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Should College Athletes Get Paid?

By Elad De Piccioto
 Adam Bettcher / Stringer
*Updated 2019
CBS Sports and Turner paid over $1 billion a year for broadcasting the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament up until 2023. Until now, the broadcasts’ college sports stars themselves had no chance of receiving much of that sum (at least not directly).  However, the NCAA recently decided to allow college athletes to financially benefit from the use of their names, images and likeness. This decision follows the move by several states, led by California, to pass laws allowing the same right, which has been part of a longtime debate about whether college athletes should be paid or not. The question arises primarily regarding football and basketball student-athletes, since they bring in most of the money.
Here are three arguments for and three arguments against paying college athletes:


Three Reasons Why College Athletes Should Get Paid


The difficulty to implement is no excuse

An important argument coming from those who oppose paying college athletes is the expected difficulty involved with implementing such a move. The following are just some of the questions that pinpoint the complexities: Who will pay the college athletes (the NCAA or colleges)? How often will they receive pay? Will there be a salary cap? The main question regards the equitable application of paying college athletes, namely who will get paid and who won’t. The details of the new NCAA rules are still being discussed, and will need input from different state legislators and sports associations.

However, since the debate was first sparked over the NCAA’s income from broadcasting, the answer seems simple: Theoretically, the athletes to get paid should the ones playing the sports that bring in the big money, namely, men’s college basketball and football players. College basketball and football players in particular are the ones who provide a good time for fans who are willing to pay to watch the games, so they deserve to get paid. This is capitalism, and this is how it works in America. In its ruling, the NCAA has distinguished between amateur athletes and potential professional athletes, i.e., those most likely to be recruited by professional teams. Time will tell who ultimately benefits from this decision.


Athletes risk their body and are exposed to permanent damage

One of the best aspects of college sports is the players’ enthusiasm. Their love and passion for their respective game is admirable and infectious. But, there is a downside to it; in their fervor to play their best, many college athletes suffer serious injuries that sometimes prematurely end their career.

Setting aside the disturbing fact that a career-ending injury will stop their scholarship, those college athletes put their bodies at risk of permanent damage, without being paid. Hurting your knee might leave you limping for the rest of your life. Suffering concussions can cause dementia and depression, not to mention CTE. Those college athletes who put their bodies on the line for each training session and game they play deserve to be paid for the health risks they are taking.


There’s big money involved in college sports anyway

It`s common to think paying college athletes can detract from the purity of the game and ruin that magic. But it won`t. The passion fans see on the court or field is attributed to the fact that there is no money involved.

However, that’s not exactly accurate. Big companies are profiting off of branding college athletes, namely, asking them to wear brand apparel during games without paying them to do so. As such, these players feel used. And rightly so. The new rule allowing them to get paid shows that the NCAA and fans are really concerned about preserving the purity of college sports.


Three Reasons Why College Athletes Should Not Get Paid


The difference for college athletes is marginal in term of money

If salaries were to replace scholarships in college sports, athletes would not earn much more. In fact, an impressive $100,000-a-year salary for a college athlete would grant him only a few hundred dollars more per year than a scholarship. According to, a full athletic scholarship at an NCAA Division I university is about $65,000 a year. This includes tuition, room, board, and books (if you enroll at a college with high tuition). In contrast, a salary will be subjected to federal and state income taxes. Therefore, out of the $100,000, a net of $65,100 will remain for the student. The difference is marginal.


Earning big money too soon can be harmful

People argue that paying collage athletes will help create a sense of financial awareness for them. However, in reality, poor investments, trusting unethical financial advisors and lavish spending habits are some of the main reasons professional athletes find themselves broke after they retire, according to ESPN documentary, “Broke.” Without sound financial education, young college athletes may not be equipped to handle so much money.


Paying big money for college students miss the purpose of college

College is about preparing oneself for real life. It is supposed to provide students with tools and abilities to succeed after college. In that manner, college athletes are no different than other college students who practice or intenr in hospitals, law firms or advertising agencies for little to no money. So why should athletes be get paid while the others don’t?

A lot of young adults today are impatient and lack the ability to delay gratification. College can teach them a great life lesson: in real life, you have to work hard and wait for your chance. Paying big money to any college student, athlete or academic is far from being the ideal preparation for life.


The Bottom Line: Paying big money to college athletes defeats the purpose of college as a preparatory lesson for life, especially when the monetary difference between a salary and a scholarship is marginal. On the other hand, not paying athletes who risk serious long-term injuries is morally wrong. Was the NCAA right to change the current practice?

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