September 6, 2011

For the love of the game or the love of the money?

Should college athletes be awarded compensation for their performances? Writers Andrew Haddad and Nathan Gardner dish it out on this current issue in sports.

Why they should:
By Andrew Haddad

One of the hottest topics of debate among those in the sports world lately has been whether or not to pay college athletes. Granted, even the idea of doing such a thing presents a plethora of confusion, which basically screams that this cannot be done! Where would the money be taken from? How would you only pay the basketball and football players but not the other athletes? These are all problems in themselves, not to even mention title IX—if only men’s basketball and football players were paid. It doesn’t seem feasible and one cannot argue that, but fortunately that is not the question at hand. Critics need not address the problems of the potential fallout of something like paying college athletes, but rather they need to answer questions such as whether these athletes should be paid, if that pay is justified and what to do about it.

Let’s just consider some numbers and names, and see if you can connect the dots: $10.8 billion, March Madness, CBS and NCAA. If you guessed that the NCAA and CBS agreed on a television contract worth $10.8 billion that runs from 2011-2014, then you are absolutely correct. What about football? They have it covered too, with their own $500 million four-year television contract between the Bowl Championship Series and ESPN. Another factor that has garnered some national attention in last few months is that college athletes are getting paid already. Allegations at the University of Miami and Ohio State University have been the highlight of the college sports dead period, with violations ranging from accepting cars, hookers and cash at UM to accepting tattoos, cars and selling memorabilia at OSU. But can you really blame them? The players are obviously seeing through the smoke faster than anyone else. Yes, you just read that there is an advocate for athletes to sell their merchandise. Since paying athletes is about as hard and impossible as it is for Al Davis, the current owner of the Oakland Raiders, to pass on the fastest player in the draft, then why not let those athletes pursue any other opportunities at hand to make a dollar? Everyone else does it. Let Terrelle Pryor, Raiders quarterback, sell his jersey for $150 and then watch his teammate sell his for $50. That’s capitalism all in itself, and a lesson well learned. Sponsor products and get endorsements; it sounds like a no-brainer. If you are a good athlete then people will want to pay you. Athletes should be able to accept.

The NCAA will continue to let this issue of athletic payment go unaddressed and they will continue to punish programs where athletes are accepting gifts, cars and money, and each one of those athletes will walk away wondering just what they did wrong. Alas, in one week when you plop down on the couch to enjoy one of the greatest sporting industries in the sports world that is college football, try to remember the people that enable that enjoyment and think about exactly what they’re getting for what they are providing—talk about paying it forward.


Why they shouldn’t:
By Nathan Gardner

With all the NCAA rules violations and accusations floating around about star athletes receiving compensation from their schools, a logical question has arisen; why aren’t these athletes being paid? They do generate a massive amount of revenue for their schools and fund most of the smaller athletics programs. It is pure exploitation, right? Not quite. At schools like the University of Louisville, where the basketball team packs over 20,000 fans into the KFC Yum! Center for one game at $35 per ticket and up, these athletes bring in over $700,000 per game. This does not include food, beer and merchandise sales. But is paying them really justified? Sure it is, but not in the form of a weekly paycheck. These athletes are getting a free education. Tuition this year at U of L is $4,465 per semester for Kentucky residents and $10,825 for non-residents. That is $8,930 and $21,650 per year respectively, not to mention the cost of nicer housing, books and meal plans. Is this not considered payment?

Being a college athlete does require a tremendous amount of skill, talent and work, but it is essentially a means in which a person with these skills and talents can pay their way through school. It seems as though academics have been placed on the back burner to athletics. These athletes must meet academic requirements to be eligible for athletics, or so the rules say. Shouldn’t the first priority be academics, not athletics? By paying student athletes, the NCAA will be misplacing the top priority on athletics. Student athletes will no longer put effort into their education because it will get them nothing, but an average of 25 points per game or two touchdowns will get money in their hands. If these athletes are talented enough to deserve monetary compensation, then why not bypass an education altogether and go straight into the professional leagues?

The fact is a very high majority of student athletes will depend on the college degrees they earn for a career. If you add up the carrying capacity of the NBA, NFL, and MLB, there are enough positions to accommodate 3,346 athletes. Compare that to a total of 113,686 student athletes in their respective sports in the NCAA, according to, and that is less than a three percent success rate for becoming a professional athlete. For those few, NCAA sports are a way to get exposure and market themselves so they can succeed in the pros.

For the other 97 percent, athletics are a way to get a degree that may not have been possible otherwise. If the NCAA does decide to pay college student athletes, then where does it stop? Don’t high school athletes generate revenue for their schools as well? Should the public schools start paying them, too? The bottom line isn’t about jealousy, or about envy; it’s about value. Although star athletes may not get legal monetary compensation for their performances, they are getting an education that may have a definite cost, but that also has a value on which a price cannot be placed.

Photo: Michael Baldwin/The Louisville Cardinal

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