When Zion Williamson blew through his shoe and injured his knee in a meaningless game vs UNC on February 20, 2019, it sparked a nationwide debate over whether athletes at the college level deserve to be compensated as if they are professionals. Most people would argue that yes, college athletes do deserve to be compensated because most of them have millions of dollars waiting for them in the professional leagues and are jeopardizing their future by even playing in the NCAA. Others bring up the fact that the NCAA makes billions of dollars year after year so they should spread that wealth to the athletes that make them that money, and the list goes on and on and on. These are more than enough reasons to pay college athletes according to most people, they are wrong, as a matter of fact there are 3 main reasons as to why. College athletes should not be paid because the ramifications that would come from paying them would significantly outweigh their benefits from receiving compensation.
The first reason as to why college athletes should not receive compensation from their respective universities through the NCAA is that if amateurism breaks down at the college level, what’s to stop money from flowing to athletes even younger than the college age? The fact of the matter is that college athletes do not get paid for their services because there has to be a fine line between who is a professional and who is not. They are called “college athletes” for a reason, this being that they are trying to obtain the necessary experience and information needed to succeed at the professional level, just as any normal college student would do. If the NCAA decides to step in now and allow universities to pay students to play sports for their programs, they would be eliminating the word “professional” from being used when talking about pro sports. And if the word “professional” is eliminated, then anybody playing in any funded sport program should get paid, whether they be in college, high school, middle school, and who knows, maybe even elementary? To put it simply, risking having to pay athletes younger than the college age is not worth paying the players of collegiate sports programs.
The second reason as to why college athletes should not get paid is it would create a major gap in talent in the NCAA, as the top schools would be able to pay big money to get the best players on the market while the smaller colleges/universities would be stuck with the below average ones. Cody McDavis of the New York Times states that “among the roughly 350 athletic departments in the N.C.A.A.'s Division I, only about 24 schools have generated more revenue than expenses in recent years. The nation's top five conferences made over $6 billion in 2015, billions more than all other schools combined…”. This is proof that a tier of universities above the rest of the NCAA does in fact exist. These schools would presumably spend thousands, if not millions of dollars on players, essentially leaving their leftovers for the bottom tiers of colleges to sort through. This would result in lopsided games during the NCAA’s regular seasons of its numerous sports since the talent between a top tier school and a bottom tier school will be immensely different. Is this good for the league? Is this good for the fans? The correct answer is NO. If college athletes are paid, the fans will lose interest in the games because of the poor competition that would be presented week end and week out, outweighing the benefits a college athlete would receive from getting compensated for their play.
Finally, the final reason as to why college athletes should not get paid is it could mean the termination of other sports programs in various colleges/universities. This is something that in a way has actually already happened. Once again, Cody McDavis of the New York Times revealed that “In August 2015, after the N.C.A.A. began allowing Division I universities to adopt 'cost of attendance' stipends, North Dakota State University announced that it would offer such stipends in 16 sports, resulting in a new $600,000 annual expense to be paid by the athletic department… the University of North Dakota... followed suit six days later. What happened? The University of North Dakota cut five teams over the next two years to help pay for the added expense.”. This is a prime example of what could happen to colleges/universities if they were required to compensate their players, especially the ones located in the bottom tier of the NCAA as far as their budget and profit are concerned. To pile on, this example of the consequence of “paying” college athletes comes at the expense of other athletes in different sports. Students involved with the five teams that were cut over a span of two years at the University of North Dakota now could not continue to play the sport that they loved, all because the athletes of the more popular sports such as football and basketball wanted to be paid like they were professionals. This is by far the best example you will find of the ramifications that would come with paying college athletes outweighing the benefits of said athletes from receiving compensation from their respective colleges/universities.
To be fair, there are arguments that can be made as to why college athletes should be paid, such as most of them have millions of dollars waiting for them in the professional leagues and are jeopardizing their future by even playing in the NCAA, as well as the fact that the NCAA makes billions of dollars year after year so they should spread that wealth to the athletes that make them that money (Both were discussed in the first paragraph). First off, there is some legitimacy and reason to the idea that the NCAA should share some of it’s massive wealth with college athletes according to Moneynation.com, as “The NCAA makes about $1 billion per year.” and “College athletics as a whole pulls in about $12 billion annually.” However, “96% of all NCAA money gets distributed to member schools or spent on championships. The schools use that money to fund athletics programs and pay staff and coaches. A big chunk of the money is used to build and maintain stadiums and sports facilities and buy sports equipment.” This is a huge rebuttal of the argument that the NCAA doesn't share its wealth with its players since the quote specifically identifies how almost all of the money made by the NCAA goes back into its universities, stadiums, advertising, and sports facilities, all aspects where the players can benefit from. As for the argument that college athletes should be paid because they are risking injuries by playing in the NCAA when some of them are destined to land big contracts in the pros, college athletes have to take that chance if they want to play in the big league, that’s why it’s so hard to become a professional sports player, only the athletes that really desire the life accomplish it.
This topic of whether or not college athletes deserve to be paid will not go away until the day actually comes when students are allowed to profit off their play and likeness, there are even laws coming into place to potentially move forward to allow college athletes to be compensated. But in the words of William Noack of TCA News service, “While few would deny that money is playing too large a role in collegiate sports today, it’s difficult to see how the situation could be made better by introducing even more money in the form of payments to players.” If college athletes are paid, it would undoubtedly set off a cause and effect reaction in which the ramifications that would come from paying them would significantly outweigh their benefits from receiving compensation. In the end though, we need to ensure that there remains a separation between what is a professional and what isn’t, otherwise, why go to college?