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BSD Roundtable: Should College Athletes Be Paid?

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In the past year, the NCAA has cracked down on players taking illegal benefits from agents and boosters. USC is under two years of probation for the Reggie Bush affair. Cecil Newton openly shopped his son around to SEC schools. Terrelle Pryor and several other Ohio State players were caught selling memorabilia they were given as players. All of these things are clearly against NCAA rules, but how fair are the rules? We all know how much money colleges bring in off of the hard work of these kids, and we all know what it's like to be young and poor. Should college football players be paid or at least allowed to accept benefits?

Spakajewia says...

As I wrote last week, the rules are unfair and should be changed.
First things first, college football players are not amateur athletes. They earn a scholarship in return for their ability to pass, run, block, tackle, punt and kick. The value of the scholarship is the individual salary cap. And most NCAA schools earn a lot off their football players in return. According to a recent CNN Money article that cites Department of Education data, in the most recent seaon, NCAA schools made $1.1 billion (with a "b") from their football programs. Every one of the 68 schools in BCS conferences turned a profit except four teams which broke even and Wake Forest, which lost money. Penn State’s football program turned a profit of more than $50 million.
Last week, I argued that the NCAA should "provide avenues for college athletes to legitimately make some money for what they do for their universities. Sure, it gets difficult once you look at the specifics, but that doesn't mean it's not worth doing." In the discussion that followed in the comment section, I came to appreciate just how difficult it would be to pay college football players. You have to figure out a fair and just way to divide the money between players, schools, sports, etc. And the biggest issue is probably Title IX, because if you pay football and men's hoops players, you have to find a way to proportionally increase the amount of money on women's sports.

Perhaps we can get into the specifics of Title IX in a later post, but for right now, it's reasonable to assume that Title IX isn't going anywhere, which all of a sudden means that you can't really afford to pay football and men's basketball players from school coffers, because you'd have to spend a roughly equal amount on women's sports to make it up. And as high as college football "profits" are, athletic departments average taking a $10 million subsidy from universities' general funds at the bigger schools, according to ESPN's (and The New Republic's) Gregg Easterbrook. Penn State, which is able to pay for the fencing and cross country teams from the revenue created by the football program without having to dip into general university funds, is the exception to the rule.
To be clear, NCAA athletic departments are little Marxist universes. From each according to his ability, to each according his/her need. Money generated from the football players is used to subsidize the golf team. Money from men's hoops is used to pay for women's soccer. As unfair as this is, trying to overhaul the way athletic departments fund themselves would be a herculean effort and would likely require a bill to pass the Congress and be signed into law by the President to revise or abolish Title IX.
But the NCAA can make things more just for the players that are doing the most to help their schools without involving the Congress by simply allowing athletes to engage in the same entrepreneurial activities as their millionaire coaches. As Allen Sack, a professor in the College of Business at the University of New Haven, argued in the New York Times, "Big-time college athletes should be able to endorse products, get paid for speaking engagements and be compensated for the use of their likenesses on licensed products. They should be allowed to negotiate an actual contract with (a professional league) and have an agent. These athletes are working their way through college by playing professional college sports. It is time to accept this reality and move on."

QBSneak12 Says...

The long and short answer to this question is and always should be no.  College athletics, regardless of what sport you are playing, is for amateurs.  Professionals get paid money to play, not college students.  It is impossible to answer this question just based on football since all athletes would need to be paid including softball, baseball, fencing, gymnastics, and soccer.  Title IX was created to help instill equality in men's and women's athletics.  If you pay the guys, you pay the girls.  If you want to pay the football players $3,000 a semester ($225k per semester), well the university would need to pay that amount to women's athletics.  All of that money cuts into the bottom line of the athletic department.  Critics will say the athletic department is printing money and can afford to pay players, but not every athletic department brings in $70 million a year in revenue.

A school like Louisiana-Monroe's would not come close to the revenue of a Penn State ($70 million) or Texas (#1 at $93 million). The numbers above only reflect the revenue each department makes from football.  If Louisiana-Monroe was to pay an additional $405k a year to the football team for "salary" it would be a hindrance to an already  small athletic budget.  And since at most universities football pays for the majority of the other athletic programs, paying football players (and all other student-athletes) would cause LM to operate in the red.  Do that a couple of years in a row and programs will need to be cut, scholarships taken away, and a shot at a college education disappears for some unlucky student athletes.

I don't think student-athletes should be paid by the athletic department.  The added expense to the athletic department will create a domino effect for the rest of the athletic programs.  Higher ticket prices, higher STEP program (PSL) fees, increased parking prices, increased food and beverage costs.  Believe me, if the university had to pay players, WE the fans, alumni, and students would the one's picking up the tab.  Just imagine what type of creative fee the university we add into each student's tuition.

However I do think the kids should be allowed to hold a part time job, summer job, or some other legitimate form of employment to earn some money.  And to clarify, working at a car dealership and getting paid $20k for 3 months work is not legitimate (sorry Rhett Bomar).  With that said, football is a year round sport making it nearly impossible
for those kids to practice, go to class, and hold a job.  In this case, their "job" is to play football for Penn State University.  And on average, a scholarship player "earns" $20k a year in tuition and other university fees.  The cost of a college education is rising each year and becoming less and less affordable to the average American. Penn State players (on scholarship) are receiving a full scholarship to play football for the university.  It is their contract.  The
University agrees to pay the student's tuition for 4 to 5 years ($100k) and the player agrees to play football.

And as for players receiving benefits - they already receive special benefits.  Players have first pick of classes, a university issued tutor whenever needed, in addition to an academic counselor for their major - players have an additional academic adviser at their disposal.  Players also gain local and national notoriety for excelling in their sport, a full time personal trainer, free meals, athletic clothing (University Issued clothing - cleats, gloves, spikes, shorts, shirts, sweatshirts, pants), private study hall, preferential medical treatment (for any reason), free travel around the country (during athletic events) something many people don't get to do in a life time, and the ability to utilize an alumni network that would gladly employ a former Penn State football player.

Shady boosters and greedy fathers have been around forever, gaining a lot of steam in the 1980's.  Bribing players with money, cars, homes is a major problem in athletics.  The University can only do so much with a players parent, but they can choose who they allow to donate to their program and be around their players.   The argument that some players come from hardship and take the money because they are poor and wanted to "help their family" shouldn't hold any weight.  If a player is going to take money he is going to take it regardless if he is poor or the richest guy on the team.  The university can't agree to pay all of its student-athletes and provide them with special benefits because a percentage of the kids come from poverty.   Penn State or any other university is already providing that individual with an outlet to better their own as well as their families life.  Perform well, and in three years you will be able to afford that house, car, jewelery, etc.

Remember this - paying players would destroy any bit of innocence that is left in college athletics.  These kids play for their school, their colors, and for pride.  I don't know about you, but I don't want my student-athletes playing for money, boosters, or agents.  Let's keep the innocence in college athletics.

NGameday11 Says...

I'm not going to rant on this like my counterparts, but simply, no. College football players shouldn't be paid or recieve benifits. Every single sport on campus, Men's, and Women's requires hard work and effort outside of gameday. If you pay football players you have to pay everybody else. Maybe football is a major sport that brings in the most money and all that fancy jazz, but the work and effort is the same in order to win at the Division 1 level. If you pay all the athletes then why not pay kids who put in time for academic compeitions for the University?

These kids get to suit up and say they play football for Penn State. Growing up in State College I would have given anything to do that. If the only way they can appreciate that is if they get paid then it seems like they're missing the point. It's not like they don't pick up massive gift bags at the bowl games.

Should they recieve benifits? I think the NCAA takes a pretty hardline approach to this topic, but at the same time somebody always finds a loop hole. In the end these athletes are student athletes. I have to wake up every morning and work my butt off and pay for it. If a football player is good enough to recieve benifits and pay then they might have a future in the NFL at which point I'm less likely to pave their way to multimillion dollar contracts with bricks of gold. Everybody has to work hard, very few of us get paid to work hard in college.

Fugimaster Says...

College athletes definitely shouldn't be paid and it's pretty simple to me.
Thousands of college students work unpaid internships in this country every summer. Where athletes get full rides to college for their work, these interns might be lucky if they even get four credits out of the whole deal. Sure, athletes, especially football players, help rake in millions for their athletic departments, but companies save a bundle by bringing in interns as well. At least the athletes have their college education paid for. The idea of universities offering more money than that is a little disturbing to me at a time when the cost of a college education has never been higher for the rest of the student population.

As far as extra benefits go, my feelings are mixed on that topic. While I think some of the rules in place are a little unfair, I think there's a slippery slope full of unintended consequences if they're overturned and I'm not sure if that's a road I want to see college sports go down. If you think the have-have not gap in college sports is big now, wait until Ohio State sits a kid in a room with 10 millionaire donors and says "These guys will have your back for life if you come here." Teams like Indiana and Purdue might as well just quit if that happens. If athletes are allowed to accept benefits, there should be a cap on the amount of money they can accept and it all must go through the NCAA.

BSD Mike Says...

I've been a proponent of student athletes getting paid for quite some time. People make millions off of these kids and they don't get a dime. It must be tough looking up in the stands seeing thousands of fans wearing your jersey and knowing they probably paid $60 a pop for them and wondering where all that money went. And I don't buy the free education and room and board argument. How many of you would work at your jobs for free room and board?

Everybody deserves the opportunity to have some spending money to have a little fun with. But there are a lot of issues that surround it. Title IX is a big one. If you start paying football and basketball players, it's just a matter of time before the women's field hockey team wants theirs too. When that happens, watch how fast schools that just break even on their budget start slashing their non-revenue sports. I don't think anyone wants that. I don't think there is any way you can have universities pay the athletes and keep it fair.

But I do think students should be allowed to have some kind of revenue source from a job or something. Obviously, we can't have have them getting jobs where they get paid $250,000 to show up at a car dealership and sign some autographs. It would have to be pretty strickly regulated by the NCAA. You could set a maximum allowable wage of $15/hour and no more than 25 hours per week.

That would put $375 in a kid's pocket every week. It's not much, but it's enough for them to live a pretty comfortable life as a college student. It wouldn't be enough to stop all of the illegal activity. You would still have guys like Cam Newton and Reggie Bush being offered hundreds of thousands of dollars from shady agents, but you might make it easier for guys like Terrelle Pryor and the other Ohio State players to avoid the temptation of selling their football memorabilia to make a couple thousand bucks.