To Pay or Not to Pay
Each year, especially during football season, the argument comes up that college football is such a lucrative sport and so demanding of the players' time, that schools should just go ahead and pay them. Not just in the form of scholarships, but in outright salaries.
Do you think regular college students deserve compensation beyond scholarship money? If not, then why should college athletes deserve paychecks? They are student athletes, right? Then why pay them? It only diminishes the meaning of being a student athlete; the meaning of being a college student. Being a college athlete isn't about getting paychecks for the good games you play; it's about representing your school through your hard work. And even more so, it's about getting an education.
Yes, I know, college football players do bring in a great deal of money for their schools and yes, they do put in hours of work a week to get better. But many other students do as well, and does anyone argue to give them compensation? You have science students doing assigned research from the college to help expand the knowledge of the world we know. Those students bring in money to their schools as well, in the form of research grants and federal funding. Less obvious ways than sports, for sure, but still a lot of money. But no one seems to be arguing to pay them, at least not to the degree that arguments are made to give extra compensation to the people who go out there and hit each other in pads.
And say we did pay student athletes, which athletes would we pay, and how would that compensation be determined? Most people would say football or basketball, of course, since those two sports account for most of the money made in collegiate athletics. But what about all the other collegiate sports? What about rowing or soccer or tennis? Would they get any compensation for the amount of work they put in?
Besides, in a sense, aren't many athletes already being paid through scholarships and benefits from the school? If that's the case, do they deserve more? They're already receiving more than the average student; do they really need paychecks on top of that? Consider what what would happen to recruiting if money became an issue. Giving schools the ability to pay student athletes would change recruiting entirely as big name schools such as Texas, Notre Dame and Alabama would be able to pay the best recruits more than any other schools. Last year, Texas football clocked in at a value of $139 million, according to Forbes Magazine's list of "Most Valuable College Football Teams." Notre Dame came in second $117 million dollars. That's a $22 million dollar difference, just between numbers one and two. Imagine what the difference is with schools farther down the list.
With the advantages that these schools have, the smaller schools with less money lose the ability to pull in even the few high-quality recruits that they usually get. This huge blow to these colleges could eventually result in the shutdown of their football programs. Along with that, it would also most likely lead to the NCAA having ten power athletic schools that would merely try and outbid each other for the best players in the nation.
Another factor to consider is the ability of young adults, just out of high school, to manage their money. As you look at the problems many professional athletes have had with their personal finances, you have to think about how responsible college students would be with their money. Universities would be doing a disservice to those students because they're unlikely to have ever in a situation to manage so much money.
In an episode of ESPN's "30 for 30" series titled "Broke," former NFL quarterback Sean Salisbury said, "We all think we are going to play and do it forever. Then it ends." A majority of college athletes don't go on to have successful professional careers, and by paying them at as early an age as 18, you could possibly make them think that they'll always have that kind of money. Or give them the impression that if they're getting paid now, then they're definitely good enough to go on and make even more as a pro. Odds are, neither of those would prove to be true.
Some people will continue to argue that college athletes deserve to be paid. There are certainly a few pros to doing that, but the pros do not outweigh the cons for paying these student athletes.