Ed O

Head coach Ed Orgeron looks down the sideline during LSU's game with Mississippi State. 

Should college athletes be compensated for their ability to play sports? That question is a burning one and a hot-button issue for many. Today let’s look at both sides of the coin and the most popular takes on both sides of the spectrum.

Why College Athletes Should Not Be Compensated

A college athlete’s time on campus is paid for

It is widely known that a majority of NCAA D-1 athletes are on some sort of scholarship based on their performance at the high school level. Those that have put the hours in during their time at high school and are often wined and dined to the fullest extent until they commit to the university they prefer. Football teams are allowed 85 scholarships, ice hockey 18, basketball 13, lacrosse 12.6, softball 12, baseball 11.7, soccer and wrestling 9.9, while water polo and volleyball round it out with 4.5.

Athletes who take a full scholarship are awarded a full-tuition ride which costs roughly $25,000 per year on average, including room and board along with their education expenses. Add this with the recent rule that the NCAA Council passed in 2014 that all student-athletes have unlimited meals and snacks, the average four-year athlete is awarded more than $100,000 in compensation with the combined housing, meals, and education if they are an in-state commit. Tuition rises for out-of-state commits.

Detractors to college athletes being paid mention that one athlete receives $25,000 per year in benefits. If all 85 football athletes stay for four years, that comes to an estimated $8,500,000. Added to that is the benefits of the education received. If the education is used properly, each athlete has an added chance to get a well-compensated place of employment in the workforce when they successfully graduate.

Not all college athletes are the same.

If college athletes should be paid, why shouldn’t they be paid the same despite the exposure? Nielsen, the company that gathers television viewers stated that the total live audience was 26,979,000 viewers for the Clemson Tigers 44-16 victory in the fifth CFP National Championship over Alabama in 2019. Compare that to the College World Series which drew 2,020,596 viewers in game three, and averaged 1,960,000 viewers over the three-game series.

Should the baseball team make as much as the football team? It certainly does not bring in the same revenue, but both team’s players work as hard while putting in many hours. Do you give these two very different exposed athletes the same benefits?

Kieran McCauley of the Daily Local News writes, “The reality of the situation is that there is too big a gray area when it comes to analyzing different sports. The same goes for Division II and Division III sports. Why shouldn’t those athletes be paid the same if they put in the same amount of time to practice, travel, and play games?”

For detractors of the pay-for-play argument, this is another hurdle those for pay-for-play encouragers must address. Should players who play for teams that bring in more exposure and revenue make more than others, and is it fair?

It is a slippery slope

Tim Tebow brought headlines when he was interviewed weeks ago on the subject of paying players.

"Here is one of the issues, I think if you get to pay them for their name and likeness, where does it stop? Does it go to high school, does it go to Pop Warner? Are you continuing to have agents all in the game? I want to be able to balance both of those. I want to take care of the student-athlete, but I also want to be able to keep the authenticity of our game,"

For many, they tend to agree with Tebow. Tebow has one of the best-selling jerseys all-time, while not making any money from his likeness or play on the field. If you pay players in the NCAA, at what point does it trickle to high school when there is a popular, highly starred athlete on the field? At that point, corruption could take place with boosters and fans who want that player at their respective schools. What stops Oregon’s biggest booster - Phil Knight, Nike CEO - from offering a five-star freshman xx amount of dollars in an endorsement deal to come to play for the Ducks and leave the school they chose out of high school?

It would ruin college sports

There is already a large gap in football and typically basketball when it comes to Power Five and non-Power Five schools. Southern Miss simply does not recruit the same athletes as neighboring schools Alabama, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and LSU. C-USA as a whole does not compare to what the ACC, SEC, or most Power 5 schools have to offer.

To people who believe paying players would create a wider chasm, this is concerning.

Not only that, a smaller school - even some larger schools - would likely take a hit or nosedive. They simply cannot afford to pay every student-athlete. Auburn University paid $13.9 million for a state-of-the-art billboard in 2013, yet recorded a $14 million loss in 2014. If an SEC school the size of Auburn University who receives $41 million worth of SEC Network money loses out while trying to upgrade facilities, massive cuts would likely take place at smaller universities.

Why College Athletes Should Be Compensated

It is their name and likeness

For people on the side of players being compensated is the argument that players should make money off of their name and likeness. Fans pack out Bryant Denny Stadium week-in-and-week-out to see Tua Tagovailoa, Henry Ruggs, and others each week. Bulldog fans bought number 15 jerseys because of who was wearing the jersey. Mississippi State hung banners up with a player in a 15 jersey, not because of the number, but because of who wore the number.

Not only that but recent rulings by the NCAA have stirred the flames on name and likeness. UCF football payer Donald De La Haye lost his scholarship due to the NCAA ruling that he made money from his name and likeness after finding out he had a successful YouTube account with more than 700,000 subscribers. The NCAA ruled that he made money from YouTube due to his name and likeness and ordered that he de-monetize all videos immediately or lose his scholarship. De La Haye sued UCF (UCF acted because of the NCAA), claiming that his constitutional rights had been violated under the 1st and 14th amendments.

As of Tuesday, October 29, 2019, the NCAA voted to allow athletes to profit from their likeness.

Free tuition, food, and room and board is not enough

While some student-athletes [not all] on average receive roughly $25,000 a semester from schools, some argue that is not enough. They cost student-athletes something: time.

Student-athletes spend nearly sixty hours per week in practice and at games including travel, not counting study-related tasks like looking through playbooks. CBS Sports recorded a survey in the PAC-12, asking student-athletes did they feel they were overworked from practiced and games. Out of 409 students, 54% do not believe they have enough time for tests while 80% of student-athletes said they missed a class due to competition-related activities. While most said they felt they had resources to study, time was a major factor as to why they could not study as the demands were too much.

If you ignored time and averaged out what tuition, food, room, and board generate, that averages out to around $12.50 per hour. Since most student-athletes close in on 60 hours per week, that wage goes down. Add that with being a full-time student, and not all student-athletes receiving a full ride, the case gets stronger for those in the court of pay-to-play.

It could cause less corruption

Seemingly every other season a case is brought up where a student-athlete was being paid by someone to play for their specific university. If a resolution to pay players a specific amount of money, it could cause less corruption.

If an athlete knew they were going to be compensated a flat rate no matter where they went, it could cut a bit of corruption that we have seen, an example being Ole Miss and Mississippi State with their recent reveals of paying talent. Having a flat compensation rate could sway players to fit into a system that fits their style of play.

No, it would likely not cease it, but it could certainly lessen it.

The money made by schools is much higher than the tuition paid to athletes

A report revealed that in 2014, the top 10 schools with the highest revenue brought in an average of $144,833,640, while they paid out an average of $12,374,598 to student-athlete tuition.

That is a $132,459,042 difference.

A recent ruling by the NCAA was made that NCAA baseball teams could not have a third paid full-time coach, even though revenue has increased with baseball. One has to wonder why the NCAA will not allow a third paid coach, even if players are not paid. The numbers since 2005 show a larger and larger gap in revenue earned to paid out.

At what point should people and fans question where the over $100 million in profit goes to?

Fan response votes

Yes, players should be compensated besides tuition from the university/NCAA - 10 votes

Yes, players should be compensated for name and likeness, but not directly by the university/NCAA - 14 votes

No, players should not be compensated whatsoever by the university, NCAA, or name and likeness - 15 votes

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