Should We Pay NCAA Athletes?

by Luka Green

The Johnny Manziel “money” sign

Recently, while glancing at the quagmire of messages and alerts that is my twitter feed, I ran across a New York Times profile of Jeffrey Kessler, an antitrust lawyer who is at the forefront of the movement to allow NCAA division-one football and men’s basketball athletes to be paid by their respective schools. This led me to wonder: should these athletes be paid? In my opinion, the answer is yes because of the money the sports make for their university as well as the near-professional time commitment these athletes put into their sport.

The simple truth is that college athletic departments, in terms of money directly made from all sports versus money spent on all sports, lose money. Most schools spend more money than they make in men’s basketball and football, and even those that turn a profit in those sports lose it paying for the minor sports. This would absolutely seem like a reason to not pay athletes…except for the thing that athletic departments fail to account for: athletic subsidies. These subsidies end up paying for most of the athletic budget for all but the biggest and most profitable schools, like the University of Texas or the University of Alabama (which are both self sufficient), and when they are combined with the revenue of athletic departments, schools have comfortable profit margins.

The impact of subsidies is not the reason we should pay men’s basketball and football players, however; this honor goes to their accessibility, as these sports are constantly on the air, whether it be on TV, the radio, or (not currently because of the antitrust lawsuits) video games. The players’ names and likenesses are referred to in all of these; for the most part, everyone who appears on TV or radio gets compensated for it, so why aren’t the college athletes who are providing publicity for their schools being paid as well? The contracts the conferences get for TV or radio deals as well as the licensing of apparell are quite lucrative and a huge source of revenue for their schools. Hence, athletes should be paid.

The time commitment for NCAA division-one athletes should also not be discounted in the debate of whether or not to compensate athletes because, over time, the commitment to a college sport has grown to where it is near that of professional sports. Training is much harder and more time intensive than ever, especially in the extremely competitive environments of football and basketball. Combined with school, this eliminates any chance athletes have of getting a job, as the hours in which they can work would not be attractive to any employer. If an athlete cannot finance his life outside of room and board, then who will? To me, for football and basketball athletes who don’t have the financial support from home to be able to afford basic necessities like food (see Shabazz Napier ) and clothing, the only option is for their athletic departments to allot them enough money to afford these things.

The Kessler case is key in deciding the future of college athletics. The decision will either free up the ability for schools to compensate their athletes as they see fit or complicate the ability for athletes to receive money in the future greatly. The question is, how much do we value our college athletes?


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