5 Reasons Why NCAA Athletes Should Be Paid

By the start of the twentieth century, it was clear that college athletics needed regulation. At the time, students were the ones who policed themselves, and it ended up very badly; resulting in over 18 deaths and 100 serious injuries during the 1905 football season alone. The answer laid in the creation of the NCAA, an organization devoted to establishing and executing rules and regulations of some of the country’s biggest sports.

Fast-forward a century, and the NCAA has grown into a colossal entity, bringing in billions of dollars per year and tasked with the regulation of college athletics. As an organization with over 1,200 schools under its jurisdiction, the NCAA has grown so big that it has in fact gained more power than it ever should have. With the growth of the organization, even more power has been delegated to a very few select individuals who can literally determine a student’s fate because of a litany of rules violations, ranging from taking money to boosters all the way up to receiving a free meal on a recruiting trip.

Aside from having so much power amongst such a small number of officers and commissioners, the NCAA faces constant criticism for not allowing student athletes to be paid. From the NCAA’s point of view, they are amateurs, with their first responsibilities coming as students to their school. Along with paying for the costs of students’ education, student athletes are able to receive extra academic support, world-class training, and national recognition, but is it worth it?

The perks of being a student athlete are nothing to scoff at, but shouldn’t athletes be paid? After all, the athletic departments at many D1 schools bring in more money alone than any other department. Despite the fact that they make no money because of their athletic prowess, these student athletes bring in millions of dollars annually, without ever receiving a dime. Because of strict NCAA rules, there are hundreds of student athletes that risk eligibility each semester just trying to make ends meet.

While these athletes live in fear of their scholarships being revoked, division one coaches are paid handsomely for the money they bring into their universities. As recently as 2012, in 40 out of 50 states the highest publically paid employee was the head basketball or football coach of a state university. Here are five reasons why student athletes should be paid with more than just their educations.

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5 The Amount of Time Spent on Athletics

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The schedule of a student athlete in season is enough to make any adult want to pull their hair out. Typically, an athlete will wake up before dawn, work out, eat, and then go to an 8 or 9am class. After that, they will get lunch, a little bit more class time, and then it’s time for practice. Whether it is in a classroom studying film or out on the field, by late afternoon, they’ve already put in over a 10 hour work day.

As many analysts have said, the NCAA has a perfect model of cheap labor. They provide an education and everything that goes with it; all they ask for in return is your peak performance on the field. On average, the typical in season student athlete works 43.3 hours per week. If you’ve ever worked overtime you know how it can take a toll on you, on top of the physicality involved with practices and workouts. I’m not saying that all revenue needs to be shared, but it would be nice to see the NCAA compensate these athletes for the time they do put in. Nobody wants to work for less than what they are worth; the “full ride” scholarships are not enough to satisfy the needs of these student athletes in today’s economic climate.

4 Time Out of Class

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If the NCAA claims that the education the students receive is enough, then why are they out of class so often? Whether you attended a division one school or a division two school, the average sports fan is aware of the privileges these athletes receive and how much class time they miss. A tournament here, a travel day here, the time out of the classroom adds up quickly. Do you really think the Alabama football team is in class focused on their work when they are getting ready to play Georgia in two days?

Take the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament for instance. The tournament spans several weeks, with student athletes missing a minimum of six days of class. If they were any other college student, after a couple days of missing Senior level classes you would be kicked out of the class. If they were employees at a company, missing extended time would result in an absolute dismissal.

College football and basketball alone bring in more money per year than the NHL and NBA, so why is it socially acceptable for them to be reading at a 5th grade reading level? If the NCAA provides such a high standard of education and services for free, then why are test scores so low? The NCAA can’t control how much effort students put in to their studies, but they can control how much time they allow athletes to be able to miss.

3 The NCAA as a Cash Cow

Obviously, Americans love their sports and there will always be a steady flow of people to buy up anything that says “Roll Tide” or “Go State” on it. The fact that the NCAA takes so much yet gives so little is what bothers me. According to a study done by Drexel University Department of Sports Management, the annual out of pocket expense to athletes is still over $3,000. In addition, the findings also concluded that taxpayers continue to subsidize food stamps and welfare of student athletes in order to fill in the gaps left behind by the NCAA’s scholarship cap.

Just by looking at the amount of football related revenue one can only imagine how much better off all athletes would be under some sort of revenue sharing program. In 2012, three schools made over $50 million from football alone. Alabama, Ohio State, and Oregon all rolled in the dough, yet the NCAA has made it illegal for a player to take any sort of compensation outside costs for education. Does anybody else see a problem here?

2 NCAA Acts as an Employer

Northwestern University quarterback Kain Colter speaks during a press conference for CAPA College Athletes Players Association at the Hyatt Regency. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports Images

By definition, an employee is a person that does work for another person or group, in exchange for compensation. Isn’t that what the relationship between student athletes and universities is? When scholarship athletes became more common, the NCAA was afraid it would be sued in order to provide wages and/or benefits to athletes. In an attempt to backpedal its way out of providing benefits, the NCAA specifically announced that the athletes were students first.

But aren’t these “student” athletes offering a service in exchange for compensation? By risking their health and academic performance and getting an education in exchange, they are kind of in an employer/employee relationship. In a more modern era, we must ask four questions to determine if there is in fact an employment relationship. Does the employer control or dictate the actions of the employee? Does the employer have the right to discipline and or fire? Is the employee dependent upon the wages of the employer? Is the task of the employee essential to the employer’s survival?

The answer to all these questions is yes, creating an employment relationship. The NCAA is the sole body to regulate and govern the behavior of student athletes, with the ability to not renew scholarships of student athletes for any reason since 1973. Considering that NCAA rules and the fact that so much time is devoted to athletics, I’d also say these athletes do depend on the employer wages, in this case the educational and professional benefits given to athletes.

1 Lack of Competition

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The NCAA has no competition when it comes to competing organizations. While athletes have to stay in school for a minimum of two years before entering the NFL, more recently the NBA has implemented a similar rule of one year out of high school. If a five star recruit doesn’t want to go to school, what other options do they have? They can sit out a season and lose some of their ability and educational aptitude, or they can go abroad. How many people have gone abroad and bypassed playing college basketball before entering the NBA draft? So far, only three.

With a lack of other avenues for student athletes to go pursue, the NCAA has positioned itself as the be all, end all if you want to make it to the next level. As an organization that started out to protect student athletes, how much good are they really doing? The one-and-done culture in college basketball right now is sickening, but you can’t blame any of these kids who are leaving in favor of pursuing large contracts. If the NCAA were a fair market, the average value of an NCAA football player would be $137,000 and a basketball player would be worth $289,000. So you tell me, who is really benefiting by not paying these student athletes?

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