The Controversial Issue on the Idea of Monetary Compensation on Student Athletes in the United States

In our generation of collegiate sports, there is an ongoing dilemma surrounding the idea of monetary compensation and student athletes. The idea of athletes getting paid is usually disregarded because many still buy into the myth of “amateur athletics” and believe that these athletes should be considered students rather than working professionals. However, there is a growing population that advocates for paying college athletes and believe that they should be rewarded for their busy and successful lifestyles. From my viewpoint, as a freshman student- athlete, I believe that we are entitled a certain amount of financial grant for our unappreciated work ethic and lifestyle.

That said, NCAA athletes should get paid because, first, they have it tougher than the pros and are forced to put their bodies on the line every day. Without them, the incredible amount of money they generate for their schools and respective sports programs would never exist. Treating them like professionals would urge them to follow the same high- standard moral conduct of professional athletes. Finally, paying these young athletes would help create a sense of financial awareness that will last them a lifetime.

Student-athletes must balance school with practice schedules and games yet are expected to perform at a high-level while having to experience the stress and fatigue that comes from their difficult programs. Conversely, professional athletes are only focused on their respective sport and do not have any other obligations that distract them from their athletic demands. The fact that these collegiate athletes have to maintain good performances in both sport and study is a commitment that deserves recognition and praise.

According to Forbes contributor Marc Edelman, “the typical Division 1 college football player devoted 43.4 hours per week to his sport – 3.3 more hours than the typical American work week”. (Edelman, 2014) The fact, that these college student-athletes are putting in more hours than the average worker proves how time- demanding and physically obligating their weeks are. The workload that these athletes are required to accomplish is quite ridiculous and reiterates how they should be rewarded for their unconceivable amount of work. In the words of Ramogi Human, founder of the National College Players Association…A fair day’s week deserves a fair day’s pay!” (Huma, 2013).

Moreover, student-athletes are required to put in their maximum effort when they compete, they play the game with heart and soul and represent their schools with honor. By laying it all on the line, they are increasing their chance of injury. According to NCAA database, “the overall injury rate in NCAA football is 8.1 injuries per 1,000 athlete exposure (games and practices combined). There were more than 41,000 injuries and 25 million athlete exposures from 2004 to 2009” (NCAA). In the case of football players, their sport is physically demanding – it is a full-impact contact sport that can lead to full-impact injuries.

Most of these athletes, trying to make it pro, are putting their health and scholarships on the line every day. This dedication can be exemplified, “In the 2013 NCAA tournament [when] Louisville player Kevin Ware suffered a horrific injury to his lower right leg while attempting to block an opposing player’s shot. Six months later, Ware was healed and back to practicing” (Patterson, 2015). The fact, that Ware had the dedication and heart to come back serves as an example of how committed these athletes are to their sports. This ignorant commitment displayed by Ware and many other collegiate athletes should be entitled a fiscal amount.

These student athletes bring an incredible amount of money to the collegiate athletics business. Through ticket sale, cable subscriptions, merchandise, video games and much more, the collegiate business depends on these students’ popularity and performances. That said, it is only fair that they receive a piece of the profit. However, there is a counterargument surrounding the issue, individuals such as Rick Burton, Professor of Sports Management at Syracuse University, believe that these athletes are getting paid in “free education” (Burton, 2013). However, journalist Michael Wilbon points out that Burton’s argument is unfair and wrong as “The NCAA currently produces nearly $11 Billion in annual revenue from college sports – more than the estimate total league revenues of both the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League” (Edelman, 2014). Such revenue should be justifiable for any athlete to receive monetary compensation. If college athletes are generating more money than their professional counterparts, they should be getting given the same or even more pay rather than only education.

Lastly, many argue that paying these collegiate athletes will prepare them financially for the future. A discussion that many tend to overlook is the fact that professional athletes are financially unstable and spend their money irresponsibly. This financial misguidance can be shown through an ESPN documentary where “Broke gave an inside view of the financial woes of many professional athletes, noting that around 60% of NBA players are broke within five years of retirement. Many of these players blamed poor investments, trusting unethical financial advisors and lavish spending habits as the reason for their money troubles” (Patterson, 2015). If athletes were to be paid a minimal salary, schools could help them build a foundation for future money literacy. We hear so many times that athletes are not “employees” they are “students” That said, why can we not educate our athletes by paying them and guiding them towards a better financial future; regardless if they make it to the pros or not.

Moreover, in making these student-athletes financially aware, the University of Texas’ Daron Roberts, Liberal Arts professor, and 7-year NFL coach, is “developing a financial literacy program for UT’s student-athletes” (Epstein, 2015). The idea of providing courses focused on financial literacy is a big step in proving why student-athletes should be trusted and authorized in getting paid for their contributions. The lack of financial understanding can be portrayed through baseball outfielder Torii Hunter’s experience who claims, “Once you get into financial stuff, and it sounds like Japanese, guys are just like, ‘I ain’t going back’. They’re lost” (Torre, 2009). Such financial confusion shown by professional athletes reiterates why they should be taught how to handle their money from a younger age: as student-athletes. As a result, these athletes will be able to feel confident when handling their earnings and will understand the concept of finance.

To conclude, the NCAA must stop comparing athletes to regular students and grant them the privileges that they deserve. Those privileges consist of monetary compensation for the revenue that they bring in for their respective sports. Being rewarded for their hefty lifestyle would be very beneficial to the athletes and the schools. Athletes should no longer be considered amateurs as they are hard-working marketing figures that deserve the money they earn in their professional life. Receiving nothing for what they do demonstrates how much corruption is found within the NCAA system. Athletes are distinct humans that entertain us with their skills. One day they wish to continue their athletic dreams onto the big stage, however without the financial guidance and reward in college they will not be prepared financially and psychologically for their future professions. 

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