It’s time to pay college athletes

Devon Greene, Sports Editor

With the not so shocking revelation that college basketball players were getting paid in various forms in return for their services, the sports community has revived the debate of paying college athletes. Although, former sports editor Mat McClanahan says otherwise, it is officially time to start paying college athletes.

The biggest and most obvious reason to pay the athletes is the very fact that they bring in so much money to the university, they should be getting some in return. The NCAA currently produces nearly $11 billion in annual revenue from college sports. Schools as big as the University of Alabama pull in $143.3 million annually, which is more than the majority of NHL franchises make in a year.

None of this money gets into the players hands, even though they are the single most powerful draw in the athletic programs. Coaches like Alabama’s Nick Saban and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney are making $11.23 million and $8.5 million a year respectively while athletes in their program never see a penny.

Now the main rebuttal against that argument is “athletes get scholarships and are going to school for free! Why do they need to be paid as well?” Scholarships are a perk of course, but anyone with a high enough grade point average can get a scholarship. They may deserve this money due to their spectacular academic performance, but they don’t bring in millions of dollars to the university a year.

Another loophole point in the “pay college athletes” argument is that schools would have to start paying all college athletes and not just the main sports. It would be tough to pay all of the athletes the same, but you can pay athletes on an adjustable rate. The school can look at the profit brought in by each sport and pay each player whatever amount they see fit while still making money for themselves. Naturally, football and basketball players would make more than sports like ultimate Frisbee and polo, but that is justifiable because the former draws in so much more money than the latter. This is the same as any work environment. Chief executive officers make more than accountants in cubicles because they bring in more money to the company than John Smith from Smallville, USA.

Athletes don’t always come from the best situation and another glaring reason to pay athletes is the fact that they need the money. In a comprehensive 2013 study by the National College Players Association, they found that 86 percent of college athletes live below the poverty line. We’ve all heard of the poor kid that has come out from nothing and sports was their only way out of the rough environment they grew up in.

You may discount this story because it has turned into a cliché over the years, but it is the very reality that we live in. They have scratched and clawed their way into a college environment where they shed their blood, sweat and tears to be successful for a program where they get nothing but a scholarship in return. They cannot use a scholarship to help pay the bills, help out their parents or pay for any other expenses that come their way. In the same report from the NCPA, they found that the average out of pocket expenses for each full scholarship athlete was $3,222 per year.

Many athletes’ sporting careers end in college. Only baseball has more than 2 percent of its players go on to play professionally. College is their only chance to make money playing their sport. They won’t make nearly as much as they would if they advanced in their career, but they would make enough to help them make a living as a young adult and start a life as they make their way into the harsh real world that the rest of us face. They may even be less prepared than the average college student. They pour their lives into their sports as they wake up early and go to bed late and miss classes in the process to play games and travel, which any other student that only has a scholarship for academic reasons doesn’t have to go through.

Paying college athletes could also save the institution of college sports completely. College basketball is one that has taken the biggest hit in recent memory due to the “one-and-done” player. The NBA has stopped taking players straight out of high school and have made it mandatory for some players to be at least 19 years old and others to be at least one year removed from the graduation of his high school career.

This forces players to go to college and play for a year at minimum, but they are leaving as soon as they can if they have the ability to go pro so they can finally sign endorsements and make money from their craft. After the news that players were getting paid dropped a few weeks ago, it became evident that NBA players and even the commissioner of the NBA, Adam Silver, dislike the NCAA.

Silver is making drastic changes and providing an alternative for high school basketball players that would allow them to go straight to the NBA’s developmental league out of high school and avoid college all together. They would be paid in the developmental league, which is obviously more enticing than going to a college and doing the same thing but not making any money. This doesn’t apply to other sports at the moment, but it could if the NBA’s plan proves to be successful and the other major sports leagues follow their lead.

It was announced last week that the NCAA is considering letting college athletes to sign endorsement deals, which is a step in the right direction, but only a small piece of what they deserve.