College Athletes Earning A Dollar

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On October 29th, the National Collegiate Athletic Association top governing board passed a law allowing college athletes to earn endorsements and sponsorships. The law states that student-athletes are to be treated like non-athletes attending their universities, and they should have a “clear distinction between college and professional opportunities” (Getty, 2019). In the past, rules have been in place so athletes do not see economic benefits other than scholarships. They are not allowed to sign with an agent or receive gifts from anyone other than family (Torr, 2005). College athletes make the NCAA millions of dollars by competing while representing their universities. In professional leagues, the employees are athletes. They are being paid millions of dollars to perform the same task as college athletes. Employees of one of America's largest industries do not even have to pay those working for them. Companies are making millions off of young men and women, and those men and women do not see any of the profit. (Torr, 2005) Paying college athletes through endorsements would be no different than paying students working on campus, as working on campus is like the athletes going to practice everyday and competing in the games in that they use the money to pay for tuition and room and board, and because they dedicate much of their time to their sport as if it were a job.

This is not the first time the debate of paying college athletes has come about. In 1987, Southern Methodist University was found by the NCAA for paying college football players. In the early to mid 1980s Southern Methodist University was on top of the college football world. In 1982, Southern Methodist University was undefeated and was ranked second in the country. They were playing against some of the biggest powerhouses in the country like Texas, Texas A&M and Arkansas. But with Southern Methodist University only having six thousand students, it was difficult for them to compete. So you could say the university was seeing benefits from paying the athletes. At the time Ron Meyer was the SMU head coach, and he had to build a program in a hurry now that they were competing against better competition (Dodds, 2015). The regulations for the new law that will go into effect in 2023 states that student-athletes throughout California to be compensated for the use of their name, image or likeness, and it will also allow them to hire agents. This new law still disallows student-athletes from earning an allowance in exchange for promoting the sale or use of a commercial product or service of any kind or his or her name or picture to advertise. Bylaws forbidden from taking cash for autographs or monetizing social media channels and accepting sponsorships. The NCAA did have a general rule that players cannot participate in a college sport if they have agreed “to be represented by an agent for the purpose of marketing his or her athletics ability or reputation in that sport” Don’t leave this quote hanging(Blinder, 2019).

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Traditionally, arguments for paying male football and basketball athletes has been the main focus. Student-athletes have to compromise their schedules with practices and academics. But for the player not on scholarship, who is traveling, practicing, and working out with the team, they have no time to work. The non-scholarship athletes come out with thousands of dollars in debt because they have no time to work. For most student-athletes, not graduating debt-free with a paper does not equate to a job post-graduation (Harvard University, 2015). Athletes can have their scholarships revoked if they sustain an injury or a violation of a either NCAA or University code of conduct. Players can also get lifelong injuries that colleges may do nothing to compensate for. For example, Kyle Hardrick lost his basketball scholarship to Oklahoma because he tore his meniscus, Jason Whitehead almost lost his scholarship to Ohio State due to a neck injury, and after leaving early from South Carolina, Stanley Doughty found out at his NFL combine physical that he had a serious spine injury that would end his professional career before it even started. As it is unusual for an athlete to lose their scholarship due to an injury, but there has been a push by the National College Players Association President, Ramogi Huma,often after they lose their scholarship they will still have to pay for health insurance and health care for the injury even though the injury was sustained while competing. Huma’s goal is to have a plan to set up for current and formally injured athletes comparable to worker compensation (Strauss, 2014). Full scholarships cover tuition and fees, room, board and course-related books. Most student-athletes who receive athletics scholarships receive an amount covering a portion of these costs. NCAA Divisions I and II schools provide more than $2.9 billion in athletics scholarships annually to more than 150,000 student-athletes. (NCAA) College athletics departments often complain about the lack of money they have to pay their players, generally because college football and basketball coaches have huge paychecks. In 39 states, the highest paid public employee is either a college football or basketball coach. These coaches earn more than governors and university presidents. Overall, the college football coaches at the top 32 football schools in the country are paid a greater proportion of their college football program’s revenue than NFL coaches are paid of their franchises. (Paying College Athletes) For example, in May of 2017, Alabama Head Football Coach, Nick Saban signed an eight year $74 million dollar contract extension after winning his fifth National Title. That’s $9 million a year. Saban would be top five paid head coaches in the NFL. Nick Saban may be the one making the game plan, but he is not the one competing on the field (Associated Press, 2018). Athletes have an extreme amount of pressure on them. They might make that play in the final seconds as if a sales associate had to present a product to a group of investors. And if they do not make that play or sell this product, they could lose their job. All it takes is one slip to tear an ACL, one opponent to knock the ball out, or one investor to say no that could ruin a career.

The NCAA makes sure that collegiate athletes are being provided the essential academic opportunities to succeed, for nearly half a million college athletes each year. Allowing student-athletes to be paid for their athletic performance and image would undermine the balance between their academics and performance. University leaders argued that paying student-athletes would contradict the schools educational mission and could result in the elimination of academic programs or non-revenue sports. For most college athletes, after they get injured or play in their last bowl game or march madness game they will never play that sport professionally. Because for most college athletes they will never play that sport again. For example in 2019 only 1.2% were drafted into the NBA and 1.6% were drafted into the NFL. This is without undrafted free agents but still the likeliness of an athlete making it in their professional league is slim to just get drafted not even playing for years as a professional. More than 480,000 athletes compete as NCAA athletes, and just a select few within each sport move on to compete at the professional or Olympic level, professional opportunities are extremely limited and the likelihood of a high school or even college athlete becoming a professional athlete is very low. Some argue Division I players receive a full scholarship plus access to top facilities and resources to make them superstars. The NBA Draft only takes 60 players a year, and there are thousands of college players who do not have the opportunity to participate. But for the 90% of athletes they have to have something to fall back on, either a savings account to help pay off debt or a college diploma.(NCAA)

As paying or not paying college athletes there are many people that have strong feelings Elaborate on the topic but some people already believe college athletes are already being paid. According to Jason Whitlock, they are paid in education. For most, college sports is it for them. But for some athletes they just want to be like Lil Wayne. They blow off all of their money on beer, pizza and weed over the weekend. He believes that some day they should be forced to eat macaroni and cheese. These athletes act like they want to be professional athletes a stipend and a significant portion of that money will be going directly to the local dealer for steroids and marijuana, another good chunk will get guzzled down a beer bong and the rest will be a down payment on a necklace they will never be able to pay off (Whitlock, 2005). Former athletes have very strong feelings on the debate. Tim Tebow, former Heisman Trophy winner and BCS National Champion has a very strong opinion about the topic. On ESPN’s First Take Tebow spoke with Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman on the matter. Tebow states “I feel like I have a bit of knowledge about this because, when I was at the University of Florida, I think my jersey was one of the top selling jerseys in the world…and I didn’t see a dollar, nor did I want to, I knew going into college what it was all about....if I could support my team and my university, that’s what it was all about...because I care which makes college football and college sports will turn into the NFL, people go where the money goes...that’s why people are more passionate about college football than the NFL, that’s why college stadiums are bigger than in the NFL because it’s about the team, about the university....about my grandfather wanting to see Florida win a national championship, and taking that away so kids can make a dollar in my opinion is not where football needs to go” (Lewis, 2019). Tebow still believes that they are called student-athletes, and that being a student comes first. He would not like different schools offering more to get better players on their teams. Tebow believes that this will ruin the competitive nature of college athletics, because athletes will no longer be playing for the love of the game but just to make a dollar (Lewis, 2019).

Considering the information above athletes being endorsed for their image is very supported. College athletes do have a job. They perform at their best for their university. Just like how the students working at the food court, in the admissions office, as a lab assistant, or working in a coffee shop. In both scenarios they put in a lot of time and effort to their job while still getting an education. And for most college athletes, college is it. Stepping back on the field or court may never happen again. For the young men and women that work so hard to entertain millions of people, they deserve to get something in return. It is very important to remember that college athletes have a very slim chance to make a professional league and by endorsing them will set them up for a solid life after they play their final competition.

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College Athletes Earning A Dollar. (2022, February 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 13, 2024, from
“College Athletes Earning A Dollar.” Edubirdie, 18 Feb. 2022,
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