Ah, the infamous pay for play debate! Let’s face it, we’re about to open a huge can of worms and have a lot of fun with this topic. This discussion is nothing new; it plays like a broken record at times, but it does seem to have picked up in recent years. Most athletes growing up in the modern era have, more than likely, heard this debate their whole career too. So, instead of feeding you opinion to sway you one way or another, let’s glance over the numbers since we all know numbers never lie.
The classic argument on why student athletes should be paid, is that they generate money for the school. This is true, student athletes do generate money for universities, but it’s only a half truth. See, the universities have to use some of that money to pay coaches, maintain athletic facilities, pay extra staff on game days, and most surprisingly, cover the sports that actually lose money.
Having attended a Div. II university myself, it is absurd for anyone to think that Div. III, Div. II, and Div. 1 AA make any money on their sports, when most Div 1A do not. In 2012, only 23 of 228 NCAA Div. 1 public universities captured enough money to cover their athletic expenses. Of the 23, 16 sought some form of subsidy. In recent years, roughly 20 to 25 Div. 1A football teams actually make money for the university, instead of losing it. That money goes back into the football program, but also into the universities other sports to help cover losses.
According to fiscal reports drawn up in 2010, FBS institutions spent an average of $45 million on athletics. I’ll admit, student athletes have it hard when having to juggle the task of being a student and athlete, but they are taken care of better than an average university student. In 2010, the median spending on an average university student was $13,628, which was up 23% from a 2005 report; at the same time, the median spending average on a university athlete was $91,936, which was up a whopping 51% from the same 2005 report.
Without getting off topic, it should be addressed that some student athletes are sub par when it comes to university standards. In 2012, 30 student athletes who made their universities money scored below a 700 on the SAT; the average usually ranges around 1,000. An alarming 7 to 18% of student athletes who make their university money, read at an elementary level. During a recent university scandal, research found that 60% of that university’s student athletes read between a third to eighth grade level, while a shocking 10% read below a third grade level. With numbers like these, and already knowing the numbers above, should more money be thrown at student athletes?
“Remember that being a student athlete is a privilege, not a right.” -Student Athlete Handbook New Mexico Athletics.
Now, let’s flip the coin and look at the other side. 15. That’s the average number of hours a student athlete is awake during their season. That number encompasses student athletes waking up and partaking in morning conditioning, going to classes, going to practice, probably missing dinner in the cafeteria, and doing wonderful homework before bed. Let’s face it, there’s probably a lot more they do, and please, don’t kid yourself NCAA in thinking that universities adhere to your set limitations. But, if you were in the shoes of a student athlete, wouldn’t you want some extra spending money?
Below Div. 1A, you will be hard pressed to find a student athlete on a full ride scholarship, because the scholarship money is usually broken up and dispersed amongst the teams’ players. Let’s talk about Michael McNeely. McNeely was a wide receiver for the University of Florida, he was a walk-on, he was accepted into the University of Florida’s medical program, but during all that, he was a cashier/bagger at Publix. Mr. McNeely, I’m sure, is not the only student athlete working, while wearing the hat of student and athlete, so why shouldn’t student athletes receive some sort of stipend? And let’s not forget, if a student athlete is on a scholarship, they are not allowed to work a job, not even as a work-study. So yes, I am sure student athletes would love some type of payment.
Let’s re-visit a point I discussed earlier, and that is universities losing money due to most sports losing money. Though this may be true, a couple facts have been overlooked: sponsorship rights and broadcasting rights. Nike or Adidas? Coca Cola or Pepsi? These brands pay top dollar for their logos to be plastered all over stadiums and campuses to make money back. I mean we’re talking about dishing out millions for marketing purposes. As for broadcasting? Some conferences have been able to launch their own television platforms; you don’t do that, unless you are loaded with money. So with all these sponsors and broadcast bidders throwing money at universities, why don’t student athletes see any of it?
Another valid point to consider are the ridiculous contracts in the NCAA. For awhile now, NCAA president Mark Emmert has made $1.7 million in salary, and many of the big name college coaches, cough *Urban Meyer, Nick Saban* cough, easily make over $6 to 7 million a year. College sports are bringing in huge dollars, and since the student athletes cannot see any type of payment, it results in wonderful pay days for coaches and NCAA members.
“You go to Chapel Hill and try to go to a Carolina-Duke game, good luck trying to find a ticket. It’s nationally televised. There’s so much money that goes behind just one basketball game. I do think the players from both sides should definitely see some type of benefit.” – former UNC-Chapel Hill basketball player, Marvin Williams.
It is the ancient debate that may never end, but at times, it seems that the outcome may be inevitable. Universities lose money on almost 100% of their sports, but make up for that loss through sponsorship rights and broadcasting channels. Student athletes receive much more attention and money aid than the average student, but then again, the same student athletes are making their universities top dollar. The madness may never end, but until a resolution occurs, the debate will rage on with its lines already drawn. What’s your opinion? Should student athletes be paid to play?