College Athletes’ Payment

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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Should College Athletes be Paid?

The argument of college athletes getting paid goes back many decades. High school prospects dream of the day that they are recruited and given a big time scholarship. But, would college athletes work harder if they were paid for their performance on the field, track, or court? Furthermore, college athletes are challenged almost everyday. They are putting their body on the line to entertain millions of fans across the nation. These athletes deserve part of the revenue that they are bringing in for the NCAA.

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The amount of money that this organization is making is absurd for advertising their games as “amature sports.” Also although these athletes are given full ride scholarships to obtain an education, their sport always comes first. So what happens when they don’t make the pros and are left with nothing in return? College athletes should be paid because of financial injustice, overemphasis of athletics over education, and the risk of injury.

The NCAA is taking financial advantage of college athletes. With sponsorships with brands like Adidas, Coors Brewing, CBS, and ABC making billions of dollars in total how come the players in action aren’t making anything in return? Professor and author at Colorado State University Stanley Eitzen explains that “The NCAA has signed a $6,200,000,000, 11-year deal giving CBS the rights to televise its men’s basketball championship. The NCAA also makes money from advertising and gate receipts for this tournament. To enhance gate receipts, the finals are always scheduled in huge arenas with seating capacities of at least 30,000, rather than normal basketball-sized venues.” (Eitzen) This is a huge sum of money that the NCAA is making during March Madness. This not even a part of the money that they make during the colleges regular season games. According to an analysis of the economic impact made by Patrick Ewing to Georgetown University, during his four years he brought more than $12,000,000 to Georgetown. This was due to the massive increase in attendance to games, increased television revenue, and the qualifying of the team to the NCAA tournament each year. But while they made this much off Ewing the real total cost for him totaled a smaller $48,000. They profited just around $11,951,400 , and of course Ewing wasn’t given any of this money. (Eitzen) This is just another case of colleges making millions of their players.

In college sports the coaches of these “amature” teams are making millions. According to Eitzen “Dukes coach Mike Krzyzewski has a 15-year shoe endorsement deal with Adidas. This includes a $1,000,000 bonus plus $375,000 annually. Players are limited to wearing Adidas shoes and apparel. An open market operates when it comes to revenue for coaches, resulting in huge pay packages for the top names, but not so for star players.” (Eitzen) This allocation of money for college coaches also relates to college football. Professor of law Paul Campos reveals that “the 10 highest-paid college football coaches last year made an average salary of $6.6 million, which is considerably higher than the average salary of the 10 highest-paid coaches in the NFL.” (Campos) Coaches play a part in the success of these teams in sports. But, the players have to play and if the coaches on the sidelines are making this much money college athletes should be making money too. The NCAA contradicts itself with these types of statistics they cannot claim their sports are amature activities while making millions of their players and giving coaches a cut of the check.

Many people argue that college athletes do not deserve compensation because they are being paid with their free tuition. Going to college at a big school for four years is on average about $200,000 in total. For example according to Collegeboard going to a school like Duke University costs $71,764 per year accounting for all expenses. This is about $280,000 for four years. Krikor Meshefejian a senior editor explains that “colleges already provide student athletes with an invaluable benefit. This benefit comes in the form of a college degree, which gives students opportunities in the job market that they would otherwise not have had.” This idea though isn’t truly the goal of these athletes. College athletes wouldn’t spend that much money out of pocket to go to any school. This is because they value their education a little less than any regular student. It is disingenuous for schools to argue that athletes are getting a free education as payment when it is well known that these athletes are not expected to be students. They are not given the same opportunity to to devote themselves to their study. While regular students are hard at work studying and trying to land themselves a good job for their future. The athlete’s main goal is to make it out of college with the opportunity to play the sport that they trained their lives for. So college athletes come into college not necessarily prepared for the rigorous coursework that’s ahead of them. With help from tutors and student help centers the athletes try to stay eligible just enough to play. There’s no reason for these star athletes to try to complete the coursework when it doesn’t relate to their career goal. An elite basketball player isn’t thinking about calculus when trying to make jumpshots during the game. A regular student depends much more on these classes and skills for their career path. Therefore, college athletes are already taking a huge gamble on their athletic ability when playing in college. They are betting that if they work extremely hard for 4 years with absolutely no pay that they will be getting a 6 or 7 figure salary in the future, barring injury. If they were getting a check for playing rather than a free tuition this would be less of gamble for athletes to either make the pros or be left with nothing.

Another reason for colleges to compensate their athletes is overemphasis of athletics over education. Coaches and athletes have a pretty clear understanding that their athletics come first before school and that the college athletes are on scholarship to play their sport, not necessarily for the education. This mindset is pretty consistent among big time schools where it is almost encouraged for these athletes to not be intellects. They put around 30-40 hours a week into their sport, a demanding task, which is both physically and mentally fatiguing. According to Emerge magazine, “38 Division I basketball teams didn’t have a single black athlete graduate in 1998. Also, Ohio State graduated 100% of its women’s basketball players while only 31% of its male basketball players did from 1995 to 1998. The 1999 men’s basketball NCAA Division I champion, the University of Connecticut, managed to graduate a mere 29% of its team members between 1994 and 1997.” (Eitzen) This data starts to add up when you look at what colleges encourage for these athletes regarding their classes. Daniel Oppenheimer a professor at UCLA reveals that “There has been several cases where top schools like Syracuse and UNC have been criticized for holding “No Show”classes for student athletes (where students received grades for phantom classes that they didn’t attend), Syracuse allowed academically ineligible athletes to compete.” (Oppenheimer). Oppenheimer also reports that these cases in college are often not that rare as there are almost 20 other schools currently being investigated for academic fraud. The NCAA has been quoted saying that it is not their job to to ensure the quality of athletes education. With all of this being said it is very easy to see why athletes should be compensated for the colleges allowing an overemphasis of athletics over education in their schools.

College athletes risk injury every time they play which puts them at risk of not being able to pursue an athletic career. Many of these athletes are coming to these schools to take the next step in achieving their dream of going to the pros. If they aren’t getting an equal education than the rest, than how is college worth it if they don’t go pro after a career ending injury? An example of this is promising defensive tackle Stanley Doughty. Megan Walsh is the writer and editor who broke the story. Doughty played his college football years at the University of South Carolina where he was expected to be drafted. Doughty Would forfeit his last of year of college ,only being 12 credits short of graduating, to enter the draft where he went undrafted but was later picked up by the Kansas City Chiefs. They offered him a $400,000 contract and he gladly accepted. He began to go through mandatory physical testing where players went through x rays and tests. The training staff broke the devastating news to him that he had been playing with a severe cervical spine injury that could leave him paralyzed with one wrong hit. He could no longer play the game that he loved. Walsh explains that Doughty recalled an injury, “Arian Foster, who now plays for the Houston Texans, ran the ball into the end zone, barreling into Doughty and leaving him momentarily unable to move, similar to what happened after his previous 2004 hit. But this time team doctors didn’t take him for a MRI. Doughty says he rested in the locker room for five minutes and then finished the game. South Carolina won. “I was young,” Doughty said. “I thought they knew what was good for me. I just listened to ’em. I trusted ’em.” (Walsh) After finding this out Doughty reached out to the college, and they would try to pay for surgery and getting him back into school. However they stopped returning calls and denied his re-entrance. Doughty moved back in with his parents. He deals with feelings of tingling and burning along the right side of his body and he struggles to reach for things above his head without sharp, shooting pains. Doughty is now on disability without a college degree and the ability to play the game he worked so hard his entire life to play. The NCAA misdiagnosed their athlete and in turn ruined his dreams shouldn’t there be compensation for this? When college athletes don’t make the pros they deal with mental hardships. Zak Cheney-Rice a senior writer explains that “less than 2% of these players go pro, leaving 98% to undergo some serious life re-evaluation.” For many of these athletes adjusting to life after sports can take a serious psychological toll. For many of them their life is centered around sports ,and it gives them purpose. One of the reasons why it is so hard for athletes to transition to life without sports is because they had a lot of success in that sport possibly more than anything else in their life. This causes them to feel like less of a person than they were before. Mark Anshell a sports psychologist says “Many have likened the adjustment period to the loss of a loved one or other tragic events,” (Rice). This is a very real problem and many think schools should prepare their athletes for this more. With many not having a back up plan they are left with nothing. At least if they were being paid they could leave college with something.

It’s time for college athletes to finally get what they deserve. The NCAA has been subjecting them to financial injustice for decades. Overemphasis of athletics over education causes many of these athletes to not be students in a sense. If they don’t make the pros many don’t have an education to fall back on. Furthermore, college athletes risk injury every time they play. A career ending injury would mean the end of their dream with nothing in return. Hopefully in the future these athletes get the payment they deserve for entertaining millions around the nation.

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College athletes' payment. (2019, Aug 05). Retrieved from