College athletes are amateurs, not professionals

by Brad Shulkin (ChicagoSportsWeekly)

In an era where the multibillion-dollar industry of college athletics is growing at an astronomical pace, the meaning of amateurism is soon to be a thing of the past. In 2009, the average athletic department took in $32.9 million according to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), with 100 percent of that coming indirectly from the players. So now you are probably wondering, how much of that $32.9 million do the players receive for their service to the school?The answer is nothing. The big question that has plagued college athletics is should college athletes get paid to play? Should they receive compensation for all the money they make for their alma maters? The problem with giving in to the players demands and paying them  is that the aura of college sports would never be the same. Give them the money, and all that sense of alma mater, dedication, and loyalty is gone. Colleges would become financially and economically unstable by paying unproved athletes to play for their school. Therefore, although college athletes are essential in the financial success of the school, they are still amateurs and should not get paid to play.

If the NCAA decided to allow their players to receive some type of compensation, there would be no way for any of the schools in the country to even afford to pay each and every player at the school. Mark Murphy, Director of Athletics at Colgate University, said, “Right now, what they are getting in return for their athletic participation is a free education.” And he is exactly right. Each year, the NCAA dispenses roughly $1 billion in athletic scholarships each year and only 2% of the players actually score big money in the NBA. Most people who have gone to college and have seen the beautiful campuses throughout the country would say that the economy hasn’t hurt the schools at all. But, if you are one of those people who hold that perception, then you have been proven wrong. The average athletic department took  in $32.3 million in 2009, according to the NCAA. It spend $45.9 million. The remainder came from support from the college and student fees. Only seven of the 120 FBS athletic departments were profitable from 2004-2009. There are over 2,000 four-year colleges and universities in the United States alone. Some are larger than others, while some focus on academics rather than athletics. The problem with paying players here is directly related to the enormity of the college football market. Take the example of Alabama verse Boise State. Just by looking at the number of students who attend the college, you can tell who will bring in more money, no matter who has a larger number in the win column. In this case, Alabama football is going to make more money in an 8-5 season than Boise State will make in a 13-0 season. By paying athletes to play, you are making it unsustainable for smaller market teams, who can’t afford to pay each and every player on campus. The question of profitability wouldn’t be a question any longer. Athletic departments would have to give all profits from a successful season to players, instead of keeping it for them to help strengthen the program for the future. And out of that, new problems arise: should men get paid more than women? Should the basketball team get paid more than the baseball team? All of those questions are going to have to be answered and either way, there are going to be some very unhappy people. If you decided to pay each player on campus a different amount, you are running the risk of entire teams going on strike because of the desire to have more money. The saying, “Money is the solution to all of your problems,” may not be in this case.

In fact, too much money may result in collegiate athletes destroying the phenomenon of NCAA sports. It was last year that Butler once again became the underdog team of the tournament by upsetting #1 seeded Pittsburgh in the third round. Not only was the ending the most memorable part of the game, but the range of emotions coming from the fans as their team took and lost the lead at different points during the second half was also remarkable. What makes college sports different than anything else is the aura. The die-hard alumni, dressed, and sometimes painted in the school’s alma mater is like no other. But, would paying college athletes get them less interested in the game and more interested about who is making the most money on the team? If players were to get paid, all of the uniqueness of college athletics would be gone. Players would have no association to the school, other than their contract. To be honest, the die hard fans would posses more drive and loyalty to win the game, than the actual players would. But, with contracts come agents, and if the players aren’t satisfied with the amount of money they are receiving, possible holdouts could occur. And you know what that means. The possibility of no collegiate sports could actually be a real thing. And guess what, in that case no one would be making a single dollar.

Even before a player reaches the collegiate level, the effect of paying players will be felt. If colleges decide to pay athletes during their college career, it would be the end of high school recruiting. No longer would colleges have any power over who comes to their school, but instead the power would lie in the athlete’s hands. Whoever can offer him or her the most money for them to attend will be the winner. In this scenario, smaller market teams would have absolutely no shot at recruiting top talent because of one simple fact: money. Instead of there being a top 25 ranking system, there would be a top 5, all of which have tons of money to sway any of the top talents to their school by a swipe of a pen. College is supposed to be a time where you work hard to try and earn the paycheck that comes with getting drafted. Is giving athletes money now in college going to spoil the kids and make them not want to work as hard? If you do pay them, how can you be sure that they are spending the money wisely? Dr Watkins believes that athletes should get compensated for their work, but the money shouldn’t be available until they are 25, to ensure they they spend it wisely. Everyone knows the next step after playing college is to enter the draft. The monumental day when your name gets called to the podium to shake hands with the commissioner is in some respects a dream come true. By paying them now, it would be detrimental to the college atmosphere and ultimately to the future of the players.

If college athletics stayed on the same path it is currently going today, there would definitely be some very unhappy players. By giving in to their demands and paying them some type of compensation, you are reassuring the point that the players have to power to do anything they want. For this issue to be resolved, the NCAA needs to tell the players that they are in control and if the athletes are unhappy with not getting paid, then they don’t need to play at all. This is not only going to show the school which players are there for the right reasons, but also. who is there because they are hoping to get drafted into the first round to get that million dollar paycheck. College athletics is a huge part of the social life of America, from grandparents and fathers, to sons and even future generations sitting in the stands, cheering for the school they have cherished for generations. By not paying the players, the NCAA is reestablishing that it isn’t an honor for the players to wear the jersey with the school’s name on it, but instead, it is an honor for the jersey to be on the player. So many people across the world would do anything to play sports in college, and would do it without getting paid.

Opposing Argument

Certainly everyone understands that college sports are a big business, not just an extension of the school. Everyone from the head coach to the athletic director is getting rich off a winning season, except for the people whose labor creates the value. Thousands of college football players across the country, many of whom are black and poor, end up playing for free because they can’t pursue a career in the NFL until they play college ball. In a survey conducted by the NCAA, the results stated that the majority of college athletic participants labeled themselves as an athlete rather than a student. The NCAA has the claim that they athletes are merely “amateurs” engaged in sports during their free time, but, if they are really playing during their free time, they why aren’t they allowed to work while in season? Under the current system, college athletes face more financial difficulties than any other students do. The practice and travel schedules of most high profile collegiate players are busier than the average run of the mill college student, so the ability to hold a job is next to none. They put in more hours a week training and practicing during a season, than some full time employees who make lots more money. According to an interview with Dr. Boyce Watkins, a long time advocate of college athlete’s rights, these guys are no longer amateurs, but instead, professionals who deserve the same rights as every other one. With the ad revenues for March Madness exceeding the ad revenue from the Superbowl and World Series combined, Dr. Watkins said in response to how much money the coaches are making, “It would be very hard to tell a player that you just bought a new mansion and car, while their mother is getting evicted from her home.” Many believe that the solution to all this discussion is to pay the players and give them a salary that corresponds to their value to the university. Lets take former University of Connecticut basketball star Kemba Walker for example. Last year in the NCAA tournament, he single handedly carried the Huskies to the National Championship game. Nearly missing a triple-double in the first round, and scoring 33 points in the next, Walker showed that he is indispensable to the University of Connecticut. So, while the school is cashing in on their basketball team’s success, the players are working their buts off for absolutely nothing. “You get paid for what you are worth,” Dr. Watkins said.

2 Comments

Filed under ChicagoSportsWeekly

2 responses to “College athletes are amateurs, not professionals

  1. Thanks for a great article.
    You rock

  2. This website stands out among the rest, especially for this niche, please keep us updated with your fantastic writing style. Have you thought of getting a facebook so we can keep up better?

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