Debates and Dealings in College Sports: Why College Athletes Should Not Be Paid

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Debates and Dealings in College Sports:

Why College Athletes Should Not Be Paid

Rick Grimes

Professor Winston

English Composition II

14 July 2014

The term “college” can offer multiple meanings when describing what one hopes and dreams for over the next four years; for example, many may see these years as an opportunity to grow and allow their inner self to spring up. Others may use this time as a chance to experience the “wild side,” leaving their academics and four years of wasted tuition money behind. Still others, specifically student-athletes, view college as a quick stop while on their way to the next level and expect to get there as quickly as possible in order to make a successful living. In fact, this targeted group is so self-driven they even expect to receive a profit while in college for the many sacrifices they have made. Theoretically speaking, providing college athletes with a salary is a very poor decision because not only would it allow excess benefits alongside free amenities, but it would also be difficult for colleges to access these funds and provide equality among all athletes.

At many universities and other institutions today, most athletes are being rewarded a quality education, living quarters, and other sufficiency’s free of charge; however, as if that was not enough, athletes are now demanding compensation for their performance. Those concerned with this issue, myself included, raise a particular thought that student-athletes should not receive extra benefits along with the scholarship and other amenities they are already receiving. Blinded by a determination and thirst for athletic success, many athletes, but not all, are losing their will to strive for academic success as well. A degree rooted in thorough education from an accredited institution will progress to even greater rewards that will be beneficial along the journey (Griffin 51). With this in mind, student-athletes must be reminded of the tremendous privilege given that grants them the ability to expand their knowledge, as well as exercise the many talents given to them; in fact, athletes are so preferred during the admissions process that they often occupy positions that would otherwise be filled by another student, most likely non-athletic. Therefore, the recruitment process not only reveals the decreased number of non-athletic students at the school, but it also reveals the opportunities and expectations of the athletes to strive for excellence in both the classroom and sport. As stated by Andrew Carnegie, a once successful businessman, athletes portray “a negligent attitude toward the educational opportunity for which the college exists” (48-49; 52).Various types of “payment” are also a concern, causing much debate on whether scholarships should increase or salaries should be given instead to replace scholarships. This thought alone should set off a major alarm for non-athletic students, signifying an increased tuition and a decreased student body due to financial struggles. As was mentioned earlier, why should athletes receive extra benefits besides scholarships and create inequality among all students? Athletes not only receive a portion, if not all, of free amenities, but they also receive an opportunity to put their finances behind them and focus ontheir goals, dreams, and, most importantly, a four-year degree. In a sense, these scholarships are used as a source of compensation, decreasing the athlete’s risk of falling into student loans, as well as motivation, pushing the student-athlete to perform well in the classroom in order to maintain the minimal GPA requirement. As mentioned earlier, the goal of college itself is to educate so students are better prepared for the road ahead. Scholarships, whether it be little or more than enough, ease the financial side of college and motivate the athlete for success (17-19; Sack and Staurowsky 96). In fact, student-athletes are not considered professional and should not make their living in college; instead, college is the instrument that directs them to their lifelong goals (Mitchell and Edelman).Although many critics argue that college athletes should be paid for their dedication and effort, athletes will truly reach their fullest potential only by their own hard work and commitment (Griffin 52). This enables each athlete to become motivated and determine to make it to the next level, whether that be graduation or a professional sport. In fact, graduation rates are found to be higher in student-athletes due to the absence of financial troubles; in other words, scholarships pay for most of the athlete’s expenses while in college, thus decreasing the chances of the athlete to drop out (Zimbalist 38). Travel is also an issue that may be factored into academic achievement. To help ease the stress that classes can usually offer, tutors usually travel alongside the team to help them maintain minimum GPA at least and push the athletes to prevent them from getting behind (43). College is a time for all students to explore, learn, and grow from things experienced. This exploration ultimately allows them to develop greater communication skills andgives them the ability to balance sports, academics, and other activities, thus enabling athletes to confidently go into the real world by themselves for the first time (53). Simply stated, the thought of salaries “would destroy the integrity and appeal of college sports” (Branch). With this being said, putting college athletes on a salary, even amidst scholarship, will only create future problems and eventually lead to the corruption of the college or university.

Diversity in athletics today is at an all-time high, whether it be through various divisions, sports, or even gender; however, due to such variety among athletes, offering an equal amount of income across the board may cause much debate and trigger further investigation to ensure fairness among all athletes. From a normal student’s perspective, I see it as unfair to increase compensation for certain sports or a specific gender, as this will lead to recruitment issues and either the progression or the deterioration of the school itself. To speak against equality in any aspect would bring direct opposition to Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which states that “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 requiring federal financial assistance”(Zimbalist 58). As would be expected at the beginning of the sports era, especially for women, financial aid is not as available in comparison to financial aid offered to men. This is due strictly to decreased commercialism and the relatively small amount of revenue brought into women organizations, which will be discussed later (71). However, in order to fully honor Title IX, colleges and universities must, if the opportunity presents itself, support each athlete with an equal salary (69). Another topic causing much debate is sports favoritism and how this interferes with equality among athletic compensation. In reality, more popular sports such as football and basketball would provide athletes with much more profit than “smaller” sports such as tennis or lacrosse. This is due for many reasons, including gender and the various amounts of revenue coming into each organization (Griffin 14). One key issuebrought up at the beginning is the progression of athletics, especially women athletics, andwhy sports should become equal for both men and women, meaning the sport will be offered for both genders, and if the differences in sports will still provide equal compensation. For example, football is typically known as a male sport, while volleyball is typically known as a female sport. Will there ever come a time where these sports are reversed and can be played by both male and female athletes? Granted, there are many variations of the sport, such as powderpuff football for women and volleyball for men in the Olympics or the beach, but when it comes strictly to college athletics, it is nowhere to be found (Sack and Staurowsky 115). This paves the way for much more expansion and scholarship opportunities for many athletic programs. Due to the business of college and the balance of school, sport, and sleep, numerous critics believe student-athletes should be given “bonuses” along with scholarships, as this provides athletes with some amount of income without working a full or part-time job, which will prevent athletes from becoming stressed when wanting to go out with friends (Mitchell and Edelman). Although there is much controversy regarding equality, the issue can be settled quickly with the greatest form of equality- not allowing compensation in any form other than athletic or academic scholarship to either gender.

Although athletes will be benefitting through this deal if the opportunity presents itself successful, this leaves many others skeptical and reluctant about the thought of where these funds will be accessed from.As a student at a four-year university, I would not thoroughly enjoy paying athletes out of my own pocket, nor would I like a tuition increase so athletes can be paid, as this also comes out of my pocket. One major revenue-producing organization would be the NCAA itself. This athletic association releases items such as video games, clothing, films, and other keepsakes that will bring in much revenue for the team and school, not the player. How, then, would athletes make a profit if they had no salary coming in in the first place? Say, perhaps, a school decides to pay each athlete on the football team an equal amount. Promising a salary up front causes much financial struggle, as this forces the school to either shut down or limit the budget of many other non-revenue sports on the campus, such as tennis or swimming. These “smaller” sports then attempt to obtain tuition money coming from non-athletic students, thus increasing their tuition. Paying athletes will always issue negative affects unless there is a cushion to financially support it (Dorfman). Sure, the team’s success and talent will bring in revenue for the school, but not nearly as much as the athlete himself would. In fact, Sonny Vaccaro, a sports market executive, once said, “Ninety percent of the NCAA revenue is produced by 1 percent of the athletes” (Branch). Paying college athletes would not only increase tuition, but it would also decrease recruitment among high school athletes. In fact, many colleges often compete against one another in persuading an athlete to join their team. As Gary Roberts, a professor at Tulane, once stated, “Of course, athletics departments need money to operate and provide good athletic opportunities for student-athletes, but our desire to generate these needed revenues has gone wildly out of control. Creating a financial and commercial “arms race” among schools that creates a never ending upward spiraling need for more revenues in order to beat the other guys” (Zimbalist 90). This assumption would still hold true today if athletes actually received a profit instead of a scholarship. In a fantasy world, the top revenue-producing schools would be able to beat out smaller opponents for top-of-the-line athletes, which would lead to increasing competition troubles down the road (Griffin 13). Another area of concern deals with student loans. If schools hand over payments to athletes instead of scholarships, would student loans come into play? Although many believe that paying athletes a fixed amount would actually keep them in school and motivate them to earn their degree, others would mention that in the end, scholarships would normally weigh more than the payment, thus becoming a major disadvantage to the athlete. However, taking out a loan would allow the athlete to remain in school, earn a degree, and work to pay back the loan (17-18). In the end, commercializing athletics to bring in revenue for specific players will quickly lead to the destruction of college sports and possibly the college itself.

In order for college athletics to become successful and radiate a positive vibe, coaches must push each athlete and motivate them to reach their full potential with no one enticing or pursing them. This determination not only provides numerous opportunities at the next level, but it also builds strength, character, and discipline needed for life. Student-athletes will not be motivated with paychecks in college, as this prevents them from growing and transforming themselves into everything they are called to be. With a scholarship and four quick years under their belt, they are empowered along the journey to focus on what is important and strive for greatness to receive a benefit that will last a lifetime.

Works Cited

Branch, Taylor. “The Shame of College Sports.” Atlantic 308.3 (2011): 80-110. Print.

Dorfman, Jeffrey. “Pay College Athletes? They’re Already Paid Up To $125,000 Per Year.” n.d. Web. 29 August 2013.

Griffin, Geoff. Should College Athletes Be Paid? Farmington Hills: Greenhaven Press, 2008. Print.

Mitchell, Horace, and Marc Edelman. “Should College Student-Athletes Be Paid?” U.S. News Digital Weekly 5.52 (2013): 17. Print.

Sack, Allen L., and Ellen J. Staurowsky. College Athletes for Hire: The Evolution and Legacy of the NCAA’s Amateur Myth. Westport: Praeger, 1998. Print.

Zimbalist, Andrew. Unpaid Professionals: Commercialism and Conflict in Big-Time College Sports. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1999. Print.
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