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Payment of College Athletes

College athletics have grown over time to become one of the most celebrated programs in America and the management of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The main objective of the association is to protect student-athletes from being exploited by either commercial or professional enterprises. Apart from scholarships that colleges offer to their athletes, the NCAA does not allow student-athletes to receive any form of payment or reward from any source. On the other hand, the NCAA is sponsored just like the professional teams, and they advertise their programs which earn immense revenue. Given that the NCAA receives enormous amounts of money as a result of courtesy of the players, most people expect the association to pay student-athletes a portion of this amount which is earned as a compensation for their performance. However, since the NCAA is not ready to cede ground on their stance about paying college athletes, these thoughts are yet to be given consideration. With the controversy that surrounds the issue, it can only be fair, if the rules of the NCAA will be changed to authorize payments to college athletes.

Should College Athletes Be Paid?

In America, the significant growth of student-athletes’ number has led to the considerable rise of sport’s popularity. The revenues received from college sports have tremendously increased. Currently, intercollegiate sports, Division I have grown overtime to become a multi-billion dollar industry. Most schools have their annual revenues well above $260 million. However, the debate of whether the college administrators should pay student-athletes is long overdue. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) states that it cannot authorize payment of college athletes because of the need to protect them from exploitation by professional, as well as commercial enterprises. The NCAA Bylaws are meant to protect the student-athletes from being exploited. Therefore, every college athlete is regarded as an amateur player; they are not supposed to receive payments for having played (Griffin, 2008).

Mark Emmert, the president of the NCAA, in an interview with a section of the media on whether or not the NCAA can authorize payment of student-athletes, firmly responded that the association will at no point pay the players for their performance. He later moved to reinforce his statement that paying the college athletes would not be possible as long as he remains the president of the NCAA. It is this kind of statement that have sparked a heated debate on whether the NCAA is only exploiting the student athletes or protecting them from exploitation (Miller, 2012).

Despite the stern stand taken by the NCAA, student-athletes, on the other hand, have demonstrated their disappointment in the manner, in which the NCAA treats their performance. They have shown an overwhelming support to the ideas that would contribute towards making the NCAA to authorize payments to them beyond the scholarships they are usually awarded. Miller (2012) notes that of the 458 students from Division I interviewed to give their perception about the topic of payment to college athletes, 54% believed that NCAA should authorize payment to athletes. Nevertheless, the NCAA insists that they view the college athletes as their students and not employees. The association points out that these students came to school primarily to learn but not to earn from participating in sports.

The NCAA claims to protect the athletes from money influence just as their counterparts in professional field are. The association argues that paying the athletes would tarnish the reputation the college athletics have had over time and thereby diminish the demand and interest of the public towards college athletics. The NCAA insists that the organization is not out to suppress payment to student-athletes but rather to protect college non-professional sports and maintain its high demand. In order to protect amateurism, the association assigned a fixed amount that the student-athletes receive for scholarships (Miller, 2012).

On the other hand, the student-athletes believe that while the NCAA claims that their intention is to protect the students from exploitation, the NCAA continue to earn millions of dollars every year. Despite the NCAA’s commitment towards protecting the college athletes from commercialization, it authorizes the use of athletes’ names, as well as images for commercial purposes. The association has raised an argument that since  the students’ do not receive the money, no one else other than the association has the right to commercialize the students’ services; the students are not being exploited (Griffin, 2008). Most students treat this kind of reasoning as an opinion that can only be sustained by high level of hypocrisy.

The scholarships should not be used as an excuse for not paying the student athletes. Most of the college athletes are not wealthy yet close to 24% of them are married, about 62% of those married are having children, and those who are not married may have parents and siblings to care for. Despite the privileges they have due to the exceptional talents they are endowed with, the association does not allow them to accept any payment, even if they were to play for private sports camps that are in line with their talents. They are also not allowed to receive any form of rewards, money, or any kind of remuneration from anybody save for their family members (Kissinger & Miller, 2009).

The situation of the student-athletes is further complicated by the fact that the NCAA is a cartel and enjoys monopsony. Whether the students are comfortable with rules of the NCAA or not, they only have two options, either to play according to the NCAA’s rules or not to participate in college sports at all (Grant, Leadley & Zygmont, 2008). A research conducted by Andrew Zimbalist indicated that the NCAA market their programs and are sponsored in the same manner as the professional leagues. Therefore, paying the athletes some money to maintain them would not be asking too much from the NCAA. In addition, some of these athletes do not perform well due to divide attention. Therefore, non-athletes usually become better than they are in the job market. Paying the athletes can be the only best was of giving them a better head start in life.

However, the college administrators insist that complaint that college athletes are not paid should not be given much weight. This is due to the fact that the athletes receive much of what they earn by participating in sports through scholarships and grants. Notre Dame is an example of an organization that gives such student-athletes grants. The organization spends up to $5 million annually on grants. In addition, college spends much money on student-athletes either directly or in directly. Therefore, even if student-athletes generate money to the institution in the tune of billions, the college should not be hard pressed to give them their earning in hard cash.

The college administrators downplay the argument by a section of the college athletes’ claim that most of them lead poor life. The college administrations claim believes that the student-athletes have other options other than the coveted pay. Needy students can as well benefit from Pell Grants or resort to general student loans. The American Couches Association has been reported arguing that in case the college athletes were paid, then there would be likelihood that their attention would be diverted towards other things rather than education and sports. This may also contribute towards several of them leaving school to take part in professional sports. They would see no need of toiling to complete their course work due to the feeling that they already have good money, as well as a perfect job (Griffin, 2008).

According to Arnold (2008), whether or not an athlete is exceptionally talented, it is a grievous mistake even to think of paying college athletes. Arnold argues that being in college is critical for the athletes in two main ways. First, college aids in assisting the athletes to refine the skills they have. This gives them an exceptional opportunity to prepare well for the next level of life, where it is convenient for them to reap their hard earned rewards over a long time. Secondly, college athletics is in line with the school system which recommends students to participate in extracurricular activities in order to help them mange the challenging academic life. Based on this, it is desirable that the greed of America’s youth be shelved in the interest of education (Lumpkin, Stoll & Beller, 2012).

Those against payment to student-athletes cast doubt on the ethics behind paying college athletes. It would be absurd if payment to athletes would be adopted in America. In case this happens, the colleges will stiffly compete for talented high school students in order to benefit from the pay that would be directed to them. Therefore, the colleges will shift from their main goal to becoming business oriented institution that values education no more. The colleges will maximize on the potential of the student-athletes to entertain people in return of money (French, 2004).

According to Griffin (2008), the student-athletes admitted that the American colleges are by far better places in terms of the quality of education they receive as compared to other nations across the world. However, introducing payment to student-athletes will contribute towards some of them attending colleges simply because they are to be paid and eventually forfeit learning. This would be in contradiction with the universally accepted reasoning that college is an institution, where one should strive to make a better future through excellence in academics. Griffin (2008) insists that paying college athletes is an unfair move to the athletes themselves. Since these students would be in school due to athletics and the pay, their education will be forgotten but only to be confronted with the real world on their graduation day. Such students’ frustrations may be magnified in the event that their career in sports does not pan out or if injury derails their talent. Therefore, education should be prioritized even if it would mean that the talented athletes would resort to undertake easy classes in order to give them ample time to perfect their skills in athletics (Smith, 2011).

Those who are against paying the college athletes argue that just as other students who go to college each year, those talented in athletics also go to college purposely to learn. Apart from athletics, other students participate in various sporting activities while others are members of various student organizations and some participate in theatre. To the colleges, all the various groups of students are highly significant, and each group should be accorded the same treatment as the others. Entrusting much money to the college athletes may also make them feel more superior in comparison with the other students in terms of money, power and reputation, as well. Moreover, if the college athletes were paid, the other groups would be justified to demand for pay, since they also participate in school activities. If such demands are left unattended, a serious conflict may arise among the college students. The other students may view this as an act of discrimination, a scenario that no college administration would be glad to handle.

According to Emmert, the NCAA president, out of the 1,150 schools, only 14 of them had a financial surplus at the end of 2009/2010 school year. Emmert claims that the surplus often generated by both basketball and football programs in colleges are often used to cater for other expenses. Such expenses include: payment for couching salaries, athletic facilities renovations and academic counselor salaries. In addition, the surplus obtained is often used to subsidize the costs of other intercollegiate sport programs which do not generate revenues. Emmert argues that at the end of it all the college administration has nothing to offer student-athletes other than the scholarships. Emmert notes that if the surplus was to be used to compensate participants in football and basketball then, the non-revenue generating sports risk being closed down due to inadequate finances (Miller, 2012).

Should NCAA Rules Be Changed?

The NCAA Bylaw 16.01.1 rules out any form of payments made to athletes that makes them seem preferred to other students. Despite this, schools usually lure student-athletes through all means, even if it they have to invest economically or break the NCAA rules. Some scholars have therefore argued that if the NCAA cannot enforce their own directives, then it would be better for them to amend their rules and begin paying athletes in order to stop this policy of selective and limited enforcement (Grant, Leadley & Zygmont, 2008). The students often drop from college before graduation to enter into professional sports because they need to earn and sustain themselves. However, if the NCAA would change its rules and authorize payment for the athletes then the college would be able to attract as well as retain the players and form teams which will be strong.

The NCAA expects the athletes to enjoy nothing else but the scholarships which are equally good, but these scholarships cannot be used to pay any bill neither can they be useful in feeding children. Certainly, something should be done to help college athletes; the NCAA should definitely change their rules against the athletes to ease their survival (Kissinger & Miller, 2009). According to Article 2.9 of the NCAA constitution, the body is meant to protect college athletes from exploitation by professional and commercial enterprises. However, the association does not live to its statement, since they lead in exploiting the student athletes.

The college athletes are required to invest in sports like the professionals, yet they have not reached the professional level. Most of these athletes understand very well that they cannot perform well in academics simply because they invest much in athletics. Surprisingly, after performing exemplary good, all their earnings are obtained by the NCAA (Lussier, 2012).  A football player in MTSU admits that his schedule at school is tight, limited to workout, practice and sleep. Larue notes that he has little or no time left for him to embark on his personal studies.

Most college athletes regard the sports as a job in itself and are usually willing to put in their best to make it a success. They believe that just a little pay will take them a long way. The students are aware that the revenue generated through their participation is by far higher than the scholarships the college administration claim costs them much (Kissinger & Miller, 2009). Matt Howard, a student and men’s basketball player at Butler University, when interviewed about the athletes payment deal said that $40,000 per year to every athlete would not be bad. Howard said that for an 18 year-old college athlete who still has no college education, such an amount is fair enough as a compensation for their efforts in sports. They only hope that the NCAA will change rules and attend to their concerns.

The decision of not paying student-athletes has largely been viewed as an opinion held by the NCAA alone. Those for payment to athletes insist that the NCAA rules should be amended to authorize payments to the college athletes.  If these reforms take place, it is believed that there would be a dramatic increase in graduation rate, athletes’ financial desperation will be swept off and, consequently, acquire their commercial free market value. This would mean that student-athletes would no longer accept illegal payments as a supplement to their scholarship, neither will the students engage in academic dishonesty in order to maintain their eligibility (Miller, 2012).

The need to pay college athlete students was also supported by a study conducted by the National Colleges Players Association (NCPA) in conjunction with Drexel University Department of Sport Management. The study blamed the NCAA for black market scandals that characterize college sports. The joint team argues that the unethical as well as unpractical restrictions imposed by the NCAA on the athletes have subjected most of the athletes with the level of the living below the federal poverty line. The study calls for the federal intervention over the matter. This is supposed to bring in action a new amateurism model; a model that would emphasize on education while ensuring that violations are minimized. In their study, the team suggests that the NCAA rules should be changed in order to allow student -athletes to seek commercial opportunities which can benefit them (NCPA, 2012).

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