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Should NCAA Athletes be Paid?

There’s been an awful lot of talk recently about compensating collegiate athletes. Some argue these athletes are being exploited by the NCAA.
Fair or foul?

It’s no secret that men’s basketball and football make billions and billions of dollars for the NCAA each year. It’s also well known the athletes that generate all that revenue for their respective institutions see no kickback, at least not legally.

So, the question currently distracting us from the upcoming Final Four is this: Should college athletes be paid?

I went to a premiere Division One football school in the Big Ten. I’ve seen how coddled collegiate athletes are. They have their own dining commons for certain meals, unlimited access to tutors, first choice at the best on-campus housing, they’re showered with enough “gear” they could go to college naked and leave with a year’s worth of clothing, and they can get down with girls way out of their league simply because they’re on the team. Yes, even the fat, ugly ones get some. Oh yeah, most of them have a portion or all of their college experience on the house. So yeah, they may not be getting paid, but they aren’t exactly suffering, or more importantly, racking up school loans like 98% of their peers.

On the other hand, most athletes have little time when “in season.” Practice, school, practice, study, sleep. That’s their day. There’s no time for a part time job to earn spending money so they can hang out with friends or buy their Mom a gift for Mother’s Day. I understand the frustration there, but these students are not “indentured servants” as they’ve been so frequently referenced in recent days, either. A student athlete on a full scholarship saves himself close to $60,000… and that’s at a state school. A scholarship athlete at a premiere private school easily saves six figures, and receives a premier education, nonetheless. So please, let’s not pretend these kids are suffering. There’s millions of college students overwhelmed with college debt well into their 40’s who don’t have the same opportunities simply because they don’t run as fast or jump as high.

However, if you really think college athletes deserve some sort of compensation, I’m open to these three scenarios.

1.       A small stipend given to players, but only during season. Trust me; I’ve witnessed firsthand how Division One football players spend their time in the offseason. Gorillas at zoo are more civil and productive. A stipend during season would give athletes money they legitimately don’t have the time to earn. During the offseason, though, they’re back on their own.

2.       Pay the players a modest bi-weekly salary laden with stipulations. For example: Only give athletes home and away uniforms, a warm-up suit, one pair of playing shoes, one team shirt, and one team sweatshirt. The player is then responsible to care for those belongings. Or, he can pay to have the university’s custodial services to care for his team gear. On top of that, coaches or the university can fine a player for being late, missing practice, subpar grades, conduct detrimental to the team. And finally, a player forfeits his entire pay for that year if his arrested for any misbehavior, including DUI or public intoxication.

3.       Let’s be honest. College students aren’t the most responsible individuals when it comes to spending the limited funds they do have. I doubt college athletes are an exception. Why not do college athletes (especially those that will never graduate) a huge favor and pay them in similar fashion to a pension. Pay would be earned based upon a universal system across the entire NCAA so schools would all be on a level playing field. The system t would take into account team performance, grades, personal behavior, and years of service. Each year the total sum would be added to an account that will then pay out to that individual student ten years after they leave school if they do not graduate, or five years after they graduate.

Again, I’m not convinced we need to pay college athletes, but the aforementioned proposals are ones I would  at least consider.

As for paying collegiate athletes licensing fees for promotional videos or other related NCAA content? Please. They’re supposed to be amateurs. Playing a collegiate sport at the Division One level used to be regarded as a great honor. Now I’m supposed to believe it’s some awful burden? Since when did an 18 year-old kid who can shoot a ball through an orange rim or chase down a ball carrier faster than everyone else become entitled to everything? Do we not believe in earning anything anymore?

I hate it when I hear people cry college sports are better than professional sports because college players play “for love of the game.” Yeah, some do… about the same percentage as the ones in the professional leagues. Let’s be honest, though, if we took away the brand sponsorships, the national TV exposure, and the chance to become a professional athlete, would kids still want to play sports at the collegiate level? Some would, but not nearly as many, and I guarantee those that would still play wouldn’t be complaining about playing for free, either.

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