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Should College Athletes Be Paid?

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Should college athletes be paid?

College sports provide a huge source of the universities' income. The school takes in money from ticket sales, television contracts, and sport-related merchandise, just to name a few. The athletes, however, receive their scholarship and little more. While the prospect of receiving a free college education is something few would complain about, when the issue is more closely examined it becomes evident that it is not enough. The trend for athletes is to leave school early for the professional leagues because of the money. There have been more reports of violations surrounding university boosters and alumni paying players. Furthermore, athletes have been accused of making deals with gamblers and altering the outcome of games. All of these problems could be minimized, by adopting a program for compensating student athletes. College athletes are exploited by their schools, which make millions of dollars off of them. The NCAA and professional leagues can work together to institute a plan to compensate these athletes and remedy all these problems. (165)

Student athletes need money just like any other college students, and many of them need it even more. According to Steve Wulf, many college athletes come from disadvantaged backgrounds (94). The NCAA finally realized this recently and decided to allow athletes to have a job earning up to $2000 during the school year (Greenlee 63). This, while well intended, is an impossibility for many, if not the majority of college athletes. As Greenlee states, "The hours athletes would spend working at a job are already spoken for" (63). The sport they play is their job; it takes up as much time or more as the normal student's job at the cafeteria or student center, yet they do not get paid. The schools have to make up for this by finding some way to compensate these athletes. (132)

The main reason behind not giving college athletes some form of compensation is that college athletes must be amateurs and if they are paid they will lose their status as amateurs. Amateurs are defined as being non-professional, or not in the activity for gain. Many people say the fact that college athletes are amateurs and not paid gives college sports their appeal (Bruinis 1). Under the current rules, colleges cannot recruit athletes who have competed with professionals, accepted money from benefactors to be used for things such as private high school tuition, accepted prize money won in competitions, or played for money in any league. For example, Darnell Autry, University of Northwestern running back and theater major, went to Italy over the summer and appeared in a movie. He could not be paid for his services in the movie because it would damage his amateur status (Greenlee 63). (144)

The simple fact that the colleges are making millions off of these athletes means that they are exploiting them and the NCAA constitution proves this. This constitution states that, "student athletes shall be amateurs...and should be protected from exploitation by professional and commercial enterprises." The problem with this rule is that it fails to acknowledge that university athletic programs are commercial enterprises, especially recently. The objective of college athletic programs is to generate money (Murphy and Pace 168). If colleges are recognized in this way as commercial enterprises, it appears that colleges are violating the NCAA constitution. This means that college athletes are exploited even by universities' own definition. Former executive director of the NCAA Walter Byers states, "The coaches own the athletes' feet, the colleges own the athletes' bodies, and the supervisors retain the large rewards. That reflects a neoplantation mentality on the campuses that is not appropriate at this time of high dollars" (Wulf 94). In other words, Byers is saying the universities are using these athletes for a type of slave labor. (169)

Colleges try to discredit the exploitation argument by downplaying the amount of money athletics brings to the university. Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White stated that very few colleges actually make a profit from their athletics. He said somewhere in the range of 5-15 out of over 100 Division I schools make a profit. However, this does not mean that the colleges are not bringing in a fair amount of revenue from their athletics. There are a lot of colleges that rely on athletics for a lot of revenue; however, they do not have cost effective programs, so they do not make a profit. This argument cannot discredit the exploitation argument unless schools bring in no revenue from their athletics. (120)

One more factor related to this issue is the rise in number of college athletes leaving school early to turn pro. While this may not damage the purity or integrity of the game, it does damage the quality of it. The loss of these might turn out to be more costly than the cost of giving student-athletes some compensation. For example, a college bowl game can bring in up to 13 million dollars to a university. Instead, by not paying their athletes, a school may lose players to the pros that would have greatly increased the school's chances of winning the championship or getting to a major bowl game. This actually happened in basketball recently. Duke University, known for its basketball superiority, had three players leave early for the NBA. Duke still made the tournament but failed to make it to the final rounds. The fact that the players wanted or needed the money cost the university a championship, and that probably cost Duke a lot more than modestly compensating their athletes. (172)

This recent trend of players leaving early has led to yet another problem for the universities. School alumni and boosters understand the problem and obviously do not want their team to lose its best players. They find ways to pay the athletes under the table: they fix up the athlete's family with a nice house or car, things to give the family a little relief. However, if anyone ever finds out, this is also a violation and the players and universities will be put on probation or even suspended. This problem, if anything, should show the universities that alumni and boosters would be willing to give money to the school specifically to pay the athletes. The schools would not even have to come up with all the money. (128)

Another argument given by the opponents of paying student athletes is that by paying them, schools widen the gap between athletes and normal students and put them on a pedestal (Bruinius 1). However, it actually works in reverse. The athletes right now have very little money to do the little things that students do, like go to a movie on Friday night, or out for



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