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College Athletes: To Pay or Not To Pay

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The topic over whether college athletes should be paid or not is controversial at best. The introduction of this topic often sparks rigorous debate and can be good for some lively conversation from sports pundits, officials, players, and the average sports fan. There has been much written, talked about, and argued for both sides. On one hand it could be said that by virtue of college athletes being amateur sportsman, their status does not warrant being paid. While playing college sports they are, in effect, training for the opportunity to make it to a professional league. Many argue that the free education received during this process by many college players is payment enough, and is especially beneficial to the majority of student athletes who will never sign a contract in a professional sports league. When one begins to examine the impact that the college athlete and their team can have on the amount of money a college brings in, it becomes difficult to justify not compensating those athletes who are responsible for the revenue being enjoyed by the college, as well as the NCAA itself. It's also known that under the table payments of various sorts are doled out to these amateur athletes at various stages of their recruitment and playing tenures. Compensating these athletes up front and over the table could lessen the amount of shady deals that are made with these players. Obviously, athletes are still students, not employees, and should certainly not be paid like professionals. They do need, however, to receive some form of compensation for all the revenue they generate for their universities and the NCAA, especially the athlete who

will never turn professional in his or her sport; as well, the NCAA needs to step up and provide more financial assist to these dedicated individuals, and allow for things like a player being able to get a job and help pay their way through school, instead of relying solely on the meager amount of money the NCAA provides for them as part of their free education.

One of the main arguments against paying college players is the notion of amateurism. "The beauty of college athletics lies in a nation drawn to the idea of professional games played by amateurs, millions cheering for superstars in letter sweaters, inspiration bathed in innocence" (Plaschke). Many college sports, however, simply cannot be deemed amateur enterprises. Universities at the high end of college football and men's basketball have become nothing more than big businesses. Many colleges are raking in and spending massive amounts of money these days. Their money comes from different sources; television, tickets and luxury suite incomes, and media and marketing rights. This shows that college football and men's basketball are no longer that different from the NFL and NBA in that "they're part of the entertainment industry" (Gilmore). In college basketball, the beginning of this year's NCAA men's basketball tournament will herald the beginning of a fourteen year, 10.8 billion dollar deal with CBS Sports and Turner broadcasting (Farrey and Lavigne). Similar type deals are occurring in college football.

Why else were many college presidents actually in favor of adding a 12th game for the 05'-06' college football season? Why else are the BCS bowl games in college football shown in prime time and spread out over the course of a full week? (Gilmore).Because of all the money floating around in high level collage athletics, college football experienced it's most turbulent off-season in years. Nebraska jumped ship from the Big 12 to the Big Ten because of money. Texas decided to stay in the Big 12 because of money. And the Pac-10 expanded (Rosenberg). All because of the vast amounts of money floating around in college athletics.

In 2009, half of the athletic departments in the Football Bowl Subdivision brought in more money than they spent. And at the top, the rich continue to get richer in terms of revenue. The University of Texas led the way in 2009 raking in 93.5 million dollars as quarterback Colt McCoy led the Longhorns all the way to the national title game. (Farrey and Lavigne).So what exactly do big earners like Texas do with all this money they generate?

One of the biggest expenditures in college football and men's basketball is coaching compensation. Athletic expenses and revenues at many universities have almost increased exponentially in recent years; at many schools, the increase in spending in the athletics' department has outpaced that of the total universities' expenditures. A key factor in this is coaching compensation. At the University of Kentucky, men's basketball coach Tubby Smith was making a reported 2.1 million dollars; three years later, head coach John Calipari was bringing in around four million (Mullen). The numbers in college football are even more outrageous. In 2006, the average coaching salary in the BCS conferences was 1.4 million dollars. That same year Alabama gave a Nick Saban a reported eight-year, thirty-two million dollar guaranteed contract. Oklahoma's Bob Stoops receives a reported guaranteed three million dollars annually (Gilmore). And in 2009 alone, University of Texas head football coach Mack Brown pulled down a whopping 6.4 million, with his assistants also receiving around 3.6 million (Farrey and Lavigne). But these coaches are the best of the best, and so they surely deserve this type of money, right? Well, take the University of Alabama for example. Compare Saban's annual salary of four million dollars with that of the fifteen thousand dollars a native Alabama on a full ride scholarship would receive for one year, and the discrepancy is almost indefensible (Gilmore). Surely, it's not conscionable that colleges could make so much money, reward the coaches and administrators, and yet give nothing in return to the athletes who earned them that money in the first place. So with all that money available at the top level college football and men's basketball, the players should be paid on the basis of what they're worth financially to their university right? Wrong.

The amateurism rule does have one strong merit: it essentially acts as a salary cap, allowing smaller universities to compete. Without this, the big schools in college football (i.e. Florida, USC, Texas) could essentially buy their way BCS bowl games every single season (Rosenberg). Players should certainly be compensated, but paying players exactly what they're worth is an inherently bad idea. As previously mentioned, the University of Texas football program earned 93.5 million dollars in 2009. In the NFL players receive fifty-eight percent of the league's revenues. So if all eighty-one scholarship players on that team were to receive an equal amount, the average cut would be 672,676 dollars (Farrey and Lavigne).



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