Written by: Connor Morris | 07/31/2018 - Co-Founder, CMO, Apex Sports


With college sports viewership at an all-time high, one popular question remains constant with each televised game: should college athletes be paid? The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) restricts and prohibits student athletes, both prospective and active, from receiving any kind of compensation.

But should college athletes get paid for the thousands, hundred thousand, sometimes even millions of dollars of gross revenue they bring to their school? There are two sides to every argument, and in such controversial cases like this it’s important to understand both.

Why College Athletes Should be Paid:

A main argument why college athletes should be paid is the fact that they generate mass revenue for their schools. The last March Madness generated $70 million in gross receipts and when it was all said and done, invited schools saw $275,000 or more. This is just one sport in one segment.

While these statistics are great for universities and their athletic departments because they are bringing in lots of money to the school, it forgets about the people who did the work; the athletes. Many of the top talented athletes face hardship at home coming from urban, low-class families. These students, while fortunate to receive scholarship, face the hardship of needing to drop out to help provide for their families. If they got paid for their talent, they would be able to send money home to their families or save it for the future. Either way, they would be able to finish school, earn their degree, and potentially go pro.

Aside from personal hardships these athletes face, there’s also the problem of their name and images being used to advertise and market big games which the athletes see no compensation for. College athletics has turned into a “big business” that some believe are more concerned about making money than its student athletes. The NCAA not only prohibits athletes from being paid for playing their sport, but also from receiving any outside income. Thus, if an athlete wanted to get a job, he/she could not. Considering 58% of college football and basketball players said the money they have is inadequate, this is problematic. The same sample of student athletes also said that they are not provided the education they are promised.

Because of the tight schedule of college sports regulated by the NCAA, student athletes miss class regularly for practices, promotional events, and nationally televised games. So, the scholarships they’re receiving doesn’t actually benefit them when it’s not being put to use. This cyclical issue all goes back to the NCAA, which many believe can be resolved or eliminated through college athletes receiving payment.

According to current statistics, one could make the judgement that it does just as much good as bad. 57% of NCAA Division One members have either been censured, sanctioned, or put on probation at least once during the last decade. On top of that, there’s even more undetected violations such as schools providing game tickets that sold for cash to athletes, academic fraud, and anything in between. Due to strict regulations and rules, many believe the NCAA has taken away the honest passion, integrity, and morals that college sports should entail. By breaking down the wall of these strict rules regarding payment through paying players, the current problems and scandals involving schools paying players can be partially eliminated. While logically this makes sense – paying athletes legally and regularly eliminating corruption that occurs with paying them behind closed doors – it’s also a double-edged sword.

Why College Athletes Should Not be Paid:

According to recent statistics, 7% of high school athletes make it to the college level and 2% make it to the Division One level. Part of being a college athlete is the once in a lifetime opportunity; an attribute that a regular salary can take away. It is believed that if a college athlete receives regular compensation for playing, the passion for the game is lost because it becomes all about the money. This goes hand in hand with the financial difficulties of paying athletes.

At 18, 19, 20 years old, financial responsibility is generally not a priority. With that being said, the chances of college athletes spending and not saving and facing debts later in life is very high. Furthermore, while on paper it’s easy to say that players would receive pay based on attributes x, y, and z, that’s much harder to establish in real life. A fair, equal and legal system of pay would be very difficult to establish because of the problem of it being based on talent – how do you determine what the top defensive player earns versus what the top offensive player earns and, then everyone else? Paying athletes becomes a very slippery slope for universities and the NCAA.

The NCAA and schools would then have to deal with the issue of having heavily “stacked” teams; the best, wealthiest schools have the most money to offer college athletes, and therefore get the best athletes. The established “business” nature of college sports that would be established would also hurt non-athletes. In order to pay the athletes more, other programs within the school would have to be cut, therefore depriving other students of their opportunities. Yet another problem schools would face with paying their student athletes is the simple fact that the athletes would not be viewed as students anymore.

Most college athletes rely on the scholarship they receive to obtain an education. Without the incentive of maintaining their scholarship, college athletes may stop going to class and therefore not earn a degree to help them later in life. Secondly, a scholarship pays for the needs of the athlete from food to classes, while a salary allows them to pay for wants and at some point, money does run out. Because taxes are based on income, high taxes on the athlete’s salaries could reduce their pocket earnings so much that they can’t afford the tuition of the school. Thus, paying them does not necessarily mean they can still attend the university.

A crucial argument to student athletes not being paid is because their job is to be a student, not an athlete. Being an athlete and pursuing their passion for their sport is a bonus to receiving a quality, higher education. If student athletes are paid, their job becomes playing their sport, which is why professional leagues exist. College sports are a time of growth and perfecting skills to prepare for the professional leagues. Being paid as a student athlete would eliminate the incentive to take the four years to improve skills for the professional leagues.

The debate on whether or not to pay student athletes is ongoing and there’s no end soon. But it’s important to understand both sides; all good comes with a bad and vice versa. For every support argument there is a counterargument, but that opens a dialog to a better understanding of student athletes lives and how they can be their best.

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