College Athletes Should Be Paid for Their Efforts

An amateur is a person who plays a sport such as basketball, football, and soccer the sports playing amateur is pleased by the activity for the job. Amateur is the definition that the NCAA goes by to deny college athletes from profiting off their jersey sales, and their name. How would you feel if a company made millions of dollars a year off your name? You are not able to receive none of the lucrative benefits. The Athletes practice and go to class every day. While the schools and coaches receive millions of dollars in salary and endorsements. University and college sports is a lucrative business that uses the definition to define athletes as amateurs in order to avoid paying college athletes a salary ( National). College Athletes should be paid because of the bias rules and regulations, millions of dollars get made off television revenue, and not probably prepaid for life after college. These are a few reasons why college athletes should get paid.

The NCAA is a non-profit association which regulates athletes of 1,281 institutions; conferences; organizations; and individuals. It also organizes the athletic programs of many colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, and helps more than 450,000 college student-athletes who compete annually in college sports (History). The organization is headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana. In 2014 the NCAA generated almost a billion dollars in revenue. 80 to 90% of this revenue was due to the Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament (History). This revenue is then distributed back into various organizations and institutions across the United States (Revenue). In August 1973, the current three-division setup of Division I, Division II, and Division III was adopted by the NCAA membership in a special convention. Under NCAA rules, Division I and Division II schools can offer scholarships to athletes for playing a sport. Division III schools may not offer any athletic scholarships.

College sports is a big revenue producer for colleges and universities. The major college sports, are football and basketball, they generate incredible amounts of money. According to Michael Smith and John Ourand, of SportsBusiness Journal, the twelve universities in the Southeastern Conference receive $205 million each year from CBS and ESPN for the right to broadcast its football games (Smith, 2011). “We should be asking: For what reason do we limit athletes, and athletes only, in this multibillion-dollar business?” says Jay Bilas, an ESPN college basketball analyst, lawyer and former Duke Basketball player. “Clearly the NCAA doesn’t want to make changes in how they sell it, putting logos on everything and everybody – but then they claim, as they have in court, that it’s a professional enterprise except for the players. It doesn’t make sense.” Even more money comes in from video games, clothing, and similar licenses.

In 2010, the New York Times reported, “The NCAA’s licensing deals are estimated at more than $4 billion” per year” (New York Times, 2012). Coaches salaries are even more outlandish. Kentucky basketball coach, John Calipari, is paid over $4 million a year for a basketball program that makes about $35-40 million a year, more than 10% of the entire revenue (New York Times, 2012). Tom Van Riper, a sports writer for Forbes magazine, observes that “no corporate CEO commands this large a share of the profits” (Van Riper, 2010, p. 3). He notes that if Steve Ballmer, the CEO at Microsoft, had Calipari’s deal, Ballmer would make over $6 billion a year (Van Riper). How can colleges allow promoters, owner operators, sport retailers, and game companies, along with coaches and university officials, to make millions and pay the athletes nothing?

Universities define athletes as amateurs. Not only are students athletes not paid for playing their sports, they cannot receive gifts and are not allowed to endorse products (Van Riper). The NCAA, an organization of colleges and schools, forces student athletes to sign away their rights because, it says, it is protecting the students. If student athletes could accept money from anyone, the NCAA argues, they might be exploited, cheated, or even bribed. Taking money out of the equation is supposed to let students focus on academics and preserve the amateur status of college sports. The definition of “amateur” arose in the 19th century in Britain, when team sports became popular. (Van Riper)

According to Princeton historian and scholar, Andrew Zimbalist, the Middle-class and upper-class students in college had ample time to play their sports while working-class athletes had only a half-day off. Teams began to pay top working-class sportsmen for the time they had to take off from work. Middle-class and upper-class sportsmen didn’t want to play against the working-class teams, so they made the distinction between amateurs and professionals. The definition of “amateur” came to the U.S., where college sports became popular in the 1880’s. Shortly after, top football programs like Yale had slush funds to pay athletes, and others used players who weren’t students and even players from other schools (Zimbalist, 2001).

The Olympic Games maintained the amateur-professional distinction until 1988, but it was long evident that Communist bloc nations were paying athletes to train full-time, and Western nations were paying athletes through endorsement contracts (Zimbalist). The only Olympic sport that now requires amateur status is boxing. The college sports empire in the U.S. run by the NCAA is the last bastion of amateurism for sports that draw audiences large enough to be televised (Zimbalist). The NCAA defines amateurism from a word that was defined in 1880. This is how they are getting away from not paying college athletes.

Universities and colleges could defend the policy of amateurism by extending this definition to all students. A fair policy is one that treats all the students the same. The Butler School of Music at the University of Texas in Austin has many student musicians who perform at the professional level according to the university’s website. The university advises its students on how to negotiate a contract and get paid for their performances.

Actress Emma Watson, who enrolled at Brown University in Rhode Island was able to work as an actress in the Harry Potter movies while still a student in the university’s theatre department. Can you imagine Brown University officials telling Watson that she would have to make the next two Harry Potter films for free instead of for the 5 million she had been offered? (Zimbalist) Compared to musicians and actors, student athletes have an even greater need to earn money while they are still in college. Their professional careers are likely to be much shorter.

College may be the only time some athletes have the opportunity to capitalize on their success. Student athletes often leave school with permanent injuries and no medical insurance or job prospects, whereas musicians and actors rarely suffer career-ending injuries on the job (Zimbalist). We see how musicians and actors can profit from their talents. Athletes should also have the same rights.

Student athletes are prevented from profiting from their name and image. The NCAA says this rule preserves their standing as amateurs and protects them from the celebrity and media frenzy surrounding profession sports stars (NCAA.org.). Search for a “Tim Tebow Jersey” online, and anyone can buy officially branded Florida Gators shirts, ranging in price from $34.00 to $349.99 (autographed by Tebow). Andrew Zimbalist says that the NCAA, the University of Florida, Nike, and the other parties involved in the production and sale of these products gets around the problem of using an amateur’s name by using his team number instead. Tebow’s name doesn’t appear anywhere on the jerseys just his number. Yet all these jerseys are identified as “Official Tim Tebow Gators merchandise,” and they are bought by fans of Tebow rather than by people who just happen to like the number fifteen (Zimbalist).

Nobody says how much money these jerseys have made for Nike, or for the NCAA. What we do know for sure is the amount Tim Tebow has made off the jerseys: nothing. Meanwhile, his school makes all the money using the Tebow’s name. Universities and the NCAA would be wise to return to the older definition of “amateur,” which comes from Latin through old French, meaning “lover of.” Instead, they exploit student athletes. Being an amateur doesn’t necessarily have to have anything to do with money. Any of us as students— whether we are a jazz performer or a dancer or an athlete, an amateur ought to be considered someone in love with an activity-someone who cares and studies about the activity and practices to be highly proficient. If they are lucky enough to be paid, so be it.

Student athletes should be compensated for their work, as they are the sole reason for the Athletic Program’s surplus in revenue. These athletes are working hard and bringing in money to the University every day, yet aren’t rewarded with any monetary value. These athletes are working for the schools and are doing a service to the college that seems to go unnoticed. This lack of pay is not seen anywhere else in the work place and shouldn’t be seen here. Some even argue, “College athletes are being exploited by their schools, which make millions of dollars off of intercollegiate athletics” (Should Student-Athletes Get Paid?).

Colleges are using these athletes to boost their respective reputations and bring in revenue while not compensating these athletes for their work. Everywhere else athletes are paid, so why shouldn’t college students too? Some critics may argue that these student-athletes are amateurs, and if paid then are becoming professional athletes. This statement can be easily disproved; however, as amateur is a very broad and controversial term. Hockey players a part of the AHL (Amateur Hockey League) are considered to be amateurs but are compensated for their work.

Student athletes should be compensated for their work, as they are the sole reason for the Athletic Program’s surplus in revenue. These athletes are working hard and bringing in money to the University every day, yet aren’t rewarded with any monetary value. These athletes are working for the schools and are doing a service to the college that seems to go unnoticed. This lack of pay is not seen anywhere else in the work place and shouldn’t be seen here. Some even argue, “College athletes are being exploited by their schools, which make millions of dollars off of intercollegiate athletics” (Should Student-Athletes Get Paid?). Colleges are using these athletes to boost their respective reputations and bring in revenue while not compensating these athletes for their work. Everywhere else athletes are paid, so why shouldn’t college students too?

Some critics may argue that these student-athletes are amateurs, and if paid then are becoming professional athletes. This statement can be easily disproved, however, as amateur is a very broad and controversial term. Hockey players a part of the AHL (Amateur Hockey League) are considered to be amateurs but are compensated for their work.

The last and arguably the most important reason to pay college athletes, is that it will ensure that most college athletes will complete their college degrees. “Paying student-athletes would provide athletes an incentive to stay in school and complete their degree programs, instead of leaving early for the professional leagues” (Should Student-Athletes Get Paid?). If athletes are paid to play, not only can they cover some of their college expenses that scholarships couldn’t cover, but also now they will want to finish their education. NCAA prides itself on all student-athletes are students first and athletes second, however, it seems that more popular athletes leave early for the pros. In college basketball, many freshman stars are referred to as “one and done” players as they complete one year of college and go to the professional leagues early, as they want money and need it as soon as possible. The importance of their education is lost. The University seems to be hypocritical in its actions when it doesn’t pay its athletes, because it seems they support college athletes leaving for the Professional league early.

According to the article “Should Student-Athletes Get Paid?,” “A university’s primary objective is to provide its students with a quality education that prepares them to function in the world as opposed to in college.” However, without paying athletes, universities leave their students with no other option but to not graduate and withdrawal after a semester or a year to meet their financial obligations. Logistically, it should be very simple for the universities to compensate their student-athletes. One author suggests that every university pays the same flat rate to each college athlete for three years, then offer a raise to senior athletes. This bonus will create that incentive for students to receive their degrees.

Universities and the NCAA would be wise to return to the older definition of “amateur,” which comes from Latin through old French, meaning “lover of.” Instead, they exploit student athletes. Being an amateur doesn’t necessarily have to have anything to do with money. Any of us as students—whether we are a jazz performer or a dancer or an athlete, an amateur ought to be considered someone in love with an activity—someone who cares and studies about the activity and practices to be highly proficient. If they are lucky enough to be paid, so be it.

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