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Why college athletes should be paid Essay

Recently in the news, there was a report on the five University of Kentucky basketball players that decided to enter the NBA draft after only their freshmen season. Sure, they were told of the millions of dollars they could make in professional sports, but were they given the odds of them even reaching that big payday? From picks 5-10 in the draft, the success rate of the player becoming a league average starter is about 30%, then for the rest of the first round, picks 11-30 have around a 10% chance (Thread:15 year Basketball Analysis). But even after given the odds, most of the players will choose to enter the draft because if they continue to play and attend college, they could hurt themselves and lose out on all the money. But what happens when the athlete doesn’t make it?

Then he becomes just another person in his early 20s without a college degree, looking for a job. But what if colleges were to offer the players an added incentive to stay, promise a type of salary so the athlete could make some extra money to help with his tuition cost, maintain a social life, and stay in school to finish his degree? Because even on a full scholarship, it does not cover the entire cost, the IRS taxes the scholarship leaving the player about $3,200-$3,500 short a year. This is why paying college athletes makes sense, because it will help keep young adults in school to finish their degrees and help them financially to achieve a better future. College athletes deserve to be paid because sports take up about 40 hours a week, which could translate to a full time job. So why should the players not get paid for doing his job? That is the question that is keeping most student-athletes from completing their education and chancing not only professional sports, but their futures as well.

Michael Wilbon, a featured columnist for ESPN.com, wrote in one of his articles that at first he sided with the NCAA, saying that scholarships should be enough payment for a student athlete to survive on. But recently he took a complete 180 degree flip and sided with the players. He said the reason he changed sides is because, “That $11 billion deal — OK, its $10.8 billion to be exact — between the NCAA and CBS/Turner Sports for March Madness between 2011 and 2024. We’re talking $11 billion for three weekends of television per year. On top of that, there’s a new four-year deal with ESPN that pays the BCS $500 million. So, if those two deals were worth, say, a combined $10 billion instead of $11.3 billion, would the games not be televised? Would the quality of the broadcasts or the coverage or the staging of the events be somehow diminished? What if people in the business of money took $1.3 billion off the top, invested it, sheltered it and made it available to provide a stipend to college athletes, how could anybody stand on principal and argue against paying the people who make the events possible in the first place?”(Wilbon).

The argument Wilbon is trying to make is that he is not looking for the athletes to command these huge, massive paychecks, but rather just a tiny share of the money that they are providing to the school. After all, if it was not for them, the schools would not have that money in the first place. The NCAA has different programs to provide financial assistance to students who need extra money to buy food, clothing, and pay rent. The NCAA puts hundreds of millions of dollars into these programs, why can’t some of that money be directed into programs for student athletes, and in turn make money much more accessible to athletes for the kinds of regular day-to-day expenses regular college students pay by working jobs that are off-limits to intercollegiate athletes? Michael Wilbon addresses the other side of the issue when he states, “The question from the opponents of paying college athletes inevitably comes back, “What would stop a star player from agreeing to shake hands at a local car dealership for $50,000?”

The answer is nothing. If a car dealer wants to strike that deal then good for the player in question. If a music student goes out in the summer and earns 50 grand, who objects? Who even knows? The student-musician is no less a college student because he struck a lucrative deal. Neither is the student-journalist who spends his nights writing freelance stories and picking up as much money along the way as he can” (Wilbon). His spin on that is why should other students be allowed to go out and make money based on their talents, and athletes cannot? The NCAA is doing these players a disservice by not paying them at least a small percentage of the massive amount of money the student-athletes are providing them.

Now even if the NCAA allows athletes to receive stipends, the bigger question of how much does each athlete make looms even larger. Ramogi Huma of the Business Insider writes that, “My organization, The National College Players Association (NCPA) conducted a joint study with Drexel University’s Department of Sport Management showing that, in a fair market, football players in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) that would be worth $121K per year while basketball players would be worth $265K per year. However, NCAA rules leave 85 percent of these players living below the federal poverty line. All of the men’s basketball players that played in this year’s Final Four live below the federal poverty line, but had an average fair market value of $846,172 per player in 2009-10” (Huma). These are players that are bringing millions upon millions of dollars to their Universities, yet about 85% of them live below the federal poverty line? It is stats like these that lead to the student-athletes bolting for the pros before they finish their degree.

What is seen as one of the big hold ups in this case is that Title IX says that men’s and women’s sports must be equal, even though women’s college athletics produces little to zero profit, in fact most programs run in a deficit. To this issue, Huma did some research and during his talk with Title IX author and former Ivy League President Jeff Orleans, he was on record saying that “Title IX would not apply to football and men’s basketball programs that paid their players a salary because these programs would be considered unrelated business activities over which Title IX does not have jurisdiction.” This means the NCAA and Universities would be allowed to pay the student athletes somewhere around their ballpark estimated market value without having to worry about legal action or lawsuits against them. At the end of the day, there is virtually no reason why the NCAA is not paying the people they are making millions off of.

Now every argument has two sides to it, and Seth Davis, a senior writer for Sports Illustrated and analyst for CBS Sports, argues that while the scholarship model needs to be redone, the student athletes do not need to be paid extra for their service to make up for their differences. Davis puts his argument side by side with Taylor Branch, a Pulitzer Prize award winning writer and author of the newly published article in The Atlantic, summerizes Branch by saying, “It’s a convincing argument when cast alongside the mind-boggling dollars that are pouring in. Branch points out the SEC recently surpassed the $1 billion mark for football receipts. The Big Ten is close behind at $905 million. He reminds us that the football programs at Texas, Florida, Georgia, Michigan and Penn State earn between $40 million and $80 million each year in profits. The NCAA received $771 million from CBS and Turner to broadcast last year’s basketball tournament, a sum that Branch asserts was “built on the backs of amateurs — unpaid labor. The whole edifice depends on the players’ willingness to perform what is effectively volunteer work.” (Branch/Davis).

In writing this, Davis accepts the fact that yes, the NCAA and major conferences make extremely large sums of money off of these “volunteer workers”. But later on, Davis finds a whole in Branch’s logic by writing, “So we learn a lot in this article about how much the schools are making. We learn almost nothing, however, about what they’re spending. Branch virtually ignores the basic profit-and-loss structure of college sports. For example, did you know that out of 332 schools currently competing in the NCAA’s Division I, fewer than a dozen have athletic departments that are operating in the black? And that of the 120 programs that comprise the Football Bowl Subdivision, just 14 are profitable? That means some 88 percent of the top football programs lose money for their universities — and that doesn’t even include the reams of cash the schools are spending on the so-called nonrevenue sports” (Davis). This statement provides the meat to Davis argument, that almost 98% of athletic departments operating in the NCAA are not only non-profitable, but they actually lose money for their schools.

But for this to be true, what is happening to the hundreds of millions of dollars that are being pulled in by the conferences? This cannot be blamed on the athletes, but rather on the Universities. This point just goes to show that even though the athletes are bringing in final checks for their conferences north of $500 million, the athletic departments are barely seeing any of it. It can almost be related to slave work back in early America. How the masters (who represent the NCAA and Universities) would pay very little money (the Scholarships) to the slaves (the student athletes), therefore some slaves try to run away to find a better lives (leaving for the Pros). If the masters would pay or treat the slaves a little better, maybe then the slaves would stay around for longer, making the owners even more profitable. Which translate to if the NCAA would pay the athletes, give them something to help them get by some they would stay, then the NCAA could make even more money from the players, because then there would be better competition, which means better games, which would lead to higher ticket sales, higher merchandise sales, etc. it could honestly end up to be a win-win situation for both sides.

The combined total salary for Division I football coaches in 2011: $53.4 million. The combined total salary for the 13,877 players who got them there: $0. This is something that has go to change within college athletics. Between being a full time student and putting in 40+ hours a week with sports, players have no time to maintain a job or even a social life. If the NCAA would make Universities pay their athletes for their contributions to the income they receive on each sport, it would allow the athletes a more stable state of mind not having to stress and worry about not having money, and they would be able to enjoy the college atmosphere more and hopefully, be influenced to stay the four years to obtain a college degree. Joe Nocera of the New York Times, has a structure on how to pay these players, “The salary caps I have in mind are pretty low, all things considered: $3 million for the salaries for the football team, and $650,000 for basketball, with a minimum salary of $25,000 per athlete. I would keep the number of basketball scholarships the same, at 13, while reducing the number of football scholarships from 85 to a more reasonable 60, close to the size of N.F.L. rosters. Thus, each football team would spend $1.5 million on the minimum salaries, and have the rest to attract star players.

Basketball teams would use $325,000 on minimum salaries, and have another $325,000 to allocate as they wish among players. Every player who stays in school for four years would also get an additional two-year scholarship, which he could use either to complete his bachelor’s or get a master’s degree” (Nocera). This plan would not only encourage players to stay the four years, but also give them an opportunity to achieve a higher degree as well. Nocera goes on to say that the reason he doesn’t include sports like Baseball and Hockey is because they have the option of going Professional right after High School. Even then though, the odds of a High School baseball player making the MLB are a slim 5.88% (Garrioch) and the odds for Hockey are less than 1%, or the odds of flipping a coin and getting heads eight times in a row.

Due to that statistical stand point, a pay scale should also be introduced into those sports as well, but on a lesser scale due to the fact that Hockey and Baseball do not generate as much income as Football and Basketball. Though it does not take away from the fact that these athletes need to be paid for their services, the Universities need to share a small slice of the mass sums of money these players are providing them. Slavery was outlawed in the 1800s, which gives the NCAA no excuse to treat its student athletes as such.

Works Citied
Wilbon, Michael. “College Athletes Deserve to Be paid.” ESPN. ESPN Internet Ventures, 18 July 2011. Web. 19 Apr. 2012. http://espn.go.com/college-sports/story/_/id/6778847/college-athletes-deserve-paid Huma, Ramogi. “Let’s Compensate College Athletes By Making Sure They Graduate.” Business Insider. 09 Apr. 2012. Web. 19 Apr. 2012. . Nocera, Joe. “Let’s Start Paying Athletes.” The New York Times 30 Dec. 2011. 30 Dec. 2011. Web. 19 Apr. 2012. Davis, Seth. “Should College Athletes Be Paid? (Cont.).” Rebutting Taylor Branch Belief in Paying Student-athletes. 21 Sept. 2011. Web. 19 Apr. 2012. <. Garrioch, Matt. “MLB Draft Success Rates.” MLB Bonus Baby. 3 July 2011. Web. 19 Apr. 2012. http://www.mlbbonusbaby.com/2011/7/3/2255951/mlb-draft-success-rates>. “Thread: 15 Year NBA Draft Analysis.” 15 Year NBA Draft Analysis. 12 Mar. 2010. Web. 19 Apr. 2012. .

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