(Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

 

Today, with the ever-increasing presence and influence of social media, the NCAA faces the issue of whether or not to pay college athletes. The current ruling on this matter is that the NCAA does not permit players to be paid or sponsored, as they would lose their amateur ranking, and paying athletes would jeopardize the integrity and equality of the NCAA.

The business of the NCAA, which is synonymous with entertainment due to its large fan base, is a multi-million dollar machine, raking in thousands of dollars with each event.

Because of this, many question the NCAA for not paying the athletes who bring in so much money from fans. Contrary to many trending beliefs, I believe that paying college athletes would be both detrimental to the games we love and financially unjust. 

Collegiate sports are the realistic and ideal opportunity for promising athletes to pursue their athletic aspirations while simultaneously receiving a phenomenal education. The NCAA pays for athletes on scholarship to attend school and permits them to pursue their athletic aspirations.

Zion Williamson, the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft from Duke, is a viral icon. In a recent game, Williamson was injured, prompting discussions from many industry professionals on whether or not college athletes should receive pay.

Professional athletes DeMarcus Cousins and Donovan Mitchell voiced their thoughts that the freshman should protect himself and take his talents to the professional ranks.  

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell tweeted, “Again let’s remember all the money that went into this game … and these players get none of it … and now Zion gets hurt … something has to change.

Furthermore, the Warriors’ center, who played only a year of college ball, DeMarcus Cousins, stated that “College is bullshit. College basketball, the NCAA, is bullshit. My advice to him is to do what’s best for you and your family. Obviously college … it does nothing for you at this point. You’ve proven you’re the No. 1 pick. You’ve proven your talent. You’re ready for the next level.”

These words paint a picture that shows one side of the argument. If college athletes get hurt before they go pro, then they can say goodbye to any career that they might have had. By not getting paid, the NCAA is simply promoting an environment where athletes can compete at the highest level without the added pressure of professional play.

The NCAA supports the dreams of student athletes all around the country, regardless of whether or not they are destined to be professionals.

The Denver Post, in an article entitled “College athletes are students, not employees” powerfully intimates the purpose of college sports with the statement, “About 98 percent of the college students who play football or basketball will go pro in something other than sports … They know college athletics is preparing them for successful lives and careers because of the experiences they enjoy and the education they receive.”

The NCAA must prioritize the education of student athletes in order to maintain their standing in the eyes of those who represent the foundation of the NCAA. Student athletes must receive acknowledgement for their being students, in addition to their athletic feats. 

Financial and opportunity inequality would riddle the NCAA if they decided to pay athletes. This argument seems to forget the NCAA pays for the student athletes and their educations if they are on scholarship, and those asking for money are certainly on scholarship. Financially, how can schools of all sizes, conferences and divisions manage to pay their athletes equally?

Furthermore, programs across individual schools have different budgets for their respective sports. For example, Alabama football is a powerhouse, loaded with top recruits all throughout their 97-man roster, and due to their success, their paydays could be larger than that of the Alabama tennis team, who also competes against the very same SEC competition.  

Would the players on the most revered programs at each school get paid more than their fellow student athletes on the same campus? What if some schools have deeper pockets, allowing them to pay the athletes more, would the balance of power shift even further to the already dominant?

NPR, in an interview entitled “The Madness of March,” suggests that players receiving payment for play would only enlarge financial inequality. In paying collegiate athletes, there is an inevitable disparity created between players and sports, causing conflict in recruiting and how coaches lure players to their schools.

By paying athletes to do what they love, does the money for their scholarships disappear? Many schools do not have the money to dispense to every athlete while they pay for those very same athletes to attend school, and create a backup plan outside of sports.

Collusion, conflict and inequality are some words that would describe the NCAA if they were to pay their athletes. Many complain the NCAA is selfish and unfair to not pay the athletes who risk their careers from injuries. However, the NCAA’s colleges provide the very same student athletes far more jobs and opportunities outside of their sport by paying for their education. The NCAA does an admirable job supporting thousands of athletes both on and off the field.

l.thulin@dailyutahchronicle.com

@LeifThulin

2 COMMENTS

  1. What if rather than being paid they were offered a safety net, of sorts. If a student athlete is injured in connection with the sport that they are playing, the school is responsible for them finishing their undergraduate degree. This circumvents the issue of financial inequality as cheaper/more expensive schools have cheaper/more expensive tuition, housing, etc. This is of course predicated on the student making progress and passing their classes.

    The student athlete loses their chance to go pro, they at least get to finish school. Like life insurance, they get their school covered in the event that their athletic career dies. There would be many aspects to work out, like what constitutes academic progress, whether it includes seriously injured athletes that could come back but decide not to, etc.

  2. It’s interesting this article assumes that inequality is a bad thing. It’s not necessarily.
    I also wonder how paying athletes might affect which of the better athletes go where. Maybe many of the better athletes would want to go to schools where they could get paid the most, which wouldn’t necessarily be all of the schools who already have the top athletic programs. If you look at the wealthiest universities in terms of endowments received, the wealthiest universities are not the traditional sports powerhouses (https://www.nonprofitcollegesonline.com/wealthiest-universities-in-the-world/). They are universities like Harvard and Yale. I wonder if these universities would attract more athletes in athletes were paid. I would have to look more into the topic.
    As far as Alabama football and tennis go, of course, the Alabama football players would get paid more. People actually care a whole lot about Alabama football compared to a lot fewer people who have considered the fact that this school has a tennis team. You write, “[H]ow can schools… pay their athletes equally?” They can’t. And why would you assume that they need to?? Plus, they don’t “pay” athletes equally as it is now. There are more scholarships and full-scholarships available in the programs that people care about most (i.e., men’s football and basketball). If you turn NCAA athletics into a free market then people will suddenly be paid what they are worth. That’s how the free market works. And this is equitable because it is in accordance with that person’s value in bringing money to a university.
    These things said, I would have to look into the issue more to know whether I think college athletes should be paid.
    I like the point that most college athletes go pro in something other than sports and agree that a college education is important for these athletes. I wonder how their education would be impacted, if at all, for receiving money on top of their scholarships.

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