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Should NCAA Athletes be paid?

Over the years, college sports have drawn a wide audience similar tothat of the major leagues in the USA. Many Americans have grown toenjoy watching college students play as much as they enjoyprofessionals play in leagues such as NFL and NBA. The sudden growthin the popularity of college sports has brought new issues into thebooming industry, with one of the major points of concern beingrevenue and allowances for college athletes. According to NCAA rules,college athletes are not eligible to receive a salary from theeducational institutions they represent. In this regard, theseathletes only get meager allowances from their respective collegesand maybe some meals during the duration of the competition. Thispaper supports the argument to provide an allowance and healthinsurance for college athletes. The NCAA and major universitiesshould pay NCAA athletes by making joint efforts to help them withhealth, education and social services

The Issue

The debate regarding the payment of salaries to college athletes hasbeen raging on ever since college sports gained popularity in thesporting industry. The issues surrounding the debate could fall intothree categories- moral, economic, and bureaucratic.

In the spirit of morality, it seems immoral when an institution earnsmillions of dollars from college sports yet the athletes responsiblefor the massive financial success are languishing in poverty. Thewhole setting is no different from when a government spends trillionsof luxurious trips for its top officials while the majority of thecitizenry goes to bed on an empty stomach. However, proponents ofthis setting argue that a moral society is the one in which everybodyspends what he or she has earned. In this regard, colleges should notfeel guilty about not sharing the money they earned through sportingevents.

Economically, colleges are exploiting the services of their athletes.Had the students been playing in other leagues, they would becompensated highly. It therefore beats the laws of capitalism when anemployer does not pay her employees for what their services areworth. On the other hand, those opposed to salaries for collegeathletes argue that the said athletes are not contracted by theinstitutions to represent them in sports. Instead, they are clientsof the colleges who just happen to have a passion in sports.

In matters bureaucracy, it does not make sense when one organization,NCAA, dictates how college sports should run. Nobody knows for surewhether the board is paid off in order to keep exploiting collegeathletes. It does not make sense when a whole industry relies onrules set up when college sports were not popular. The supporters ofNCAA argue that without such regulatory bodies, many industries wouldbe in chaos.

Why college Athletes should be paid

It is a business for Colleges

According to Goldman, “During the 1988-89 season bowl gamesgenerated $66 million, $53 million of which was distributed toparticipating schools” (26). Out of the $53 million that wasadvanced to colleges, only an insignificant amount of it went to theplayers. These players put their lives on the line for someone elseto make a monetary gain. Colleges comfort them that they are engagingin extracurricular activities that will set a solid foundation fortheir future career in pro sports. What they fail to disclose is thefact that said extracurricular activities that have a perceivedimportance in the fitness of college students, are a major source ofincome. They fail to tell the students that proceed from sportingevents sometimes outweigh the collections made from tuition fees.Since it is clear that college sports are businesses rather thanextracurricular activities, colleges should do the ethical thing thatis expected of all businesses- pay for services rendered.

The fact that corporate bodies are using the platform to advertisetheir ware is evidence enough that college sporting events are just abusiness like any other. According to Branch (3), universities shouldnot be an advertising medium but then they sold their soul when theystarted signing contracts with big corporations. In an interviewbetween the author and an advertising mogul called Vaccarro, hemesmerizes at the hypocrisy with which university boards view theissue of using college teams as an advertisement media while inessence they are too greedy to turn down any lucrative offer. Evenwhen their teams do not win, colleges still draw lots of revenue fromticket sales, advertising contracts, and airing rights. It has beendecades since college sports went all business. Maybe it is time theytreated their players as any other business would treat itsemployees.

The fact that colleges are willing to offer lucrative scholarshipsfor student athletes implies a lucrative industry. Some institutionsof higher learning have gone to the extent of bribing high schoolstudents to select them as the first choice (Taylor 84). It is nowcommonplace for universities to send their scouts to high schoolsporting events in order to identify new talents and persuade them tojoin their institutions. Some universities have been on the spotlightfor admitting below average students to their highly rankedinstitutions. When institutions engage in such reputation-threateningmalpractices, quite often there must is something worth the risk. Ithas now emerged that the reward for such risks is money.

It is not unethical for public institutions to look for an extraincome from subsidiary activities however, it is wrong to do sounder the pretext of extracurricular activities. “The significanceincrease in the popularity of college sports in recent years has ledto conference realignment, facility building and arms race,governance issues and litigation” (Gould et al 7). In this regard,colleges should appropriately compensate their student athletes forthe all the services they render.

College Athletes Suffer financial constraints

If a spectator, ignorant of the NACC rules and regulations, saw howmuch glamour comes with college games, he would not suspect that someof those players could not afford meals. In the words of Gurdus (9),none of the student athletes has any protection outside the field.The university only provides for their basic needs whenever they areplaying for it. However, whenever it is off-season for the games, thestudent athletes have to fend for themselves. It does not come as asurprise that most of them cannot afford necessities such as food,books, and movie tickets because they were never remunerated when itwas the playing session. To an outsider, it sounds ridiculous thatstudents who put the university’s name on the map languish inpoverty.

As Goldman notes (5), most of these students have lesser income thantheir counterparts who do not engage in any university sports.Furthermore, most of the student athletes are in the university on afull scholarship and therefore they are not eligible for studentloans. It therefore follows that student athletes will have lesserincome because they are not remunerated for the services they render,they come from poor backgrounds, and they are not eligible forstudent loans.

Student athletes do not have insurance cover when they are off thepitch. Educational institutions seem to ignore the fact that some ofthe health problems due to sporting activities can extend long aftera student athlete graduates (Van Rheeenen 34). Some injuries,especially to the head, have effects that keep recurring long afterthe athletes retire from sport. Even when it is off-season, somestudents find it hard to carter for their medical expenses simplybecause they are not compensated for the valuable service they renderto the colleges. These students put their bodies on the line fortheir colleges. If it were not for college sports, or the fact thatthe greed motivates coaches to push them harder, they would not behaving health problems.

In a perfect world, employees who generate the most income for abusiness are the most cared for. However, in colleges, students whoare responsible for the immense financial success of their collegesare abandoned when it is not playtime. Owing to the value of collegeathletes to their respective institutions, colleges should strive togive them a worthy allowance and a plausible health insurance plan.At least they owe them that much.

Laws prohibiting remuneration are outdated

NCAA was founded to protect collegiate athletes from exploitation bytheir respective universities. One of the rules that the associationset is the non-compensation of students for their participation incollege sports. They figured that if universities did not compensatetheir players, then college sports would not attract the best playerswho would turn the whole industry commercial (Geplerud 1080). Theassociation was afraid that if college sports were commercialized,then universities would exploit their students in order to reap moreprofit. Owing to the cadre of players that universities attracted,college sports were not popular back then.

It now appears that the rules set by NCAA are outdated after collegesports turned full-blown commercial. Somehow, universities devisedmeans of attracting the top cream of high school sport into theirteams. Some resorted to conventional ways of recruiting top playerssuch as full scholarships, while others employed unorthodox methodssuch as bribery. Before many people could realize it, the quality ofcollege sports had improved tremendously. People started to marktheir calendars for college sporting events. As a result,advertisement contracts were trickling in, and ticket sales hit anall-time high. Some colleges no longer had interest in admitting thebest of the brains because all their efforts were directed towardsthe new cash cow- college sports.

The dynamics of college sports have changed but the rules remain thesame. The kind of exploitation that NCAA was protecting studentathletes from is the same that is going on under its watch. The NCAAis also part of the exploitation by virtue of enforcing draconianlaws and pocketing some of the proceeds from college sporting events.Nowadays colleges are ready to flout all the rules and regulationsset by NCAA except the clause that prohibits them from paying studentathletes. Now that it appears the law is working against the samepeople it intended to protect, it is only prudent that theassociation does away with it. The only barrier between collegeathletes and a life free of exploitation is the law. Repealing theclause will have solved half of the problems that student athletesface.

Counter arguments

A campaign is set to unionize student athletes

There has been a growing call for student athletes to form their ownunion. The supporters argue that such a union will give the studentsmore bargaining power to demand for their rights and better workingconditions (Shulman 97). Among the issues that the union will addressinclude allowances, health insurance, and overworking. Proponents ofthis idea believe that the problems faced by student athletes areattributable to their lack of a common voice.

The downside of this argument is that student athletes are studentsand not workers. According to the trade union regulations, onlyemployed people are allowed to form unions. As much as these athletesbring in lots of profit to the colleges, they are still students whomust pass their examinations before they are awarder their collegediploma. In addition, such a move would motivate colleges to exploitthese students further because they will not be seeing them asstudent but college employees. It is for this reason that the peopleargues for an allowance rather than a salary.

College boosters

Another school of thought argues that student athletes should not bepaid because they receive expensive gifts from college boosters whenstill in high school. It has become a common practice for colleges tosend their agents to high school matches in order to spot talents(Zimbalist 56). These agents use a lot of money to woe young playersinto their college outfits. The amount of money used during thecourtship period is enough to compensate them for the entirety oftheir sports activities at the college level.

The first loophole in this argument is the fact that idea of collegeboosters is unethical in itself. Adults should not manipulateteenagers into making the biggest decisions of their lives. Secondly,not all students have the benefit of being approached by a collegebooster prior to signing up for a particular university. Somestudents made genuine applications and they got accepted because oftheir prowess in sports. It is therefore illogical to assume that thefew students who receive expensive gifts from college boosters are arepresentative of the entire student athletes’ population.


Student athletes should receive an allowance and health insurancecover because of the millions that they bring in to theiruniversities. College sports have all gone commercial and maybe it istime that they acknowledged the people who put their bodies on theline to earn them such huge amounts of money. The lucrativeadvertising deals, the ticket sales, and payments from TV stationsare all pointers towards a commercialized college sports industry. Ifcollege sports have gone commercial, then it is only fair that theygive their players fair allowances. The financial constraints thatthese students go through are proof enough that they need betterallowances. It makes no sense that the people who generate the mostincome for colleges have to languish in poverty. The laws made byNACC should be changed because the dynamics of college sports havechanged as well. The law that prohibits colleges from paying theirstudent athletes was created for a good intention but it has nowoutlived its relevance. However, NCAA and major universities shouldmake joint efforts to pay NCAA athletes by helping them with andsocial services like health and education.

Works Cited

Branch, Taylor. &quotThe shame of college sports.&quot&nbspTheAtlantic&nbsp308.3 (2011): 80-110

Goldman, Lee. &quotSports and Antitrust: Should College Students BePaid to Play.&quot&nbspNotre Dame L. Rev.&nbsp65 (1989)

Goplerud III, C. Peter. &quotPay for play for college athletes: now,more than ever.&quot S. Tex. L. Rev. 38 (1997), 1081

Gould IV, William B., Glenn M. Wong, and Eric Weitz. &quotFull CourtPress: Northwestern University, A New Challenge to the NCAA.&quot&nbspLoy.LA Ent. L. Rev.&nbsp35 (2014)

Gurdus, Jason. &quotProtection Off of the Playing Field: StudentAthletes Should Be Considered University Employees for Purposes ofWorkers` Compensation.&quot&nbspHofstra L. Rev.&nbsp29(2000)

Shulman, James L., and William G. Bowen. The game of life: Collegesports and educational values. Princeton: Princeton UniversityPress, 2011. Print

Van Rheenen, Derek. &quotExploitation in college sports: Race,revenue, and educational reward.&quot International Review forthe Sociology of Sport 48.5 (2013): 550-571

Zimbalist, Andrew. Unpaid professionals: Commercialism andconflict in big-time college sports. Princeton: PrincetonUniversity Press, 2001, Print

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