College sports are a big deal. Whether you root for a specific team because you’re an alumnus or because you grew up near a particular college, everyone seems to have their favorite university to cheer for. College athletics are so popular, in fact, that in 2018 the NCAA made $857 million from television broadcasts of college sporting events.
Thanks to loyalty to certain schools, the energy of a collegiate atmosphere, and events like March Madness and exciting bowl games, college sports are exceedingly popular. Some even argue that they’re better than professional sports, or at least more exciting to watch.
With so many positives and such a large following, some people believe that college athletes should get paid for their efforts. That includes professional athletes like LeBron James and Richard Sherman, as well as politicians like Bernie Sanders.
Unfortunately, most colleges rebuke the idea since the athletes playing for them are “just students” like everyone else. But, even most other students believe that school athletes should be compensated for the work they put in. So, should college athletes be paid, or should they wait to get to the pros?
The Cost of College
On average, the cost of college in the U.S. is over $20,000 for public schools, and over $46,000 for private universities. That’s per year! In this, it doesn’t include a lot of hidden costs and additional fees that can come up throughout the year, too. So, that leaves a lot of college students either at the mercy of financial assistance from their parents or families, the government, or having to get a job while still in school.
But, for college athletes, things are a bit different. On average, college athletes spend about 40 hours a week practicing. That also doesn’t include traveling to games away from campus or having to attend training camps in the summers when school isn’t in session. On top of that, most schools have some sort of GPA or grade requirement for their athletes, so they have to stay on top of their studies, homework, etc. They obviously don’t have time to go out and get a part-time job to pay for tuition, housing, and so on.
For many people across the country, a 40-hour workweek is a norm. So, for athletes to spend those hours practicing on top of their studies and having a social life, it’s almost like the sport they play is their job. Because so much time is invested in that job, it makes sense that they should get paid for it.
The Risk Factor
Most college athletes get recruited or allowed onto a team because they have a lot of talent. Colleges often scout for high school athletes across the country that they think will bring success to their athletic programs, after all. So, the students that play college sports are good at what they do. They know how to train and they know how to stay safe.
On top of that, most colleges have an expert training staff to make sure their athletes are using the proper precautions during practices and games. Medical staff are usually also on hand in case of injuries.
It’s important not to discount those injuries. Concussions have become a hot topic of discussion in athletics, especially on the collegiate level when they could lead to career-ending conditions. Players that get hit in the head can struggle with things like:
- A headache
- Sluggish movements
- Loss of consciousness
All of these symptoms are signs of a concussion, and if an athlete repeatedly experiences them, it could cause lasting damage physically and mentally. Over the years, student-athletes have also suffered from broken bones and severe muscle problems. Some have even died on the field. It’s easy to see why so many people think athletes should be compensated for their time, but it’s fair to say they should also be paid for the risks they’re taking.
Marketing and Money-Making
Not only are sports entertaining to watch, but diehard fans are usually willing to spend a lot of money on their favorite team’s merchandise. For colleges, that means capitalizing on star athletes and winning seasons.
College athletes that really stand out can often be targeted by the media as much as professional athletes. They can be influential on social media, have their name and likeness printed on apparel and other merchandise, and ultimately become “the face” of a collegiate athletic program.
For example, in 2007, the University of Michigan had the largest contract in the country with Adidas a $66.5 million dollar deal. The apparel company made gear for UofM, some including athletes’ names and jersey numbers. But, back then and today, those athletes never got paid for that use.
Should Student-Athletes Have Salaries?
This is likely a debate that’s going to continue for quite a while, since it’s already been going on for years. While most athletes and students support the idea, colleges have yet to show much enthusiasm about it.
The argument can indeed be made that college athletes are just students, not professionals. Playing a sport isn’t technically their job, and most of them do receive other perks from it including free travel, free gear, and more.
But, with so much time and effort these athletes have to put into their particular sports, it’s not unusual to see why so many people think they should also be monetarily compensated. You probably already know that Indiana is a big state for college sports, with IU basketball and Notre Dame football, so where do you weigh in on the debate for paying college athletes?