Collegiate Athletes Should Be Paid

Throughout my whole life, I’ve struggled athletically. Running the mile in elementary P.E. class was my nightmare as I was forced to face my lack of fitness head on. I’ve never been able to run a lap around a track without gasping for breath or feeling like my legs would crumble under my weight. Because of my lack of physical agility and endurance, I envied my athletically gifted classmates. Watching my cousin run a six minute mile or my best friend swim a 650 in under 10 minutes baffled me and left me feeling inadequate. Okay, I swear I was going somewhere with this intro; now to relocate my train of thought… Over time, I’ve grown to appreciate and admire the amount of work and training it takes for athletes to thrive in their sport of choice. Waking up for morning workouts and finishing practice in complete darkness takes more discipline than some full-time jobs. As my classmates and I have grown up, I’ve seen them pursue their dreams of playing in the NFL, NBA, WNBA and Olympic volleyball teams through their effort in college athletics. Based on real-life observations and stories passed on to me, I truly believe that collegiate athletes should be paid.

The arguments in favor of and opposed to financially compensated student athletes have spread in modern America where college sports reign supreme. In a world where Nick Saban “employs” the biggest and best in the nation and schools like Ohio State, Michigan and Clemson bring in millions of dollars a year based on their athletic success, a discussion on whether athletes should be paid must remain a priority in NCAA meetings. My opinion is based upon five points ranging from scholarships to a professional level of play.

In 2016, universities, coaches, the NCAA and television stations are multi-million dollar corporations  because of the student athletes. Last year alone, Michigan State head football coach Mark Dantonio made 3.7 million dollars while the school as a whole brought in 97 million. How many dollars did Spartan football players earn? Zero. Why is it that the men who put their health and safety at risk every week aren’t compensated while their school’s “brand” rakes in almost 100 million dollars a year? The NCAA made over one billion in earnings, but student athletes across the nation aren’t even allowed to accept a meal from a school supporter. My friend Silas was personally affected by the NCAA’s severe rules when he was kicked off the Baylor football team in 2014 after accepting housing from a family friend. Mind you, he was basically homeless since he only earned enough academic scholarships to cover school tuition. There is absolutely no reason for a student athlete to worry about where he’s going to sleep at night or when his next meal will come when universities are securing millions of dollars a year based on athletic success.

Athletes are treated as professional players but they aren’t financially compensated as such. Every team strongly encourages its players to be the best in the nation, whether it means lifting more or working out after everyone else has left the gym. The level of professionalism in play has raised to a whole new level over the last decade or so. Small town college athletes are regarded as heroes- similar to that of Cam Newton or Russell Westbrook. Gone are the days where student athletes could walk around town going unnoticed. The LaQuan McGowans and Derrick Henrys are praised by community members and are treated with as much special treatment as one in the NFL or NBA. If athletes are trained to win national championships as one would be with the Superbowl, why aren’t they rewarded with not only recognition but also financial satisfaction? There comes a point in time where sports society must decide if student athletes are student-ATHLETES or STUDENT-athletes.

With fame and fortune comes the responsibility of raising or looking after a family. For some student athletes, a lack of financial stability forces them to enter professional drafts. One former Baylor athlete was trying to decide whether to enter the NFL draft or stick behind for a year and the deciding factor was that he had a wife and son to care for. While he was picked up by a professional team, earning more experience could have seriously helped his draft stock. Many athletes don’t finish school or earn their college diplomas because they fear that they won’t be able to support their families without a chance in the pros. With the addition of a college athletic salary, student athletes don’t have to worry as much about support and can instead focus on practice and accomplishing their dreams. Although staying behind doesn’t always mean they’ll have a higher draft stock, some players are better suited for the pros after four true years of experience.

Not only are student athletes going to university full-time, but also are practicing and playing full-time. Collegiate athletics are physically, mentally and academically demanding as students can’t find another job. Most student athletes have 6 am workouts and practice before going to classes and then finishing their day with afternoon and night practices. After going home, eating dinner and working on homework, where does one find enough time in the day to find other work? Many student athletes need extra money to pay for rent, books, meal plans, etc. but have no time to work for the money. If they were financially compensated for their full-time schooling and athletic work, the struggle to complete a long day of classes and workouts wouldn’t be as strenuous.

One of the most popular argument against paying student athletes is the idea that everyone has a full ride to college. This statement couldn’t be any more false. All college teams have a quota of scholarships they can give out and they don’t cover the entire team. While a majority of student athletes on any given team might have their tuition covered, there is still a handful who have to pay their own way, similar to any other student. If student athletes don’t receive an athletic scholarship, they have to apply for academic ones, which are equally as hard, if not harder, to receive. Even though athletic scholarships cover school tuition, they don’t pay for books, meal plans or housing, which means that student athletes have to find a way to cover those fees themselves. If they don’t have any time for an outside job, where are they supposed to find the money to pay for every other fee?

The discussion of paying versus not paying collegiate student athletes will continue as the games become more aggressive and popular. I hope that my stance on the argument has opened your mind to a new opinion or has helped to secure your belief in a fresh way.