Sports: College athletes must be paid

EDDY YU

Should college athletes be paid? This has been a big question for the past decade. Until recently, the National Collegiate Athletic Association(NCAA) has said no, and labeled college athletes as amateurs who would not get paid. Is this fair? Or is it exploitation? College football and basketball programs generate billions of dollars every year. Where does all this money go if the players don’t get a cent? I’ll tell you where the money goes, it goes to the NCAA, the universities, tv programs, and coaches. Many college athletes work just as hard as the pros with top football and men’s basketball players putting up to 60 hours a week in games and practices. That’s longer than most adults work. On top of that, they have to attend classes and get their hw done. Yet they’re not getting paid! It just doesn’t make sense. Often sports don’t allow student athletes to find a job or to get an intern, which many other students obtain to make ends meet.

Many people believe that many college athletes have the “good life.” The average FULL scholarship athlete accumulates an average of 3,200 dollars of debt each year because meal plans and other incidentals often aren’t fully covered. Shabazz Napier, star playing of the reigning NCAA basketball champion University of Connecticut last year who is now in the NBA, once said “There are nights that I go to bed and I’m starving.”  How can that be right? A star whose image was used on TV all over nation, whose jerseys are sold all over the country, doesn’t have enough money for food? For the very reason that they aren’t earning money when they should and they need to, there are college athletes that end up dropping out of college, and missing out on key education in hope of joining the pros and earning some very-much needed cash.

Even if colleges don’t pay athletes, someone should. Endorsements. What are endorsements? To put it frankly, in this sense, an endorsement is a company or business paying an athlete to sponsor them or be in commercials for them. Why aren’t college athletes aren’t allowed to go make money for themselves? Who is Jeremy Bloom? A football player? A skier?  He is in fact both or was until the NCAA stepped in. Olympian and World Champion skier Jeremy Bloom attended the University of Colorado, and played football there for two years, hoping one day to play in the NFL(National Football League).  According to the NCAA’s long list of rules, college athletes aren’t allowed to have endorsement deals. On the other hand, the United States Olympic Committee encourages endorsements as international travel is expensive and in order for Bloom to continue skiing, he needed to obtain these endorsements. Bloom knew that the NCAA banned endorsements so he sued them on that issue but eventually decided to defy the NCAA and take up endorsements. It was either that or give up skiing. He tried everything he could to not make these endorsements have anything to do with the NCAA. He made sure his sponsors were not football related and never mentioned football in them.. However, the NCAA found out and banned him from playing the college sport he loved, football. As a result, Bloom missed his chance to play football as an upperclassman. “I did all these things to prepare and I worked hard and the one thing I really wanted was to start at receiver. To look back and think that it wasn’t my ability that kept me from doing that, it was an organization…I thought that was really unfair.” Bloom said.

In many colleges, sports are a bigger priority than education, as coaches tell students to switch classes if it conflicts with practice. Heisman trophy winner Johnny Manziel used to play football at the Texas A&M University. He was once suspended when he was paid for signing autographs. The NCAA rule is that players cannot sell their image or likeness for profit. The problem is…that’s exactly what colleges do with their star players. It’s estimated that when Manziel won the Heisman trophy in 2012(awarded to the best college football player every year), $37 million dollars in profit was generated through media exposure for the university. Additionally, Texas A&M raised $740 million dollars in fundraising that year, $440 million dollars more than the school’s old record. No doubt that a large percentage of that huge increase is a result of star Johnny Manziel’s image being broadcast on television all over nation. So universities are cashing in, television stations are cashing in, coaches are paid millions, and who are they only one’s that aren’t? The players themselves. Why are the coaches being paid so much when some players are equally or more responsible for bringing money to the universities?

The National College Players Association and Drexel University conducted a joint study on Football Bowl Subdivision colleges which includes all the top football colleges. They discovered that of the players that earned a “full” scholarship, 85% of players who lived on campus lived below the federal poverty line and 86% of players living off campus lived below the federal poverty line. This study also showed that the fair market value of an average FBS football player was $121, 048 and the average FBS basketball player to be $265, 027. If these student athletes are worth so much, why are they still living in poor conditions?

Ed O’Bannon played basketball for UCLA. In 2009, over 10 years after graduating, he realized that his image was used in a video game without his consent and without compensation. He then fired a lawsuit against NCAA and EA Sports(the videogame company). This lawsuit quickly became popular as 19 other former college athletes soon joined this lawsuit. Judge Claudia Wilken and the court ruled in favor of Bannon and declared the NCAA ban on players being paid for their image illegal. Starting in the spring of 2016, athletes in top football and basketball programs will have to be paid at least $5,000 a year for their image being used on television and for video games. However, this money will be placed in a trust account, that players can only access after they graduate college which doesn’t help many who are scraping to get by. Nevertheless, it’s a start in bringing change to the strict harsh rules of the NCAA and in the near future, perhaps finally college athletes will be paid what they deserve.

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