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The huddle

July 20, 2015

Concerns with Paying College Athletes

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As someone who played four years of college athletics, the concept of getting paid to play a sport you love is enticing. At the same time, the greatest college athletes in the country are generating millions of dollars in revenue for their schools while some of them can hardly afford to eat after practice. Broadcasters, coaches, recruiters, consultants, and many others are all making money off college athletics while the players are the only ones left out. It’s clear why some people feel that they too should be compensated with something other than academic scholarships, but I’d like to focus this post on a few reasons why college athletes should continue to remain unpaid.

There is an ongoing attempt at many of the big Division I programs to change the “athletes come first” culture in classrooms. It’s no secret that star DI athletes have been the beneficiaries of preferential treatment to ensure that they remain eligible to compete come game day and the schools have a conflict of interest because if a star athlete becomes ineligible, that’s money coming out of their bank account. Paying college athletes would only enforce the “education is secondary” culture, therefore, making it detrimental to many institutions who are making an honest effort to enforce academic standards.

We already have a competitive balance issue in college sports; in basketball you have the dominant ACC, in football the SEC is always the heavy favorite. These schools generate far more revenue than their rivals, and intuitively they would have far more money to offer recruits to join their programs. The incentives for blue chip recruits to go to those dominant programs is now that much greater, and I think most can agree that having the same teams dominate year after year is something we’d like to move away from.

The main reason that’s being thrown around for paying college athletes goes back to the revenue they generate for their respective programs. Like I said before, everyone is making money off college athletics except the actual people who bust their butts to put fans in the seats. This logic implies that we should base a college athletes salary primarily based off of how much revenue they can generate for their programs. Even big time sports like lacrosse, soccer, and hockey generate very little revenue for big D1 schools with very few exceptions. We could very well see talented athletes in middle school and high school choose basketball or football in hopes of earning money in college, whereas they might otherwise play a lesser appreciated sport.

Concisely, in the interest of keeping the integrity, competitive balance, and ability to choose from many different sports in college without disincentives, I feel that college athletics should remain completely amateur. The millions of dollars the best college athletes stand to earn after college should be enough motivation to work hard, play hard, and stay out of trouble. The best math student in college does not get paid for their papers, the best artist in college does not get paid for their art projects, and the best athlete in college should not be paid for their performance on the field.

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