Sunday, September 4, 2011

Should college athletes get paid?

Former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel
resigned in May after several of his
players were caught selling team
memorabilia to a local tattoo parlor.
The other day I was having a conversation with someone about the start of college football season and who we thought would do what, when the conversation turned to Ohio State and all of its recent troubles.
For those who don't know, the Buckeyes had an interesting summer. In May, Jim Tressel resigned as head coach after 10 years and a national championship amid reports of his players receiving improper benefits from a local tattoo parlor in exchange for jerseys, trophies, etc. Long story short, Ohio State broke several NCAA laws because its players wanted free tattoos.
"If the NCAA paid college athletes, wouldn't that get rid of most of its problems?" my friend asked.
It's a question that the NCAA has had to face more recently than ever, and a question that may never have a clear answer. It's a touchy subject but I, for one, don't think so.
College athletes do get paid. There's no way you can justify that college athletes don't get paid when the university provides full scholarships, room and board, book costs, lab fees and whatever else comes with being a college student. Many of the advocates for paying players insist that the money the university provides doesn't cover the necessary needs of living. It would be one thing if Ohio State's players were pawning bowl game trophies so they could afford milk and bread at the local supermarket, but they weren't. They were selling memorabilia so they could get free tattoos.
But if you pay players, how do you determine how much? If you pay them all the same, then what's stopping someone from seeking more cash from outside - and illegal - sources because they want to make more money than their teammates? Then again, perhaps the university will pay each player by his value to the team. How then do you reasonably justify paying the star quarterback more money than an offensive lineman, despite them investing the same amount of time during practice and in games? There's more trouble to be gained by paying college athletes than if the NCAA keeps the system the way it is.
Also, people argue that it's not fair for players to have to attend college, go to class and adopt a student-athlete lifestyle in the first place before they can turn professional. What they don't understand is that nobody is making these players do anything. If you're the best high school basketball player in the country, there's nothing that says you have to enroll in college. With the new age requirement nowadays, players can't jump straight to the NBA ranks, but there are other options. Go play overseas, enter the NBA's Development League or, hey, join the job force until you're old enough to enter the draft. But don't enroll in college and then break NCAA laws by taking money because you don't think you're receiving the proper reimbursement for your contributions.
Keep in mind, these athletes agreed to cooperate with NCAA rules when they became college students. It's not like there was some unreadable fine print that tricked them into that situation. They knew what they were getting into.
College isn't just about getting a degree and then beginning a career, either. It's a place where, although a piece of paper at the end of four years can justify you getting a job, you hone your skills and try to become better at what you want to do in life. In using myself as an example, I want to be a journalist. I chose to attend college because that was the right choice for me to continue doing what I wanted to do. I could have found ways to write without doing that, but I knew a college degree would certainly help in the future. Once I was there, I spent hours and hours working for the university's student newspaper. I worked hard during my time there, and now I feel I'm a much better writer than if I hadn't. I dedicated my time in college to working toward what I wanted, which is a mindset college athletes looking for money may want to adopt.
College athletes should forget about trying to make money for the time being and worry about getting better on the field. If they do that, perhaps they'll have a better chance at turning professional and making tons of money when the time is right. If they don't, and let's just say they get caught accepting money, then they will most likely lose all chances of playing for that school again. There goes playing time, there goes weight room workouts, there goes getting better, there goes making it to the pros, there goes a multi-million dollar contract. Because you want a free tattoo? It seems like college athletes don't even think about what they're jeopardizing when they take money and break NCAA rules.
Now don't get me wrong, I don't think all college athletes take money. In fact, I'd say a 99 percent probably don't. But it's the other five percent that just doesn't get it. Do what everyone else in college does. Go to class, do what you need to do, suffer through meals of cold pizza and Ramen noodles and then turn professional when the time is right. Until then, just play by the rules.


  1. I think that the system itself needs fixing, the college association and the schools make tons of money off merch when they have successful teams. Basically players have to sell four years of their professional life hoping that they don't get meaningfully injured before they get picked up in the pros. I support my local Ohio State but I wont buy hats shirts ect because I think it pays into a corrupt recruiting system.

  2. I agree with aamedor that it needs fixing from what I've heard, thankfully we haven't got a problem this serious in the UK.