Amateurism in college athletics is still the answer
The debate over whether college athletes should be paid by their universities or if the current amateurism system should continue to be used is a very recent issue that has caused a large uproar. NCAA football and basketball video games are no longer in production because of a lawsuit filed by a former college athlete, who sued the NCAA for using his likeness to generate massive amounts of revenue without him seeing any of that money. From this lawsuit, college athletes, both current and former, have started to ask why they are not receiving “any” compensation for the large amounts of money that they bring in to their respective universities. I put any in quotations because these athletes are getting incentives that normal students do not see: state of the art athletic facilities, clothing, housing; some universities even provide meal plans all four years. All of this is on top of receiving partial, if not full, scholarships to pay for their schooling–schooling that costs normal students as much as $200,000 by the end of their four years. Now you might be thinking, if they get all of these things and a free education that can set them up for success for the rest of their lives, what leg do they possibly have to stand on by asking for monetary compensation for playing? Well, there are some things to consider.
A normal day for a student athlete differs significantly from the life of a normal student. There are morning weights to start the day, a full day of classes, practice, and film all before going home to get started on the homework and studying that they are expected to complete similarly to a normal student. And let’s not forget about having to travel for road games or tournaments and missing class lectures, so increase the studying a bit more in order to just play catch-up. For a normal student, certain degrees require twice as many hours of studying every week for every hour of class time, and normal students complain about the time commitments that they have to put in. The mental toll that this can take on a growing young adult is immense. On top of all of this, a normal student might find themselves able to find time to get a part-time job in order to help pay for schooling or have a little bit of extra spending money. College athletes do not have the time for that because any free time that they might have outside of school is consumed by their sport. I have experience working as a manager for a college sports team; I had the same schedule that they had minus the morning weights and my academic performance that year was severely hampered because there simply were not enough hours in the day to do everything that I needed to do for the team and maintain my 4 year graduation status. They are not normal college students but are still expected to perform at the same academic level as someone who is.
Another argument for paying college athletes is that the universities that they play for, whose crest they wear with pride, make incredible amounts of money promoting their sporting events. According to ESPN, in 2008, the Alabama Crimson Tide had revenues of over $120 million. 120 million dollars in revenues and players complain about going nights without food? The NCAA, an organization that claims to be a non-profit, sees millions, nearly billions, of dollars come their way in licensing and promotion for college football games alone each year. With all of this money coming in, surely there has to be some to spare for these athletes that put their bodies on the line day in and day out.
With all of this being said, I am staunchly and adamantly against paying college athletes. Let me start by addressing the issue of time management. I agree that there needs to be something done here to help student athletes better be able to accomplish everything that they need to do in the classroom. As it stands now, athletes are given 5 years to complete 4 years of athletic play. This allows for red-shirting a season in case of injury or lack of playing time, allowing for a player a fifth year of eligibility. It is asking a lot to force these athletes to complete a full course-load on top of their athletic obligations. What if the rule was changed to 6 years of eligibility to complete 5 years of athletic play? This way, a player is allowed to take a lighter course-load each semester to accommodate for the time commitment required to be a student athlete.
A question that I have for people asking for compensation from universities for participating in athletics is this: Would all college athletes receive the same compensation? Or would the compensation for each athlete be based on the level at which they are playing and which sport they are playing? Would a football player in the SEC make more than one in the Big 12 who would make more than a D2 football player? Because if that is the case, who would play anywhere other than the best division possible and in the best conference? This differing payment system would completely ruin competition in college athletics because hardly anybody in their right mind would take less money somewhere else.
Now let’s look at the bigger picture. Being a student and graduating from college is a feat that not everybody has the chance to pursue and is one that is statistically proven to greatly improve the quality of life you will have in your future. More companies will employ you, your salary will increase, and more opportunities open up when you have a college degree. So if a college comes to you and says that they will pay for your full college education so long as you agree to play a sport for them, how is that not incentive enough to play a sport? How is setting you up for untold future success in anything you should want to pursue not an adequate payment? The reality of the situation is that hardly anybody makes it to play professionally. There are fewer than 1700 professional NFL players (excluding practice players). With over 300 D1 professional football programs, and including the sporadic D2 and D3 players that make it into the NFL, the odds are astronomically small of making it professionally. And those numbers are just for football, but the same concept can apply to any professional sport. The odds are supremely high that any given college athlete will never play professionally.
But by playing in college, they are afforded the chance to pursue an avenue in the real world to be successful in FOR FREE. FREE. What could be better than that? I, as a normal human being, have to pay great deals of money in order to pursue these same real world avenues and would kill (figure of speech) to have the same opportunity these athletes have. Unfortunately, an education does not hold the same value that it once did. Certain households and regions around the United States place a significantly smaller importance on education than they do on athletics, and these are largely the same people who are calling for compensation for college athletes.
While there are a lot of problems with the way that college athletes are treated in terms of the expectations placed on them and the demands they have to meet, amateurism is the only feasible way for college athletics to be run. Change the rules surrounding the athletes to allow them to better accomplish everything that they must, but do not start paying them to be athletes. It is unfortunate that people do not value the blessings that they are given in terms of a free education, but that should not be the fault of the university. The rest of the world realizes the importance of a college degree, and it is vastly more important than making a few thousand dollars now.