College athletes deserve to be paid for their services


Emily Oliphant

Many student athletes, particularly football and men’s basketball players, play college sports at significant risk to themselves and their professional futures. If these student athletes are injured, their careers could be over, and but they play their hardest and still aren’t paid for their services, an unfair deal which allows universities to generate huge profit for themselves. During the 2015 season, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) made 912.3 million in revenue, and student athletes weren’t paid a cent. If the NBA or the NFL did this to their players, they’d be under attack from all sides, but the NCAA gets away with it and has managed to make it seem like it’s for the student’s own good.

Despite not being formally paid, student athletes, receive a wide range of beneficial privileges. They live in upscale housing, receive scholarships and are able to attend schools that may have otherwise been out of their reach. Playing college sports also allows athletes to be recruited by professional teams when they graduate, making it the strongest path to future success within the sport. But because they are not paid, student athletes are under the control of the universities that they play for. If a student complains about long hours spent practicing or prioritizes academic work, it’s easy for a coach to remind them of their debt to the school and the significant amount of their scholarship in order to force them back to work. In many ways, players are trapped by the system around them.

The NCAA is a non-profit organization, and they funnel much of the revenue they make towards the schools which compete in their leagues. They organize events like championships for the teams in each of three divisions, and collect money from ticket sales and media contracts. In fact, Time Warner and the NCAA just signed a 14-year, 10.8 billion dollar deal extension to televise the culminating event of March Madness, the Division I Men’s Basketball Championship, until 2032.

None of these basketball players, of course, will be paid. But there are 351 men’s basketball teams in the NCAA, with an estimated 5,500 total students. If 10 million of the 10.8 billion went to the NCAA each year for organization, and they divided the rest equally between the schools, there would be $2,169,312.17 for each school, every year. Assuming that the school would only use this money, which wouldn’t be true for bigger colleges which draw massive alumni endowments, about $1,000,000 of it would go to equipment, facilities, coaching, and travel, leaving $1,169,312.17 per team, divided equally amongst an average 15 man squad, it comes out to $77,954.14 each. Not only is this enough to cover all expenses at the most expensive Division I school (Columbia University at $71,690 a year), but there’s enough leftover to pay

Frankly, it’s incredible to me that the NCAA doesn’t pay student athletes. They put in tremendous amounts of work on and off the field, and they take massive risks in search of fruitful careers in sport. Schools can offer scholarships and slip money under the table, but the only way to organize a system that’s fair to everyone is to pay student athletes their fair share of the profit they deserve. The very same profit that they’ve helped generate.