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A research essay on paying college football and basketball players based on the fact that they make the most revenue for the NCAA.





Pay them

Blake Brockman

AP Literature and Composition


Pay Them

Chris Webber, a former basketball player at the University of Michigan, was phenomenal.  He was the perfect size, speed, and had a great all-around game which was uncommon for centers at the time.  Unfortunately for him, he was just like any other college student, broke.  In order to earn money he received, what the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has named, “improper benefits.”  Chris Webber paid the price, costing Michigan wins and money for their basketball program as well as scholarships in response to breaking the rules.  There are college athletes all over the nation who receive “improper benefits” like Webber did who are caught and punished.  I strongly feel that college athletes should receive some form of payment.  Their college receives all of the television revenue, jersey and memorabilia profits, and four plus years of pure dedication which can cripple athletes’ academics, while the players receive nothing in return.

The NCAA is a multi-billion dollar industry, recently earning $845 billion (Why College Athletes Should Be Paid, 2012).  A majority of the money they earn is from football bowl games and March Madness.  These boys are the ones who deserve the most to be paid (Nocera, 2011).  Because of this, my argument will only be to pay football and men’s basketball players should be paid because they are the money makers for the NCAA.  The amount of money that the NCAA and the colleges make off boys’ basketball and football players is preposterous.  The bowl games for football are all sponsored by companies or restaurant chains.  March Madness is a packed with basketball games and the ads that go with them.  College programs can also receive television contracts.  The South Eastern Conference football games are almost always on CBS.  The Big 10, Pac 12, and other conferences have their own channels.  The Texas Longhorns themselves created their own channel!  Together the Bowl Championship series for football and March Madness make $6 billion more than the National Basketball Association (Nocera, 2011).  Colleges receive insane amounts of money from these events.  Colleges also receive all of the profits from merchandise sales (Meshefejian, 2008).  T-shirts, long-sleeved t-shirts, vests, jackets, sweatpants, bracelets-anything you can imagine, are all bought yearly (Nocera, 2011).  Athletes sell these.  “How?” you might ask.  It is because they add to the college’s popularity.  The more popular the player, the more media coverage a college will receive.  The more media coverage, the more people will like the college and buy their merchandise.  Colleges and the NCAA make so much money and receive so much media attention off the backs of players like Chris Webber and others that they should have to share the wealth.  It doesn’t have to be a lot, just a small portion, enough to make them feel that they are being rewarded for their hard work.  If they won’t pay the players, why do they pay the coaches?

The NCAA likes to call college athletes “amateurs” and they use that as a “reason” as to why they do not pay them.  If college athletes, who put their bodies on the line the same way that professionals do, don’t get paid like pros, why do college coaches get paid like professional coaches (Why College Athletes Should Be Paid, 2012)?  Some of the coaches actually make more money coaching colleges then they would coaching pro teams.  Urban Meyer has a six year $24 million deal at Ohio State (Nocera, 2011).  This is outrageous!  I understand that coaches’ have a tough task, but being paid that kind of money is a nearly high-way robbery, especially when all they do is tell the players how to play while the players put their bodies on the line and do most of the work.  What kind of a company doesn’t pay its workers? The answer is the NCAA.  Think of it this way, a major corporation (NCAA) has multiple factories (colleges).  The factories divide themselves into smaller sections (the sports) and appoint a manager or authority figure (coach) to ensure each section is run smoothly.  Now imagine the corporation paying the supervisor but not the section workers (the players).  This is exactly what happens to college athletes.  They all watch the colleges, NCAA, and the coaches get rich while most of the athletes struggle. 

Some of this struggle is brought upon by the coaches.  The coaches work the players, which is understandable.  What isn’t understandable is how the coaches have no regard for their athletes’ academics.  Athletes often put in over 50 hours of just sports in their week, which is longer than most people’s work weeks (Nocera, 2011).  This number is so high because along with practice, there are extra film sessions and “voluntary” work outs that the athletes attend.  With all this time on sports something is going to suffer and that is grades.  The athletes need to make their classes easier to better fit their practice schedule and in return the athletes’ grades suffer (Woods, 2009).  If a student is good enough at their sport but has a tough time in the classroom, the player can opt out of college and go pro (Meshefejian, 2008).  This option is becoming more and more common among football and basketball players.  In fact the National Basketball Association (NBA) at one point allowed players to join right out of high school.  The NBA then decided that its players needed at least one year of college or had to be out of high school for one year.  In the National Football League (NFL) a player out of college has to have been in college for at least three years.  With these alternatives most college athletes leave college early for the millions of guaranteed dollars, and never return to school.  If they started paying the players, there would be an incentive for staying in school and earning their degrees. 

The answer could also lie in lowering coaches’ salaries to help pay the players, or even perhaps pay the coaches based on their team’s graduation rates.  College coaches are able to receive extra money in endorsements, such as Bo Ryan, the Wisconsin Badgers head boys basketball coach, who has a deal with Solarus.  College players cannot receive endorsement deals because they are considered “amateurs.”  In fact a former college football player, Jeremy Bloom, went through this when he was playing.  Jeremy played football at the University of Colorado as a wide receiver.  In the offseason he spent his time as an Olympic level skier, and received endorsements for skiing.  “The NCAA ruled Bloom had violated its rules on college athletes having their own endorsement deals as a skier.” (Anderson, 2008)  While athletes can’t accept endorsements, they can however appear in television ads and promotions with their team as long as they aren’t paid.  This is another example of how the colleges and the NCAA exploit the players.

Looking back to my comparison of the NCAA and a corrupt business, the athletes are visibly the workers.  While the coaches coach them on how to play, they still have to go out and execute the plays.  The only difference between an athlete and a factory worker is that the factory worker is compensated for his hard work.  Many people argue that college athletes have free rides for four years or more.  This is completely false.  All scholarships are renewable (Porto, 2008).  These renewable scholarships allow the coaches to give a player a scholarship, but if they underperform, a player can lose that scholarship in an instant.  The coach doesn’t even have to give a reason as to why he terminated the scholarship (Johnson & Acquaviva, 2012).  This power the coach has leads to players not caring as much about their studies because they don’t want their scholarship taken away.  Most athletes in college are from poor backgrounds and need their scholarship in order to attend college (Weberpal, 2012).  The only problem is that they are on an Athletic Scholarship, not an Academic Scholarship, so if they focus more on their education and less on their sport and underperform, they will more than likely lose the scholarship.  This is insane!  The NCAA likes to parade around and say that they are all about the athletes and their education, but that is clearly not true!  If the NCAA were really concerned about athletes’ education, then they would only have guaranteed scholarships instead of the one year renewable ones.  Even with these scholarships, most athletes struggle.  While the scholarship pays for their housing, tuition, and books, it doesn’t pay for their food, clothes, and other necessities (Association, 2008).  Some players are so desperate for food that they ask people to buy it for them.  The NCAA says that is an “improper benefit.”  I’ve heard of a story of Chris Webber being interviewed.  While on this interview Chris and his interviewer went on a walk in down-town Ann Arbor.  Chris saw a jersey that was his, minus his name on the back, and asked the interviewer if he would buy it for him.  The interviewer told Chris that he can’t as it would be a violation of the NCAA, and also because he had left his wallet in his hotel room.  Chris said that he knew it would be a violation and then remarked that he had not eaten a real meal in a few days.  The interviewer said that he was kind of hungry as well, but reminded Chris that he couldn’t even buy Chris a small fry at McDonalds without getting in trouble with the NCAA.  What kind of world is this where a college athlete can’t ask for something to eat from an interviewer, who is getting paid to interview the athlete?  To me that just isn’t right.  Since a majority of college athletes come from poor backgrounds like Chris Webber, these players are going to try and find ways to make money.  Some look to sell memorabilia or their jerseys like players did at Ohio State a few years ago.  One of the biggest stars in that scandal, Terrell Pryor, was said to have driven a new car every week.  These players are not alone in accepting money or other forms of payment.  In 1989 31 percent of former college football players had received payment under the table and 48 percent knew of other athletes who accepted payments (Porto, 2008).  If a player cannot sell his own jersey, why let them keep it?  Along with the memorabilia that they acquire over their careers, their jerseys are THEIRS.  Who is to tell them that they can’t sell their own things?  No one can.  This is why the NCAA should not be allowed to tell the players that they cannot sell their belongings.  College athletes also aren’t allowed to have jobs (Weberpal, 2012).  The NCAA’s reasoning behind this is that the athlete might get the job based solely on their status as an athlete rather than earning the job.  To me that is ridiculous.  Employers always want to hire people who are active in their community, so saying that players will use their status as athletes is irrational because other people will use other forms of status to get the same job.  Most college athletes do not go pro.  If an athlete had to have an internship in order to get the degree and job they want, what would the NCAA do? 

The main question to ask is probably, “How should they be paid?”  There are many different ideas on how to pay the players.  Some people feel that they should be paid based on performance.  Others think that colleges should bid on players (Nocera, 2011).  That is not a smart idea because colleges with more money, like Texas or Oklahoma State, will be able to get all the best players.  Another idea is a six year scholarship (Nocera, 2011).  While that would be able to help students finish their degrees, it would also make it hard for college coaches to get the younger players on the field or court.  People have said that the NCAA should revenue share much like the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, and National Hockey League  (Johnson & Acquaviva, 2012).  While that sounds incredibly logical, athletes would receive a little too much.One idea that would work is to include money in scholarships to cover necessities.  By having their necessities covered, players wouldn’t have to worry about not eating like Chris Webber or having clean clothes to wear to class.  The best idea is to have a salary cap as seen from Joe Nocera.  This salary cap would have to be a set amount for all colleges or for every conference.  Along with a salary cap there would be a minimum salary for every scholarship athlete.  Nocera gives the idea of a $3 million dollar salary cap for football, with basketball having a $650,000 cap and the minimum salary would be $25,000 for each athlete.  Along with the cap, the college would award scholarships, 13 for basketball and 60 for football.  The money would be given out to players during the recruiting process, and colleges would spend about $1.5 million on minimum salaries and the rest to attract players on Nocera’s estimate for football.  Basketball programs would use $325,000 on minimum salaries and the rest for star players if done Nocera’s way.  Along with this the athletes would receive an additional two year scholarship if they had been in school for four years to get their bachelor’s or master’s degrees (Nocera, 2011).

If we started paying players we would get rid of a great deal of problems in sports today.  Students would receive a better education because of the incentive to stay in school and finish their degrees.  Students also would not be tempted to accept under-the-table incentives that street agents and coaches give out (Porto, 2008).  Coaches’ salaries would be cut down to a more realistic level (Nocera, 2011).  Overall the NCAA has to do something about paying players.  They deserve it and most of the players are in definite need of the money.  If we start paying the players, guys like Chris Webber, Jeremy Bloom, and members of the 2010 Ohio State football team wouldn’t have to worry about getting themselves and their universities in trouble.




Why College Athletes Should Be Paid. (2012, November 13). Retrieved November 6, 2012, from Elite Daily: http://elitedaily.com/elite/2012/college-athletes-paid/

Anderson, S. (2008). College Athletes Should Be Allowed To Have Their Own Endorsement Deals. In Should College Athletes Be Paid? (pp. 29-32). Farmington Hills: Nasso, Christine.

Association, N. C. (2008). College Athletes Should Receive a Scholarship Raise to Cover Necessities. In Should College Athletes Be Paid? (pp. 71-74). Farmington Hills: Nasso, Christine.

Johnson, D. A., & Acquaviva, J. (2012). United States Sports Academy. Retrieved November 5, 2012, from The Sport Journal: http://thesportjournal.org/article/pointcounterpoint-paying-college-athletes

Meshefejian, K. (2008). Pay to Play: Should College Athletes Be Paid? In Should College Athletes Be Paid? (pp. 16-20). Farmington Hills: Nasso, Christine.

Nocera, J. (2011, December 30). Let's Start Paying College Athletes. The New York Times, p. 1.

Porto, B. L. (2008). Paid College Athelets Won't Be Tempted to Accept Illegal Payments or Gamble. In Should College Athletes Be Paid (pp. 41-46). Farmington Hills: Nasso, Christine.

Weberpal, M. (2012, November 2). Views on Pay for Play. (B. Brockman, Interviewer)

Woods, A. (2009). College Athletes Should Be Paid. In C. Watkins (Ed.), Sports and Athletes (pp. 87-94). Farmington Hills: Nasso, Christine.

Submitted: May 21, 2013

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