Should college athletes be paid?

A large call has been made by athletes, fans and average Joes that student athletes should be paid. That’s a fair statement considering that Louisville, the national champions of college basketball, brought in a total of $40 million last year in total revenue and pay their coach over $4.8 million. Two time defending national football champion Alabama annually brings in nearly $82 million in total revenue and pay head coach Nick Saban over $5.6 million a year, which is more than 22 NFL head coaches make.

From the outside, all people see is money. Truth be told, money is one of the last things college athletic departments have. Only 23 of 228 Division I schools actually made money last year. Not surprisingly, all of those schools came from automatic qualifying Bowl Championship Series (BCS) conferences.

College football is by far the biggest money maker for athletic departments in the NCAA. The money made there is used to cover the costs of every other sport for flights, jerseys and recruiting amongst other things.

The reason for losing the millions of dollars generated from men’s basketball and football may simply be because of Title IX. “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

The UCONN Huskies women’s basketball team won an NCAA (men’s or women’s) record 90 straight games from 2008-2010. During that span of complete dominance, the Husky women lost money. In fact, in a study from The Business of College Sports said every single women’s sport and a few men’s sports lose money annually at the University of Florida. At a big SEC school like Florida, you can only imagine that it is similar at many other schools.

Title IX requires comparable treatment of women when it comes to collegiate athletics. Even if the program loses the school millions of dollars, essentially there is nothing to do about it.

Before anything could be settled, a few questions would have to be made.

Who would be getting paid? All athletes or just those in revenue generating sports? Would you pay walk-ons and would there be a performance-based pay scale?  If just those in revenue generating sports, would that violate Title IX?

How much would the student-athletes be paid?

Would players then be allowed to market themselves such as putting their names on their replica jerseys, selling autographs or doing endorsements?

Would students who don’t even receive scholarships but still put in all the hours of the star players be paid? They would deserve it, and if not paid, athletics would turn into less of a game and more of a business where people compete for reasons other than pride. Without adaptation to Title IX, either every athlete or no athletes would be paid.

If somehow you could afford to pay athletes, there would be no way you could afford to pay all athletes in men’s and women’s sports. At a major university, there could be 16 or more sports played per sex. Between both genders there are hundreds of student athletes at each university, possibly in excess of 400.

The pay would be hard to determine as well. If you pay each athlete a fair amount of $2,000 then you are looking at $800,000, and 82 percent of colleges already don’t break even, let alone have $800,000 lying around.

If you pay a far more modest amount of $200, it would only cost the schools $80,000. In today’s society what exactly can a 20 year old buy with $200? Maybe four new shirts, three pairs of pants and night out for themselves and a date? That might even be pushing it. Why would the NCAA go to such lengths to give 18-22 year olds a new wardrobe and a night out?

Now to the question that has most recently been in the news: why can’t students make money on their own by simply putting their names on a piece of paper in exchange for a $20 bill?

College athletics are still meant to be fun. Allowing students to sell themselves would turn pleasure into business by selling their autographs. All they have to do is make the dreams of kids come true by signing the football that will become their prize possession out of the goodness of their hearts instead of desperately begging for money in exchange. The second they take off their uniforms for the last time, they can sell autographs all they want for days on end. Just wait four years.

After we have determined that it would be nearly impossible to generate money to pay athletes, now comes the question that if somehow enough revenue could be generated, should  college athletes be paid.

They quite simply already are. There are thousands of kids in the United States who would do anything to be able to do what they love at a school of their choice for free. They receive free tuition, room and board, meals, and even book money.

Some student athletes even receive tutoring and counseling. Many people would consider this pay already. They also receive professional coaching, strength and fitness training, and licensed athletic trainers and physical therapists free of charge. All of these could add up to over $100,000 a year.

Top athletes are even noticed by professional teams and leagues because they are given the publicity from their school.

So should athletes be paid? In ways that very few people would turn down, they already are. Can athletes be paid? It would be very difficult and would take an enormous donation from the government, university or alumni.

Lastly and most importantly, will athletes be paid? No.

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