Contemporary Issues in Sports

by Jacob Oldaker

In sports today there are a variety of issues that sports officials, universities, and NCAA associates must understand and deal with on a day to day basis. One of the most controversial issue in contemporary sports is whether college athletes should be allowed to receive compensation for their performance on the court. NCAA players are currently prohibited to receive salaries while participating in college athletics, but some feel that since these athletes are the ones bringing in all the money to campuses then they should be thusly rewarded. On the other side of the argument comes the facts of how paying “STUDENT-athletes” to play would take away from the true meaning of going to college, getting an education. Also, many students would be quick to choose power house schools like Duke, Ohio State, Alabama who could pay the highest salaries instead of picking the school that would offer them the best education for their field’s major. Both sides of the issue provide pros and cons for college sports and college athletes. One side, defends the student side of student athlete and how NCAA players receiving money for their performance would take away from the college-athlete experience. The counter would argue that the athletes are the ones working the hardest in college and also the ones that provide the most income at universities; and therefore, they should be rewarded for the amount of work they put into the classroom and what they do to represent and provide for their school. In defending, the student athlete receives president over rewarding college level student-athletes with financial benefactors.

Each year athletic programs at the NCAA and college level generate billions in profits, but student athletes who are the key component to these profits never see a penny. Thomas Lott, Prominent NBA Players weigh in on whether NCAA players should be paid,, (Last visited Mar. 21, 2018). Many people involved would argue at least part of the monies generated should be granted as compensation to student athletes. Unfortunately, handing a check to collegiate athletes each month is not a simple process or necessarily positive for college athletics. The first problem with paying college players is the recruiting market because it would be killed. If an 18-year-old heading to college had the option of playing close to home or playing at a big university and making thousands of dollars; then they would easily choose the large university who is able to compensate their athletes beyond scholarship funding. Id. When college athletes choose their college, the decision should never be based solely on how much money they will be able to generate for themselves through scholarships, and paychecks if college athletes were to eventually receive salaries. College is in fact a privilege that is earned, not simply bestowed upon someone for being an exceptional athlete. Paul Daugherty stated, “Scholarship was expected. It was, after all, what I was there for.” Id. Despite not being a college athlete, he was fulfilling the true role of a student which takes precedence in student-athlete. The next issue concerning paying student athletes involves the amount of privileges they are granted, and the amount of networking they are able to do by simply being a part of a large division one sports program. As an athlete at a large, successful university in the sports field, one is able to audition for prospective employees each day they set foot on the court or field. Id. Many times this audition does not consist of four years because athletes are able to pass the audition blessed upon them and move on to professional leagues to make large sums of money. Along with the idea of auditioning, athletes who make it to the top never have to compile a resume because their game is their resume. Id. Even while traveling in chartered jets or visiting first-class hotels or tropical islands, athletes are burnishing their resume instead of having to sit through hours of class and go above and beyond to have a superior resume like the typical college student. Lastly, athletes are blessed with private tutors, private study lounges, and many times are able to be placed in privileged classes for their benefit. Id. I am not saying the life of a college athlete is not difficult, but colleges have implemented a variety of benefits for their well being, to help them to continue being good students. So, money does not need to be added in compensation for college athletes because they are not professional athletes; they should instead be professional students. The next and probably most significant issue with paying college athletes is money. Duncan Currie explained, “…Paying them would be a logistical nightmare; indeed, it would prove impossible to devise a truly ‘fair’ revenue-distribution scheme. There are better ways to make college sports more equitable.” Madisen Martinez, Should College Athletes Be Paid? Both Sides of the Debate,, (Last visited Mar. 21, 2018). Not only is developing a breakdown of how much to pay athlete nearly impossible, but the biggest question still remains. Where would the money come from to pay salaries for college athletes? A breakdown of major athletic organizations showed, ” Between 2004-2009, fewer than 7 percent of all Division I sports programs generated positive net revenue, according to NCAA data. Id. Fewer than 12 percent of all FBS schools–14 out of 120–did so in fiscal year 2009. Id. For that matter, the NCAA reports that only 50 percent to 60 percent of FBS football and basketball programs make money. Id. With these numbers, it would be impossible for universities, in the negative after the sports year, to generate yet another fund to pay athletes. The numbers also point back towards recruiting, would it be fair for only half of the FBS schools to be paying their athletes wages? These schools would easily swoop up the best talent and take away from the competitiveness and fairness of the college game. Another issue with only some schools offering salary to their players is the effects it would bring into playing concerning the laws of title IX. Woman’s sports would be underrepresented along with the other male sports that are not division I basketball or football. Id. So, paying athletes in that sense would not be plausible because it violates NCAA rules. As a college athlete it is hard to disagree with an opportunity that in the long run could be truly beneficial, but as a college student-athlete, student is the priority. People come to college to obtain an education and better their chances of finding a successful job in the future; not immediately start their job in college by being paid to play in an extracurricular sport.

As a counter, some feel that college athletes are deserving of money for their play. Every year college athletics generates billions of dollars, and therefore the kids leaving it all on the court and in the classroom should be able to see at least part of the large sums they generate. Michael Wilbon, College Athletes Deserve to be Paid,, (Last visited Mar. 21, 2018). Michael Wilbon feels, “…football and men’s basketball players get paid; lacrosse, field hockey, baseball players get nothing. You know what that’s called? Capitalism.” Id. The real world is not fair, for example, Nick Saban will make roughly $6 million this year which will by far exceed the most distinguished professor’s life time earnings at the university. Id. The idea of paying these athletes is solely focused around players on revenue-producing teams. Id. The players are the people who make the lucrative television and internet right fees wholly possible says Wilbon. Id. Another issue about college athletes is their inability to acquire gifts or benefits from the outside world. Wilbon states, “If somebody is willing to give A.J. Green $750 or $1000 for his Georgia Bulldogs jersey, fine, good. If one of his teammates, a tackle, can only fetch $50 for his jersey, then it’ll be a good marketing lesson for the both of them. It is called supply and demand.” Id. All of these lessons apply to the real world, supply and demand and capitalism are issues dealt with every day and there is no reason college athletes should not be able to partake and work with in these concepts. In fact, college athletes are adults and should be allowed to make their own decisions. Allen Sack (former Notre Dame football player) agrees wholeheartedly with Wilbon in saying, “no good reason exists for preventing athletes from engaging in the same entrepreneurial activities as their celebrity coaches. Big time college athletes should be able to endorse products, get paid for speaking engagements and be compensated for the use of their likenesses on licensed products. They should be allowed to negotiate an actual contract with the N.B.A. as part of a final project in a finance class, and have an agent.” Id. In retrospective, college athletics is a money-making field and without the athletes there would be no income of money. If a music student goes out one summer and strikes a lucrative deal worth $50,000, who objects? The music student is still a college student despite the deal, which would be the same case scenario for student athletes. According to Wilbon, college athletes, in the two revenue producing sports, have always exceeded the sum of tuition, room, board, and books. Id. One prime example came from the Big 10 which has,” …a television network that has become the model for every conference in America, a network worth at least tens of millions of dollars…yet no player can benefit from that work. The players have become employees of the universities and conferences as much as student-employees with no compensation, which not only violates common decency but perhaps even the law.” Id. Like an employee receives a weekly paycheck for the services he provides for a company, athletes should also be justly compensated. College athletes should not be forced to work both in the classroom for the betterment of their future, but also for millions upon millions of dollars that is distributed throughout the NCAA and universities and not see a penny. Working for free is something no person wants to do or even supports happening to others. Since college sports have become such a monetary power, the NCAA would do justice in reevaluating their jurisdiction on what players can receive in compensation for their performances. College athletics are simply going to continue growing, and college athletes should be included in the steps forward involving money, not left behind to reap non-existent benefits.

The NCAA would not have to pay athletes as a solution to the controversial issue over whether college athletes should be paid but solutions have been proposed including salaries for students. Michael Wilbon proposed the first possible solution which involved the $10.8 billion deal between the NCAA and CBS sports for March Madness from 2011-2024. Id. This deal breaks down to roughly $257 million for just three weekends of basketball a year. Id. Also, ESPN just entered into a deal that pays the BCS $500 million. Id. Wilbon suggests making those deals worth $10 billion which still leaves sufficient funds for coverage and broadcasting. Id. After all expenses have been paid, the NCAA would be left with $1.3 billion to invest, shelter, and make available as a stipend for college athletes. Id. No person would willingly argue paying the players who are the ones making the college events possible each year. The next possible solution involves the scholarship funding offered to college athletes. According to PBS,” The average scholarship falls about $3000 short of covering an athlete’s essential college expenses.” Id. With this in mind, the NCAA could easily boost scholarships to cover the essential college expenses for athletes. This solution would be an easy way to help players struggling to pay their living costs because they lack the essential time to take a part time job. This proposed idea avoids the hassle and confrontations that paying players would cause, but at the same times covers the main issue college students, especially college athletes, have which is lack of money for the bare essentials. Lastly, the most unique and in my opinion most effective solution was brought forward by former PSU basketball player Stephen Danley. He suggested that schools take a portion of the profits generated from their revenue sports and add a fifth-year option to athletic scholarships. Id. Danly explained, “many student athletes competing at the highest levels just do not have the time to handle a normal academic load.” Id. He even mentioned certain programs disallowing players to take enough classes to graduate in four years. Id. Also, many players were let down and high school and were simply aided in to the university for their athletic ability. So, in turn, if many of the richest college-sports programs are going to continually treat student athletes as full-time athletes, then they should give them the financial means to return and easily complete their education. In the end, college is a place for receiving a degree, not scoring 1000 points or rushing for 1000 yards. This solution is the best because it focuses solely on the education of the student aspect of student athlete, but it also helps eliminate fiscal issues athletes deal with once their playing career ends. By being able to achieve a degree of higher education, they will be able to flourish in the outside world and obtain a job that will support their life needs for the remainder of their life.

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