National College Athletic Association Athletes and Compensation

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (The NCAA) is a multi billion dollar organization that was founded in 1910. The NCAA makes billions of dollars annually off of student athletes that receive no compensation for their hard work. One of the biggest sources of revenue for the NCAA is March Madness; the college basketball championship tournament.

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The NCAA signed a new contract for the broadcasting rights for the tournament that will make them an enormous amount of money over the course of just three weeks. According to The Los Angeles Times “CBS and Turner Sports have renewed their vows with NCAA, keeping the television rights of the Division 1 Men’s Basketball Championship through 2032… The deal, which will pay the NCAA an average of $1.1 billion a year for eight years starting in 2025” (Battaglio). From their TV deal alone the NCAA is set to make $1.1 billion dollars a year from March Madness, and that doesn’t include how much they make off of ticket and merchandise sales. The National College Athletic Association Athletes should have to give all of their athletes an income during an athlete’s sport season.

Unfortunately, the student athletes on the other hand, the ones that make March Madness the event that it is, see none of that money. “Student athletes face significant restrictions against earning money with part-time jobs–they’re actually forbidden to earn an income from doing what they do best. No school we’re aware of tells students on music scholarships that they’re not permitted to get summer jobs with orchestras or play in local bars on the weekends. Nor are student athletes living like royalty: A 2011 study shows that, even with scholarships, 86 percent of student athletes live below the federal poverty line” (Branch). College Athletes deserve to be rightfully compensated by the NCAA for the time they put into their sport considering how much money they help generate for their schools and the NCAA each year.

The NCAA is a firm believer that amateurism is a necessary part of being a student athlete, and if the student athletes were getting paid they would be more focused on their sports than school. The NCAA argues that student athletes are a student first and athlete second, and that getting an education should be every students main focus. The average college student has a busy schedule with classes, assignments, and sometimes even working a job. Student athletes on the other hand have the same academic responsibilities as the average student, but are also responsible for going to practice and coaches meetings on a daily basis. Student athletes are expected to put in the time and hardwork to make their schools proud on game day but more importantly make them money. Being a student athlete is very similar to having a full time job on top of school work. According to the Washington Post “A 2015 survey found that athletes in the Pac-12 Conference spent an average of 50 hours per week on their sports and were often ‘too exhausted to study effectively” (Hruby). Most full time employees work 35 to 40 hour work weeks, The average student athlete spends more time on their sport and then is expected to succeed academically. There are only 168 hours in a week. With that being said, if a student athlete is dedicating 50 hours of their week to their sport, staying on top of their school work, and getting enough sleep, they will have very little if any free time.

Although The NCAA generates billions of dollars annually, they believe that Athletic Scholarships alone provide student athletes with enough of a compensation for the time they put into their sports. An Athletic Scholarship does not always cover the full cost of college, in most cases they only cover a portion of the cost. A full ride athletic scholarship on the other hand, covers the total cost of college; but is only offered to football, basketball, and volleyball players.

Being an athlete in the United States, you are almost viewed a celebrity if you achieve athletic success of up to a certain level. With that being said, athletic success in the US=high level of income. For many elite college athletes, this can be a whole new world for them. A good amount of these athletes may have come from a low-income upbringing and a life of wealth and luxury may be a complete culture shock for them. With some of these athletes being as young as 18, they are still very impressionable. If the NCAA allowed their athletes to receive compensation, they could learn important life lessons in how to handle their personal finances throughout the rest of their life. Personally, I feel that the rules preventing these athletes from receiving any type of compensation, could be potentially setting up them for failure.

Unfortunately, it is a common theme for many of these athletes, who once lived the life of luxury and fame, to mishandle their finances and end up living in debt after retirement. This can be due to a various reasons. However, one of the biggest causes for this is the lack of competent financial planning advice. Forbes.com states, “80% of retired NFL players go broke in their first three years out of the League.” While this statistic is only pertaining to NFL athletes, this is something that is extremely common for many athletes who play professional sports. I feel that this could potentially be prevented if college athletes begin their journey of dealing with their finances hands-on before they graduate college. The unfortunate truth of our education system is that many teenagers and people in their early twenties, may not even know how to balance a checkbook by the time they graduate. How can something that is so paramount in our lives, such as finances, not be taught in detail to highschool and college students?

When looking at all of the statistics, the NCAA contradicts themself. If they place value on academics over sports, then why are some college athletes forced to miss classes due to games or tournaments that the NCAA has organized for them? For many, excelling in sports could be their “ticket out” and a give these athletes a way to give back to their families and those who have supported them over the years. When accepting a role as a NCAA Athlete, these athletes are accepting the fact that they are going to have to make sacrifices in order to continue playing the sport that you love. However, many of these athletes could get so caught up in the moment, that they are not thinking about the many outcomes that could happen after college.

For some athletes, the consequences of signing over their freedoms to the NCAA can affect them even earlier than when they graduate. The reality for some, is getting hurt. This can force them to sit out and not play for weeks, months, or even a full season. Best case scenario, these athletes make a full recovery through the help of physical therapy and time off. However, not all athletes have that outcome. An injury could potentially career ending, putting an athlete back at square one. Their athletic future could be gone in a single second as well as their athletic scholarship. If a college athlete had some sort of income and they happen to get injured, then they will have some extra finances to allow them to get back on their feet.

While we are taught from a young age to “dream big”, it is important to also remain realistic and NCAA.com states that fewer than only 2% of athletes go on to play professional sports after college. In a sense, college athletes should seek to find happiness in opportunities outside of just playing a sport. This is especially important due to them having little to no income during their time playing for the NCAA. NCAA athletes need to be taught to focus on the bigger picture, which is their life after playing sports. Steven Pressfield describes this best by saying, “Turning pro is a mindset. If we are struggling with fear, self-sabotage, procrastination, self-doubt, etc., the problem is, we’re thinking like amateurs. Amateurs don’t show up. Amateurs crap out. Amateurs let adversity defeat them. The pro thinks differently. He shows up, he does his work, he keeps on truckin’, no matter what.”

The NCAA claims that getting an education is the most important part about being a student athlete. If the NCAA was truly focused on the education of student athletes they wouldn’t let them spend the majority of their week focused on their sport. Student athletes at dominant football and basketball schools are encouraged to take a light course load so they have more time to prepare for game day. According to The Washington Post former Northwestern Quarterback, Kain Colter “testified that he was steered away from strenuous classes like chemistry and head to abandon a pre-med major because his sport was too consuming. ‘You can’t ever reach your academic potential with time demands… You have to sacrifice, and we’re not allowed to sacrifice football” (Hruby). If being a student is the most important part of being a student athlete, shouldn’t the student be able to choose what they want to study and have enough time in their day to succeed academically.

The NCAA cares more about making money than looking out for their student athletes. Athletic Scholarships do not guarantee a student athlete the chance of a free education. Athletic scholarships are renewed every year If a student athlete gets injured there athletic career could be over as well as their athletic scholarship. The New York Times states “Under N.C.A.A. rules, players can still lose their scholarships after being hurt, often pay for their own insurance and are generally responsible for long-term health care for injuries sustained on the playing field” (Strauss). The NCAA is a billion dollar business that views student athletes as a source of revenue, and when someone’s career ends, someone else’s is about to begin.

Also, one of the most under-discussed issues in regards to this topic is the immense amount of money colleges make off of their athletes. USA Today reported that the college earning the most money off of athletics is Texas A&M. It is has been reported that they made nearly 192.6 million dollars in 2017. Overall, NCAA athletics generate around 9.15 billion dollars annually. These athletes, in a way, are employees for their college. If they make they are making their respective college money, then why shouldn’t they be compensated for their efforts? It is as if they are giving these athletes the short end of the stick, while they end up benefiting greatly. If this practice of not paying employees was being done in the corporate world, then it would be extremely illegal and many lawsuits would be put in place. Colleges should have to follow guidelines that enforce paying athletes depending on how much money they generate from their school’s athletics.

In conclusion, I do feel that The National College Athletic Association Athletes and Compensation should be held accountable to pay each and every athlete. There are many positive outcomes from doing this. Presently, there are college athletes suffering in the long run due to the NCAA refusing to pay them for their efforts. Hopefully, one day The National College Athletic Association Athletes and Compensation will take steps in order to change their practices. Until then, athletes need to continue to look at their lives from the bigger picture and not focus solely on their sport. When all is done and said athletes need to hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

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