Just pay student athletes already

You’d think with the hundreds of millions the NCAA and affiliated colleges are raking in, they could afford to give some kind of compensation to their players. You’d be wrong, apparently.

They’re referred to as part-time athletes, full-time students, but the physical and mental reality of it all is that you’re working two full time jobs in order to excel at collegiate athletics AND collegiate academics. I’m told that having money would be a distraction to the athletes, like it is to Susan and Xu Wei as they walk to their 9am class decked out in Raf and Gucci.

It’s true that student athletes should be students first, athletes second. I’d be impressed by this rhetoric if the top NCAA schools actually bothered to follow this model instead of having virtual slaves play their sports to secure profit for their institutions.

Grayson Allen and Duke will be one of the big TV draws in the 2018 NCAA college basketball tournament. Getty Images (from Metro US)

The best athletes are making tons of money for their schools while earning chump change back in the form of athletic scholarships – the middle-of-the-road athletes put everything in and get nothing back. All of these students are putting in effort for a full-time job and getting nothing from it beyond fond college memories. To be blunt, many collegiate athletes come from struggling, poor backgrounds. They will struggle with things that many other families never had to worry about: will I be able to afford new cleats, can I eat tomorrow, can I afford that textbook, that online resource, will I be able to travel there?, etc.

Professional sports are hardly helping, as they are still mandating players go to college for a minimum number of years before qualifying for professional league play. Again, I’d be totally behind this if it weren’t so painfully obvious this was only done to make that much more money for schools. Imagine if all the superstar talent bypassed collegiate level sports and entered professional play immediately – all that profit is lost from colleges!

So now they have the money. College ball games have giant corporate sponsors. People pay to gain entry to view these games. The Huffington Post reported that “The NCAA pulled in $989 million in its 2014 fiscal year, according to an audited financial statement cited by USA Today.” Almost $1 billion in revenue. Yes, schools offer full ride scholarships to the best athletes at their school. Those students are receiving thousands of dollars in investment in order to earn millions for their institution. And yet, none of that tuition can be used to buy a new pair of jeans. Those same students cannot even accept a meal from another person without it being scrutinized as a bribe. They cannot receive any form of compensation beyond their tuition. And they cannot use their newfound status and celebrity to make any extra money either.

NCAA: 
Title:12.5.2.1 – Advertisements and Promotions After Becoming a Student-Athlete.
After becoming a student-athlete, an individual shall not be eligible for participation in intercollegiate athletics if the individual:

(a) Accepts any remuneration for or permits the use of his or her name or picture to advertise, recommend or promote directly the sale or use of a commercial product or service of any kind; or

(b) Receives remuneration for endorsing a commercial product or service through the individual’s use of such product or service.

That’s hardly fair, considering what the schools and the NCAA are doing to their students. Considering that students who came in on an academic scholarship often have the option of finding a part-time job to earn extra cash with. Considering students who didn’t NEED an athletic scholarship often have and can find the financial support to continue their education. So many student athletes have no such option, and if they do choose to get a job, they are generally exhausted and unable to focus on studying, thereby contradicting the goals of “student-athletes.”

The reality is that the NCAA needs to revamp its entire system if they want to allow students to be paid. They need to give up this facade that they care about the student needs more than their own for-profit needs. I’d much rather students get paid and the collegiate sports turned into multi-million dollar spectacles than be lied to about how much the money is helping these students succeed at being students. So pay the student-athletes. Pay them less than the minimum wage, make stipulations that only the biggest, most televised sports will receive funding for athlete pay – I don’t care (and that actually makes a lot of sense). But PAY THEM already.

Obviously, this would mean downsizing at the bottom levels of athletics. Or it might mean that students who didn’t want to play sports before now have the smallest incentive to do so, and place less financial struggle on their family. For a fair chance at life.

My mind is all about giving fair access to income to these kids. Not every NCAA athlete is going to make it to a Big 4 sport professionally, and denying them a chance to gain working experience while going to school is prejudicial and unfair.

It’s downright un-American that someone cannot use their status and talents to make extra money for themselves. But that would be too distracting to the student. Having money was definitely a distraction for the Kelsey and the Wei-Jing going to class at 9am in their Prada and Gucci gear.

But really, the NCAA is a tyrant and the student-athletes are its serfs. End disingenuous dialogue, pay the athletes! Follow me on Twitter @bokchoifresh

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