sign autographs if someone is willing to pay them? America is about capitalism isn’t it? If the school is selling your jersey in the book store, shouldn’t that player be able to profit off of that? It seems like common sense, doesn’t it?
The biggest pushback I have heard about paying college athletes is “How do you do it?”. To be honest with you, I’m not sure, I just know it needs to be done as soon as possible. I can think of a few ways, one of which is giving athletes a stipend. We could also hold the money into a trust until after their college careers are over. We could incentivize the payment by only giving them to athletes who graduate. I’m sure that would appease the people stuck on the phrase “student-athlete”. The notion that paying players will give schools an unfair advantage in luring premier talent is ludicrous. Schools already have an unfair advantage. Take a look at University of Alabama’s football stadium and facilities, then drive to University of Alabama-Birmingham to see their facilities and tell me the advantage doesn’t already exist.
When the Northwestern football team tried to unionize, I believe they were on the right track. To be fair to coaches, most of the ones I know, believe D1 players should be paid. Hopefully one day the people calling the shots at the NCAA will see it as well.