To Pay or Not To Play

This debate has been out in the open for a while now: should college athletes be paid?

Athletes are among a university’s most prized possessions. The performance of these athletes ultimately determines the university’s athletic division ranking. The better these athletes perform, the more fans come out to games, thus translating into more recognition that they — and the university — receive. In the end, it all leads to how much money is made as a result of this. Every action has a reaction, inevitably caught in a chain of events that generates money for the university. That’s athletics.

The money factor is the crux of the argument that Time Magazine makes.  If college athletes are bringing in so much income to the university (and publicly) then these athletes should be receiving a pay.

“The historic justification for not paying players is that they are amateur student-athletes and the value of their scholarship — often worth in excess of $100,000 over four years — is pay enough. But a growing number of economists and sports experts are beginning to argue for giving athletes a fare share of the take,” Time Magazine argues.

It is true that college athletes are “amateur student-athletes” in the sense that they are not quite professionals yet. So then where do we draw the line between an athlete and a professional athlete? That line is usually drawn by pay. By paying college athletes there will be no significant difference between a college athlete and a professional one, outside of the fact that one plays while in college.

Players of high athletic divisional universities attend school on the athletic scholarships they receive. Whether that scholarship covers their full tuition and board, or just a portion of it, those scholarships serve as a form of pay toward the athletes. However, Time Magazine argues that by paying for their respective colleges, players are essentially working fulltime jobs while going to school; for that reason should be paid more than a scholarship.

College athletes are where they are undoubtedly because of their hard work, talent and skill. It’s what got them recruited, and it’s what’s making or breaking a college’s athletic fame. Upon being recruited into a team, they’re given their scholarship, customized equipment, training, academic counseling and more.

But there’s more to talent in a university than just its prized athletes. Arts students are admitted based on their hard work, talent and skill as well. But they’re not glorified or recognized nearly as much as athletes.  If pay is to be distributed based on what a talented individual or group can bring as a profit to the university, then shouldn’t arts students be paid for their performances and exhibitions?

This ultimately brings about the much greater question of how talent is defined and how it is recognized.

Although the debate of paying athletes is mostly in reference to college football, it’s also upon discussion for other sports as well. “The time is right to give schools the option to share their rising sports income with college athletes.

Not every school would  or could  participate. Only the 60 or so schools in the power conferences, which have the football and basketball revenues to support such payments, would likely even consider such an option,” Time argues.

It is also important to consider that ultimately college football is a business, and the Johnny Manziels, the Reggie Bushes and the Matt Barkleys of the world are always going to bring in a large revenue for their respective schools.

Paying college football players is a very gray line, and the fact that the value of each player cannot accurately be determined makes the idea of paying players a bit unrealistic. Just as Time Magazine states, “paying players has risks.

Richer schools could buy up talent and disrupt competitive balance. Alumni and fans could be turned off by an even more professionalized game. Paying players could make an even more of a mockery of education.”

There is distinct solution and no perfect answer to the question of whether or not college athletes should be paid, because the issues go way beyond just a simple yes or no to pay. It brings about questions on the values of the education system, athletics and the rights of the athletes versus their respective school.