To Pay Or Not to Pay: Andre and Derek Discuss Paying NCAA Athletes

Derek Thomson

To get some background on the issue at hand; many students-athletes in high school dream of going to college in hopes to play a sport at the professional level. The is broken down into three divisions, Division 1, 2, and 3 and usually the Division 1 is considered the most elite out of the three. Students only attending schools with D1 or D2 sports programs can give out scholarships to help the student cover the cost of tuition. This seems like a pretty good deal, they go to school to get their degree and for the most part it is all paid for and a majority of them receive a stipend of $3,000 to $5,500 on top of that they get to play the sport they love. This article will be mainly focused of division one athletes.

On the other side of things the colleges and the NCAA are making huge profits off these players. In an article written by Benjamin Sachs titled, Labor Law Meets College Football A Union For NCAA Athletes said that a few years back the NCAA got a $10.8 billion dollars for fourteen years of broadcast rights to March Madness basketball tournament. Nick Saban who is the head coach of the Alabama football team and he makes $7,087,481 a year. Where the NCAA estimated that a full scholarship is worth $30,000 a year at a state school and a little more for private institutions. Rules say that major college program coaches can only demand only 20 hours of their players’ time a week. In a USA Today article a study recorded data from a top-tier Division 1 football players said they spent an average of 44.8 hours a week on their sport, practicing, watching tapes, traveling and lifting.

Also, Colleges and Universities are able to sell team apparel and sport specific jerseys and make profit off of them, while the athletes get no compensation. In 2014 the retail marketplace for college-licensed merchandise was estimated at $4.59 billion according to the Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC). The University of Michigan signed an 11 year, $169 million contract with Nike that includes $77 million in cash. This is the biggest contract for a public university in college sports history. The University of Texas at Austin is ranked number one in CLC’s fiscal year-end ranking for the ninth consecutive year. According to International Business Times, Texas earned $161.3 million for the 2013-2014 school year, which is more than any other university in the country. The Longhorns’ football team was the most profitable, earning $74.1 million over the same period of time.

College athletes have been trying to get their voices heard by bring these issues to court. Most recently, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling of Ed O’Bannon a former UCLA basketball star’s case that the NCAA violated antitrust laws by limiting student athlete compensation, but also ruled against a plan to pay student athletes as much as $5,000 annually. The court’s panel made a statement regarding the case saying, “It’s important to remember that we’re talking about students, not employees. Our goal is for our students to learn teamwork and leadership through sports, and then graduate and be successful. The NCAA is not above the antitrust laws, and courts cannot and must not shy away from requiring the NCAA to play by the Sherman Act’s rules. In this case, the NCAA’s rules have been more restrictive than necessary to maintain its tradition of amateurism in support of the college sports market. The Rule of Reason requires that the NCAA permit its schools to provide up to cost of attendance to their student athletes. It does not require more.” Although O’Bannon efforts failed in some aspects he also gained the attention of many and with this ruling it might open the doors for the NCAA to take the case before the U.S. Supreme Court.



-The money can help players pay for food and living expenses so they not need to get a part-time job on top of school and their sport.

-The money would encourage players to stay in college longer, which would be good for graduation rates and the way professional athletes use their money and allow them to be more matured.

-The risk of career ending injuries and how players can get screwed

-Companies could endorse college athletes

-They would be getting compensated for the sales of their jerseys and hard work.



-Would deviate the students from what they went to their respective institutions in the first place and that is to get a college degree.

-Who would be responsible for paying the students? The school or the NCAA?

-Do athletes with better performance get more pay than others?

-The unfairness to less popular sports and colleges with lesser funds.

-It would break the spirit of being an amateur athlete.

-The NCAA provides a place for an education and the exposure to get major professional contracts in exchange for the athlete’s hard work.



Andre Tarquinio

  1. College Athletes Spend an Average of 43.3 Hours Per Week Dedicated to Their Sport

This is true although it varies largely from sport-to-sport and I’m not convinced it’s a reason. Most of the college athletes in Division I who generate money are on scholarship, receiving a free education that would cost $30,000-$50,000 per year. Many of them avoid the hugestudent debt crisis that’s occurring before our eyes. Some argue that they don’t get/want a real education, which may be true for those at the top who know they can make the pros, but for many the degree does matter.


But to get back to the point at hand, they spend a lot of time on their sport, which is the source of their scholarship. That’s actually not an unusual thing, for example most students on academic scholarship have to maintain pristine grades meaning they’ll put in more time to their schooling. Many students with need based aid need to do some kind of work-study program, which is simply you working for the school to pay back some of your aid. Working many hours for a scholarship isn’t a surprising or unusual thing and it doesn’t seem reason enough to change the system at hand.


  1. College Athletes Struggle to Make Ends Meet


You could replace the word athlete with student and this sentence would still be true. The point made by listland is that, although these students have their scholarship they still don’t have money for spending on other things like outside sources of food. Keep in mind virtually every school we are talking about has dining plans, which are covered by scholarship. However, yes, if they want to buy a burger at a restaurant or go out one night, they do have to pay out of pocket and likely they can’t get money at a job during this time.


While I understand the argument, I would have to say that it’s a tradeoff. Again, having no (or low) student loans and a meal plan means that you should have pretty low discretionary spending anyway. So I’ll agree that spending will have to be kept low for the time being but that’s a large part of the deal with being in college.


  1. The College Sports Apparel Market Capitalizes Specifically on the Players


This is one that just isn’t true for the vast majority of players. Yes, Braxton Miller, and Ezekiel Elliott’s numbers are probably sold at Ohio State and sell well, but I can promise you the linemen aren’t having their jersey numbers on display. To boot, Ball State players aren’t having their jerseys sold, certainly not in large quantities, so it’s only a select few players on a select few teams who are really having their number sell.


In addition, the colleges make sure not to put the name on the backs of the jerseys. We all know this is just a precautionary measure but nonetheless it does put those athletes who are selling jerseys in a more difficult position to prove that that jersey represents them.


  1. Top Coaches are Rewarded More Than Fairly


This point doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Listland correctly point out that college coaches make more than $100,000 per year, which is skewed by how much the top teams are paying their coaches. They point out that Alabama pays their coach, who they refuse to name as Nick Saban, $7 million per year. However, they don’t point out Nick Saban’s credentials and the fact that if Nick Saban wanted to coach in the NFL he would be welcomed with open arms. Coaches in college are paid what they are worth, as is the case in a capitalist society. But the reason we can’t do that for student athletes is because Ohio State would be willing to spend whatever it could on the best quarterback and skill position players, but the backup right guard isn’t getting much at all. In turn it puts the teams with less money like Ball State at even more of a disadvantage because all they could do is pick up the scraps that Ohio State doesn’t want.


  1.  A Salary Would Help Student Athletes Learn How to Manage Their Money


Athletes learning how to manage money is actually very important and some schools have began to realize this. Giving them a small salary wouldn’t necessarily solve the problem though. There’s a huge difference between making thousands and making millions, as we see when someone wins the lottery and goes bankrupt within a year.


Instead the onus is on the schools to educate their athletes, particularly at big name schools like Ohio State. I have always felt athletes should have to take a money management course, and interestingly enough Mississippi State recently implemented that rule. (Interestingly that course goes along with a stipend that was recently allowed by the NCAA for only those in the Power 5 conferences, a slippery slope in my opinion.)




The point of this article is not to criticize college athletes but to spark a conversation. College athletes began getting stipends from big schools this year all between $2000-$5000. This wasn’t just given to revenue sports (football and basketball) but all athletes sparking questions. Of course the football team brings in a ton of money for the big schools but lacrosse doesn’t. (maybe someday they will) Why do the lacrosse players get a stipend?


The problem is this stipend is just the beginning, the football players have no reason to stand for being paid the same as everyone else when they generate most of the revenue, and once they ask for more it opens up more challenges. Does every football player get the same? If so, that still isn’t fair, but is more reasonable than the stipend system. Do players get paid what their worth? In that case the quarterback gets rich, the linemen can eat, and the punters may get a bag of chips if they’re lucky.


That system is most capitalistic and American and under normal circumstances would be fine but then the NCAA would have a choice to make. They can allow schools to use their money as they see fit and spend on players, which would give the big schools a huge advantage because they have more money. The Big 10 and SEC have huge networks that generate millions for example. The other option is to install a salary cap so that teams that don’t get as much money from tv deals (teams outside of the power 5 conferences) aren’t playing at a huge disadvantage. The cap would have to be set pretty low so that all the schools could afford it, but it would make for the most fair competition while also providing fair wages.


Wait a second.


A league with a salary cap where players are paid what they are worth based upon that cap number. I think we just created the NFL. There lies the problem, paying college athletes inevitably leads to a system that is just like the NFL. At that point we may as well just consider college football the minor leagues for the NFL. Take down the facade of student-athletes because those athletes would be getting paid real world wages (plus might be getting a degree but who cares about that). If the system we want to create is simply the NFL but with college kids then I won’t stop you, but just say it.

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