Simply put: college students are not professional athletes who are paid inducements and salaries for a career in sports. Through their participation in sports, college athletes earn access to a college education often accompanied by a scholarship that covers tuition, book fees, room and board and numerous other expenses. Collegiate sports is not career or profession, it is an aspiring athlete’s road to success and higher education. That is all it should be.
According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) website, the average yearly scholarship for an athlete at in-state public school is $15,000, in an out of state school it is $25,000 and for a private university $35,000. These scholarships are only awarded to the elite- the outstanding student athletes who are valuable to schools in a plethora of ways. This even gives student athletes a distinct advantage over their peers. Student athletes have the ability to graduate without the burden of massive student loans over their heads, while the majority of students are not given that luxury.
College athletes are paid not with money but with their education. In addition to higher education, players learn values that go beyond the classroom and will be translated into the workforce that go beyond school. At the end of the day these are the most important things, and if all of this comes on the dime of the university, there is no reason for student athletes to receive payment.
Guilderland High School (GHS) student Ania Alberski believes that colleges athletes should be focused on learning because that’s why they are in college in the first place. She says, “It’s kind of ridiculous that kids can get scholarships to good colleges based on their athletic ability since they don’t have much to offer academically.” She adds that, “Most of these athletes are like trophies- they are only there to make the school look more appealing and renowned.” It is unfair to take away scholarship opportunities from those who work hard and deserve it, and give those scholarships to athletes who are solely focused on their sport.
If universities began to pay athletes, there would most definitely be a widening gap between those students who work extremely hard to make ends meet and the star athletes who receive scholarship money in addition to an income. This would not only create a disparity amongst peers, but also between large and small universities. Large universities with great sums of revenue would buy out all of the best players for their teams, leaving the smaller schools at an unfair disadvantage.
Just last year, University of Texas athletic director Steve Patterson revealed that his university will soon begin paying its student-athletes in every sport, male and female. UT expects to spend $6 million annually on the endeavor, which works out to roughly $10,000 per athlete per year. The money will cover college expenses that aren’t covered by traditional scholarships and give each player $5,000 in compensation for the use of their image. The latter is in connection to the O’Bannon lawsuit. While an athletic department like Texas- the most profitable in the country, can easily cover these expenses, other schools are intimidated that cuts in sports could be casualties from these additional payments to athletes.
GHS student Ryan Mcklusky agrees with UT’s endeavor stating that “student athletes should be given money to spend leisurely because most of them are exploited by a huge money making industry.” However, isn’t college life all about being broke and working hard to make ends meet? If athletes are paid, they are on the verge of being spoiled and losing sight of their motivation and work ethic.
Furthermore, the disparity would widen even more with the question of equal wages amongst male and female athletes. The NCAA reported that 28.3 million viewers watched the 2015 NCAA men’s Division I National Championship between Wisconsin and Duke. They also reported that there were 3.1 million viewers for the 2015 NCAA Women’s Division I National Championship between Notre Dame and UConn. Obviously, these numbers vary vastly and the statistics show that more people are interested in watching men play sports than watching women play sports. The same goes for Division II and Division III sports, why shouldn’t athletes of all gender be paid the same amount for equal practice, performance, and play? It’s all because of statistics that are prejudiced, unfair and bound to spiral into much worse problems with female athletes entering the arena to fight for equal pay.
At UNC Asheville, track and field runner Kelsie Rubino was unaware on her school’s decision to pay only the men’s and women’s basketball players, but not the scholarship athletes in 12 other sports. “I don’t think that’s fair! I don’t understand why some students are going to be paid and others aren’t,” Rubino stated. “I feel like we all put in the same amount of work and effort, and I thought we were all one big family.”
Several people argue that student athletes are like machines, toys that are labored away for a multi-billion dollar business. That is far from the truth. Whether these athletes pan out as professionals or not, they made a name for themselves and they are graduating from college debt free. The NCAA graduation rate for student athletes is 60%. This means that 40% of student athletes are transferring schools, dropping out, or simply unable to graduate. The majority of the time, it is the latter and this makes it more difficult for unsuccessful athletes to find jobs in the work force later on. Paying student athletes would only increase the percentage of those unable to graduate, because they would become too confident of their skills and become even more unmotivated to focus on academics.
Northwestern University football players filed a petition last year to form a labor union and by popular vote, a ruling allowed for the formation of this union. Since when does getting the chance to play a game you love everyday constitute as a job? College athletes need to recognize their opportunity as a privilege, that most people often don’t get to have. Essentially, if athletes do work hard enough to get to the professional level, then they can make a job out of it. College athletes are invited to play at top notch universities because of their passion and love for the game, which makes them excel at it. When you combine wages with college sports, this passion is lost. Becoming a student athlete is about pride and the intense passionate gratification that a win brings to a team and all of its fans, it should not be a measure of material value.
College is a place for people to obtain a degree to help jumpstart their “real world” career aspirations. Whether people want to capitalize on that opportunity or not, it is completely on them. College is not a place for athletes to get paid to play sports, and that is why the professional level of athletics exists. It is important to remember that “student” comes first in “student athlete.”