With football season in full swing and basketball season approaching quickly, I have heard more and more about one of the most common debates involving college athletics: “Should college athletes be paid?”
While this issue may seem rather cut and dry, there are many aspects to be accounted for, such as would they be paid more based of what sport they play, how successful the team is per season, and how would these athletes’ salaries be affected by taxation. There are many variables that must be considered and answered before a clear and concise answer can be determined.
Those in support argue that being a student athlete can easily be compared to a full-time job. On top of the normal duties and responsibilities of a college student, they are required to attend practices, gym sessions, and team study sessions. The list goes on and on.
Beyond the on-campus requirements, on average student athletes miss more class time and have less time in general for studying, extracurricular activities and holiday breaks due to the amount of time that is consumed by traveling for away games.
Another intricacy of the argument is the amount of money that students athletes generate for the team and for the institution. Their faces are plastered across advertising posters, television commercials and institutional flyers. These draw fans into games and increase the views of games that are televised, in turn increasing profits. It seems only fair that these students be compensated for the revenue that they stand at the root of generating, does it not?
This only creates more issues and factors that have no means of being measured. For example, how does one measure the amount of revenue that was produced by one of many players on the poster and how would this be translated to a monetary number? This would make it impossible for a single salary to be given to multiple players and still have it be considered “just” and “fair.”
Yet another variable is the fact that without a doubt intercollegiate basketball and football programs produce the most earnings out of all institutional athletic teams. Should the players in these programs and on these teams then be paid more?
Many stand on the other side of the fence and argue that scholarships are the only form of payment that student athletes deserve and should receive.
The difference between scholarships and salaries is that the money given through scholarships goes towards tuition, room and board and other institutional funds. There is no way to insure that money made through a salary will go to the proper cause and this could lead to students graduating with unnecessary debt based on poor fiscal decision making.
It must also be considered that if scholarships are abandoned and completely replaced by a set salary, then these students will be subject to taxation. This would likely leave students with less funding than they had to start with, along with no insurance that they will make the same amount through all four years of college.
Another contention against student athletes being paid is that if compensation were based on performance and revenue generated, then intercollegiate athletics would be turned into a full-fledged business. Athletes would play one year at a certain school and then transfer to one that is willing to pay them more. This will inevitably lead to the destruction and loss of many institutional athletic programs that do not hold the monetary means to stay economically competitive.
I believe that the compensation of intercollegiate athletes is a weak attempt to fix something that isn’t broken. While there are college athletes that desire to be compensated for the revenue they produce, I do not think that voiding scholarships and switching to a salary-based system is in the best interest of the majority.
Switching to this monetary system will reduce the amount of programs, roster spots available, current players in institutions and essentially capitalize intercollegiate leagues across the United States. This will make it more difficult for programs and players to compete at a collegiate level, in turn reducing the total number of opportunities to compete in intercollegiate athletics.