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The Great Debate: Should College Athletes Get Paid?

The great debate of paying college athletes has been floating around for decades. Athletes, particularly football players, have been receiving impermissible benefits for decades. The most notorious cases was the Southern Methodist University football team receiving the NCAA’s “death penalty” for being a repeat offender in paying their players and recruits large sums of money.

As of recently, coaches from the Southeastern Conference (SEC) have voiced their opinion in their willingness to play players. Others are completely against it, siting philosophical reasons. Whatever your stance is, players are not to be paid to play at the collegiate level per NCAA regulations. A growing trend of damming evidence against university football programs has been coming to light in recent years.

The USC-Reggie Bush scandal forced the university to vacate a national championship, Ohio State was denied a chance to play in 2012’s national championship due to self-imposed penalties, and now Oklahoma State, the University of North Carolina, and other SEC schools have been the center of attention with players receiving impermissible, and sometimes illegal, benefits.

I want to start off my argument by stating at no time have I ever, or will ever, be a college athlete. I was not blessed with a talent, nor put in the hard work that our collegiate athletes put in on a daily basis. I, 100%, tip my hat to them for all that they do, and have done, to get there. It is admirable at the highest level and I commend them for it. But, as a college graduate, and sports aficionado, I am completely against student-athletes being paid. I have nothing against student-athletes whatsoever; I am simply against the reasoning behind being paid to play. Here’s why:

1) Student-athletes receive tens of thousands of university dollars to fund their living and well-being. Out of an average 110 players on a college football team, 85 are on full scholarship. They receive free tuition, room and board, travel, game day meals, clothing, and a stipend amongst other things. At a state university, this can total upwards of $30,000  ($25K for tuition, room and board). At a private, research-based, university, tuition and room and board alone can total $80,000. Now times the amount per player times 85 on scholarship, then multiply that by an average of four years spent at the university on scholarship. That’s $10.2 million for a state school to spend on a football team freshman through senior year, and $27.2 million for a private university to do the same. Student-athletes are already light-years ahead of what a regular student would have to pay to have the same education.

Yes, it is true that universities earn multimillions of dollars off of these player’s likeliness and such, but you have to account for all that they must spend on them first. Envision yourself cooking one meal for 110 hungry football player’s mouths. Now imagine doing it everyday for four years, which they have the option to by eating at on-campus diners for free.

2) My next argument is equality. There is no question that football generates the greatest amount of money of all sports. This is true, but we live in a world that tries implement checks and balances, therefore, rules were created for equality. Title 9 of the NCAA regulations states that a university must have equal men’s and women’s sports, and spend a similar percentage of costs on each of them, relative to their sport. If we paid football players, we would also have to pay every other sport the university sponsors. Most mid-major universities would have to drop a majority of their varsity programs in order to pay their student athletes. Or they cannot pay them all together and risk losing recruits to major programs. It takes away any chance a program such as Boise State or NIU have of making a name for themselves.

3) The internship standpoint. I successfully completed a yearlong internship my senior year at Boise State University. It was long hours with no pay, but I reaped all the benefits I could from it. With completing that internship, I was able to gain skills that caught the attention of my current employer, who then hired me. I had to put in the long hours, not knowing where I was going to get money to eat that week, or how I was to pay for rent. I found a way. I worked just as hard in my field that a student-athlete has to work in theirs. In the end, after all the adversity, I gain invaluable experience that I was able to take with me to my next job.

Student-athletes are interns, but with much better benefits. As with standpoint one, they receive more than I ever could imagine. With everything covered and no student loans to worry about once they finished their time at their university, what else could you ask for? They have a great piece of mind that any regular student would love to have. With those benefits comes hard work. In high school, student-athletes interview to get their internship with a university. At the university, they put in the work and have long hours with no pay. Once pro day comes along, student-athletes have the opportunity to take that next step to being hired for a real job, lets say the NFL. Anyone will tell you it’s about hard work and dedication to move up in your career field or getting the job you want. Traditional students and student-athletes have the same goal or destination; it is just the means of the journey that differs once they achieve it. I did my time. I owe student loans, but I also worked hard to get a good job that I love. Student athletes are no different.

4) Lastly, I heard a caller on Colin Cowherd’s show, The Herd, on ESPN use different reasoning. The caller stated that universities are allowing these students to attend their honorable school without being able to meet the admission standards. A perfect example is Dallas Cowboy’s cornerback, Morris Claiborne. The former LSU star scored a four out of fifty on the Wonderlic Test administered to every NFL hopeful. I have taken the Wonderlic and can tell you firsthand if you choose ‘C’ all the way through, you have a better chance of scoring higher than a four.

Then I heard the argument “standardize testing doesn’t prove anything”. I agree it doesn’t, but what Claiborne’s score did indicate is the lack of motivation and effort put towards something educational. To me, it shows the lack of interest he had in school at LSU, being there only for football. Furthermore, it shows that he was insensitive as to how coaches would perceive him as an educated individual on their team.

Based off that, do you think Morris Claiborne would have been admitted to LSU if it weren’t for his athletic abilities? What about the students at Oklahoma State or the University of North Carolina who are under investigation for having tutors complete coursework for them and having no-show classes? Do universities care that much about their athletic programs that they would deny admissions to a well-performing traditional student to make way for an athlete who is just going to “slide by”?
If I were an athlete and given a chance to attend a university for free, I’d take every opportunity to pass all my classes and obtain a degree. I can tell you for a fact, any other student that has had to pay their way through school would do the same. Student-athletes being able to attend any college, whether they would be admitted with or without sports, should be grateful that they have the chance to do it debt-free. This alone should warrant the fact that they should not be paid.

There is nothing wrong with being a student-athlete. Does the university take advantage of your fame and extort and garner all the money they can from you? Yes, but they are also giving you a chance to graduate with a degree that will change your life. People dream about going to school or going back for a chance to enrich their lives. Student-athletes are handed the opportunity on a silver platter because of their athletic talents. Now we want to reward them further and sour the perceptions of traditional students about student athletes? I hear it all the time that Boise State focuses too much on their football team. To the uninformed they do, but to those who take the time and look into reports and statistics, they really don’t. Let’s not further corrupt the thought of student-athletes by paying them.

To leave you with this final thought, put yourself as a senior at USC, Michigan, Ohio State, or Alabama. Now imagine being a few short months away from graduating, creditors calling to collect your debt, and hearing that your university is going to pay the football team who get to graduate debt-free. How would you feel?

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About Steven Rodriguez

Steven Rodriguez
Born-and-raised in Southern California, Steven loves all teams LA, but Bleeds Blue now more than ever. After graduating Boise State University's business school, Steven continues to support his beloved alma mater. He has a passion for all things sports, but loves analyzing college football plays and statistics. He is also an Internet Marketer by day and enjoys all outdoor activities when he is not devoting his time to following Boise State athletics.

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