Passion Over Pay: Should College Athletes Be Paid?

Six hours a day, 1-2 days off a week, exerting your blood, sweat and tears. A job, you might say a full-time job, right? Yes, this sounds like the second job any college athlete goes through. Currently, college athletes do not receive more than a couple thousand dollars a year at most, but is it right for the National College Athletic Association (NCAA) to work young adults this hard only to not give them a paycheck? No. So, what is the problem? There are many actually, but the biggest debated issue is passion over pay. In professional leagues athletes are compensated with salaries and endorsement earnings, but college athletes do not receive any monetary benefits from the NCAA. They play out of the devotion for their sport and in some cases the hope of making it pro and the earnings that would come with that. The NCAA earns hundreds of millions of dollars annually, and it goes back to their sports programs. With hundreds of teams and players, do colleges have the money to distribute salaries to kids?

Colleges offer athletic scholarships, but the question is: are they enough? Every year the NCAA Divisions I and II give out scholarships tallying almost $3 million to almost 150,000 students. But this is only 2% of the students that play sports. Here is the problem, 86% of student athletes live in poverty and receive benefits from financial aid programs such as NCAA Division I Student Athlete Opportunity funds and Federal Pell Grants. Many students drop out of college because of the pressure from having to take care of their family’s financial situations at home. By paying athletes even a small sum, we can increase the graduation rates at schools with high-level sports. While athletic scholarships cover tuition, other fees, room, board, and course-related books many academic scholarships give left over money for the student to use for their own expenses. Working 40 hours a week practicing, you do not have left over time to work a paying job. With that being said, to cover expenses outside of school, student athletes should receive some spending money at least with the NCAA. “Millionaire coaches are allowed to go out and earn extra money outside their contracts,” Hall of Fame basketball player, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, said in a statement piece he wrote. Don’t you agree?

Moving on, the NCAA is shooting to make $1 billion in revenue this year. But, is there really enough money to go to all NCAA sports? Right now, men’s basketball and football earn hundreds of millions of dollars every year in revenue. The profit from college basketball and football is used to pay for the funds and equipment of other smaller sports like lacrosse, hockey and soccer. If we divided the funding and made room for thousands of athletes to get paid, would there still be enough to keep the sports teams running?

Athletes who have firsthand experience agree with the idea that passion for one’s sport should come first. “You always have to play for fun or else it’s a job,” Andrew Tinari, a Red Bulls II rookie said when reflecting on his college experience. College students have school to worry about but college athletes choose to play for their school, which is a major commitment if it is a NCAA sport. When paid, you may join the team for the money, but right now student-athletes play in college for fun, for their love for the sport, for their passion. In pro sports, the athletes are there for the dream or for the dream’s pay check.

On the other hand, with such young and talented athletes getting paid, will it all go to their head? Athletes like retired NBA player, Antoine Walker, were not responsible with their earnings and actions resulting in tragic bankruptcies. Do we really want to cause eighteen-year-olds to lose all of their money before it even reaches their account?

All in all, the debate on whether college athletes should get paid still remains unresolved. After viewing all sides of the question, we can weigh out the costs versus the benefits. While paying athletes may increase the graduation rates and help students and their families back at home, there seems to be more issues than good. Paying college athletes defeats the purpose of actually playing a college sport just because they love it. But right now, it’s your choice, so we ask you which side do you take: passion or pay?