To Pay or Not to Pay? That is the question. Every year we circle back around to this question in regards to student athletes. That is exactly what the NCAA wants you to remember. It’s student first, athlete second. However, the NCAA is a billion, with a B, dollar industry. The athletes make millions of dollars for the schools and are “rewarded” by being an athlete.
At first glance, that might seem like a rip off. These young men and women are sacrificing their time, energy, and bodies and all they get is a free education. I spoke with Associate A.D. Kim Johnson of TCU. She said, our student athletes receive full scholarships. Not only that, but also all their travel needs are taken care of. They are fed well everyday of the week. They are fed breakfast, lunch, and dinner. After every game or competition, they have something to eat waiting on them. They have access to snacks throughout the day, like smoothies and health bars. They have tutors and learning specialists for academic support. They fly on chartered flights. They are given room and board and everything they need. Now I’m thinking, that erases my theory of them needing the necessities. Now I switch to them needing a little spending money. I’m sure they have a cell phone bill and want to go to the movies sometimes. They have a significant other to take out or hang out with their friends every now and then. Ms. Johnson told me, they are usually given a stipend. This is usually on average of a few hundred dollars a month. This is given to offset them not having a part-time job. Now I’m really scratching my head on how is it possible to say these kids are being unjustly compensated.
The only reason this is being brought up again is due to documents and bank records discovered in an FBI investigation of ASM Sports agency. It was detailed expense reports for high school and college prospects and their families being paid illegally. This extends to more than 25 current and former players. We are not talking about just any players; some of them are bonafide stars. The stars include Alabama’s Collin Sexton, Duke’s Wendell Carter, and Michigan State’s Miles Bridges. It encompasses at least 20 Division I basketball programs. Programs like Clemson, Louisville, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and USC were also implicated. WOW! The amounts of money given to the players range from food to tens of thousands of dollars. This has led many to blame the NCAA not the athletes.
LeBron James said, “The NCAA is corrupt. We know that. I’m sorry. It’s going to make headlines, but it’s corrupt. I don’t know if there is any fixing the NCAA. I don’t think there is. It’s what’s been going on for many, many, many, many years. I don’t know how you can fix it. I don’t see how you can fix it. Obviously, I have never been a part it, so I don’t know all the ins and outs about it. I don’t know all the rules and regulations about it, but I do know what five–star athletes bring to a campus both in basketball and football. I know how much these college coaches get paid. I know how much these colleges are gaining off these kids. … And I’ve always heard the narrative that they get a free education, but you guys aren’t bringing me on campus to get an education. You guys are bringing me on to help you get to a Final Four or to a national championship. It’s just a weird thing.”
I think there are two distinct types of student athletes. Number one; there are those that go to college only because they aren’t allowed to earn a living. The NBA stipulates that you must be 19 years old before you can be drafted. That is not the same for baseball or hockey. The NFL’s rule doesn’t have a minimum age requirement. You have to be three years removed from high school or a junior in college. If you are good, you should be able to earn a living as long as there is an employer willing to pay you. There are only a handful of athletes that can make the jump to the pros from high school. It is more of the exception than the norm. These athletes usually need to support themselves and their family. The second type of student athlete is the one that will receive an education that is free from student loans. On average, they won’t need to leave school early and will earn a degree.
This still raises the problem of what to do with the money that the schools are making. Out of over 200 Division I schools, 95% of them don’t break even. There are roughly 25 schools that make more than $100 million from ticket sales, TV, seat licenses, and private donations. There are 76% of them that make less than $50 million in athletics revenue. If schools are going to pay some athletes, they will have to pay all athletes. They will even have to pay it to those who compete in Olympic sports that provide free admission. Maybe there could be a cap given to each athlete based on their sport, but then that might not be fair. Maybe funds could be reallocated. Instead of building state of the art facilities, maybe the money could be given to the athletes. Since there is an arms race, rather facilities race, that may not work either.
At the end of the day, it’s not about fair or equality. It is about money and greed. After doing all this research and trying to solve this issue, the conclusion is it will never happen.