November 29, 2015

SCAZZERO | Paying Our Athletes

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College football and basketball are huge spectator sports. Every year, hundreds of thousands of fans watch the Rose Bowl or participate in brackets for March Madness with the same, if not higher amount of enthusiasm than for professional sports. Teams certainly make a name for themselves when they are doing well, drawing attention with star players or playoff runs and bringing in masses of television viewers. So if college sports are so huge and draw in that big of a following, that begs the question: should collegiate athletes be treated like pros and compensated for their hard work? This is a tricky argument to make because of the understanding that student athletes are not just there for the sport, but to get an education, separating them from pro athletes who are just that — athletes.

There are scholarships, yes, but players, especially big names like Heisman trophy winners, definitely draw crowds and drive up ticket sales to college games. However, these players are not compensated for the recognition and fandom they are bringing to their respective schools. Is this fair or just the nature of the NCAA? This has recently been a hot topic of debate in the college sports world, despite the firm stance of the NCAA that no, athletes should not be paid.

The argument that it is unfair for schools to make money off of their athletes without giving them any compensation is countered by the fact that in actuality, schools do not even make that much money from these star players. In fact, they barely break even. Meghan Durham, spokeswoman for the NCAA, stated that only 20 of the roughly 1,200 schools of the NCAA make more from sports than they spend on sports. Additionally, ESPN reported in March that over two-fifths of the teams that participated in March Madness either broke even or lost money this past year.

But are these schools breaking even because they aren’t making money or because they are spending too much of it? Some argue that most of the revenue made during a year from sports goes to building new state-of-the-art facilities or paying college coaches salaries, which are equivalent to that of professional team coaches. In that case, if the coaches are getting paid a professional-worthy salary, why aren’t the athletes? Working out as a collegiate athlete is like a full time job. Most sports economists, such as Stefan Szymanski, argue that paying athletes would just be a simple matter of reallocating revenue and that most schools can in fact afford to pay their athletes.

Some fear that giving athletes salaries would ruin the concept of college sports and lead to “bidding wars.” But essentially, this problem already exists in the world of college sports. Athletes choose schools based on their reputations, the number of athletes they help go pro and the ones with the best facilities. Naturally, this means the best schools already get most of the best recruits. It wouldn’t be much different if we paid athletes. Rather, it would be like going to college while simultaneously having a job and honestly, that would be a pretty sweet deal. Many more college players would be able to set themselves up for a better futures due to already having had a source of income.

College athletes work as hard as pro-athletes and dedicate themselves to their sport, especially if they are generating income for the school. It would only be fair for them to receive compensation for their efforts. To come out of college without any debts would be more than ideal and it would have the added bonus of feeling like you’re playing pro (and let’s be real, athletes on the top teams probably already feel like that).