Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011 at 12:54 pm  |  39 responses

Should College Athletes be Paid?

A former NCAA basketball player gives his take on one of the most controversial topics in the sport.

Originally written as an essay for school, this piece was written by Kevin Doran, a former college athlete who we felt was entirely qualified to weigh in on the subject. Kevin traced the history of intercollegiate athletics, tying the past to the present and ultimately presenting his personal argument about one of college sports’ most controversial topics.—Ed.

by Kevin Doran

The intercollegiate athletic competition that is seen all over the media today has evolved in our society a great deal over the last 200 years. Before 1850, intercollegiate sports played little-to-no role in the daily lives of their students. The term “student-athlete” had not yet been born into our society’s vocabulary. If the universities felt that there was a need for physical activity in the student body the college president and dean respectively leaned toward manual labor in the form of farming or clearing boulders from the college grounds. The primary goal and only purpose of colleges at that time were to take men and turn them into the most educated respected gentlemen in the society. In 1852, Harvard vs. Yale established the first intercollegiate crew regatta, in 1872 Harvard Yale and Princeton formed the first intercollegiate football association, and in 1891 James Naismith invented basketball at Springfield College in Massachusetts. All were responsible for the birth of athletic competition in the history of United States today. Since the late eighteen hundreds sports has evolved into the competitive world of the National Collegiate Athletic Association or NCAA which is estimating a generated $4.2 billion from both fans and various partnership deals. Currently the NCAA awards talented student-athletes scholarships or full rides that provide them with full tuition, room and board, meal plans, housing all payed for leaving them with no financial responsibilities but no additional salary for their hard work and efforts. College athletes do not deserve to get paid additional money for competing in sports simply because they have not earned the right, salaries take away from the brilliancy of amateur athletics and the financial revenue produced should be spent on the well beings of athletes and local communities.

Since its birth, the NCAA has grown into a multi-million dollar industry and some experts feel college athletes should begin to benefit more financially from the large revenues being brought in. The NCAA brought in more than a billion dollars more than what the NBA generated globally in the 2004-05 season, according to the most recent estimate from Forbes. One of the biggest revenue-creating sports a part of the NCAA today is college football that has come a long way since the establishment of the Harvard, Yale and Princeton football association. Recently in the last five years a few football teams have financially stood out amongst there competitors in the NCAA. Vince Young’s ’05-06 National Championship Texas Longhorns reportedly made a $42 million profit with the University of Michigan bringing in $37 million and Florida trailing with a mere $32 million. NCAA players, coaches and officials constantly argue for the paying of student-athletes because for them the primary reason for massive profit earnings is due to the thanks of the hard work of their student-athletes. College athletes are constantly seeing their jersey numbers on the racks of their campus bookstores but instead of seeing any of the profits all they see is their coaches racking in multi-million dollar contracts year after year. In total there are 119 Division I-A football teams competing in the NCAA today and out of those a reported 42 of those team’s coaches received more than $1 million salaries, at least nine receiving more than $2 million. This is one of the biggest reasons why players argue for their own salary incomes due to the financial successes of their own coaches and seeing them living extravagant lifestyles. Kevin Doran

One of the most successful college coaches of our generation is coach Gary Williams of the University of Maryland’s Terrapins. Williams is in his 22nd season at Maryland and his 32nd overall in college coaching whose main testimony for supporting the paying of student-athletes is through pointing out the $11 billion television contract for the NCAA basketball tournament that was recently signed. It would seem that it would only be fair to share multi-billion dollar contract deals with the student-athletes who help bring their respected institutions to such financial means. Williams emphasizes that non-athletic scholarshipped students are allowed to receive living expenses and spending money as apart of their individual financial aid scholarships but athletes are not. Athletes are much more privileged individuals who at the majority of their institutions are very well taken care of almost not needing anything. College is an extremely competitive aspect of any young persons’ life and our society needs to be careful in looking at what is given to them at such a young age. If anyone is given too much money, fame and success to early on in life the student-athletes might forget what it was that got them their scholarships in the first place being hard work and constant dedication. Coach Williams feels strongly that college athletes in revenue producing sports should be paid.Williams suggests a sum of roughly $200 a month based on the spending money of $15 a month that he was receiving while he played at Maryland back in the early 1960′s.

Despite Coach Williams defense of the idea of paying student-athletes salaries, these same students are continuously making poor irresponsible decisions. Society cannot afford to pay athletes who are being looked up to by countless children across the nation who are indirectly led to believe that student-athletes’ behaviors are acceptable. Four University of Tennessee men’s basketball players’ (Tyler Smith, 23, junior point guard Melvin Goins, 22, junior center Brian Williams, 22, and sophomore guard Cameron Tatum, 21) reputations were all left tainted after they were all arrested during a traffic stop for speeding near campus on guns and weapons charges. Police reported that officers found a handgun with an altered serial number, a bag of marijuana and an open container of alcohol while Tatum was the player driving. Some of the most envied students on campus who play basketball on national television each week, and do not have to pay for a thing in their free time, are found playing with drugs and weapons. Their behavior is childish and irresponsible and should not be tolerated let alone rewarded with additional salaries. The Naismith College Basketball Player of the Year for 2006 Duke guard J.J. Redick was arrested on a DUI charge the summer after graduating from Duke University right before he was about to enter the NBA Draft. The police officer reported that Redick had very glassy eyes, strong odor of alcohol and that he had a blood-alcohol level of 0.11 percent–0.3 over the North Carolina State limit. Society cannot expect people to allow student-athletes to be given salaries while on their free time they could be spending their money on drugs and alcohol making poor decisions.

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  • Riggs

    they should get a free ride for school (if they havent already) that means free room and board, books and the like. They shouldnt make actual money, but their schools shouldnt make money off of them either.

  • http://nobulljive.com Enigmatic

    There are many valid reasons why student-athletes should or should not be paid, but in my opinion, your reasoning that they shouldn’t be compensated because so many of them are irresponsible and could potentially make bad decisions with their salaries just doesn’t hold up.
    There’s, what? Something like 50,000 student-athletes competing in Divisions I, II and III of NCAA. There are always going to be more than a few knuckleheads amongst ANY group of people that large.
    That’s a gross generalization to say that all, or even most, of them would act irresponsibly and waste their money on blow or gats.

  • http://nobulljive.com Enigmatic

    On another note, congratulations on being accepted to Annapolis!
    One of my old platoon commanders graduated from the USNA.
    I hope you also go the warrior route and decide to join the fine officers of the United States Marine Corps.

  • JL

    I think they should be paid. But they should not get free ride for education. It should be one or the other. Get paid, but need to pay for school. That way they keep the education and the games separate.

  • Tyler Whitcomb

    You compared a Forbes report of the NCAA and NBA and this is a huge difference mainly beacuse of the number of teams. No student athlete should be paid! For every big time athlete at the college level, there are 25 athletes that get 5 years of school for free and in some cases equals to more than $150,000. What we should do is have a true minor leagues and quit making the college ranks be our minor leagues.The NBA can still have there age limit, because I truly do think it makes the product better, but instead of one and done in college go to the NBDL for 1 season, than we can also evaluate them against pro players. I also saw that Michigan Football brought in 37 million last year, but you would be suprised that because of recruiting costs and other expenses are around 33 million. So they only profit about 4 million plus all the students that attend based on the popularity of the school and this is to due with sports. Also, Michigan football has an average of 100,000 fans per game. I understand what people are saying about student athletes and how they should be paid, and they are getting paid. I went to school with a kid that was a 2.4 gpa student that was a top 100 player in the nation and he got a full 5 year scholarship with room and board payed for, books, meal money,and mostly full tuition when all said in done this worth??? $200,000 and a nice career after school and not to mention all the free clothes and shoes from there sponsors. This player never did that much on the court and my friend that tried to get into the same college with a 3.9 GPa not only didn’t get a scholarship, but was also turned down to attend the college. Just something to think about, but again in no way should college athletes get paid, they get paid more than what they should already.

  • Jer Boi

    cosign Riggs

  • AT33

    I can’t stand this guy, he says “student-athletes don’t deserve to get paid” dude, college coaches don’t deserve to get paid that much either but they do!!!! I say, democracy is about free market and if a team feels they want to pay a player then he should get as much as possible!! The team that offers the most will get his services. That’s how an open free market works, that’s what Wall Street does every single day, why should college athletes have to lose out?? Most of the time it’s the only time in their life where they could make a substantial amount of money since not all get drafted. Look at Brandon Jennings, he made millions in Europe after high school because he found a team that offered him that!!! Look at Dirk Nowitzki, he made millions at the age of 16-18 in the German pro league before getting drafted and making hundreds of millions in the NBA. Look at Peja Stojakovic, he had a multi million dollar contract in Greece at the age of 15!!! You know what if you have a chance to make millions, i say keep your stupid scholarship, give me my millions and i’ll pay the tuition myself if I want to go to school.

  • http://shinefluid@aol.com just bcuz

    these schools. these conferences, the entire NCAA is making 100′s of millions off these kids talent. HELL YEA they should be paid!! Why do we keep acting like this is about education? 90% of these kids wouldnt even be allowed into these schools of they couldnt run fast and jump high. Lers be serious, this is a business.The NCAA is a corporation. You ask why kids wanna go pro? why they dont wanna stay in school and follow the protocol? Because they KNOW they are putting thousands in seats and millions in bank accounts, and its NOT theirs lol. Ofcourse they shouldnt be treated like other students. WHY? other 18 and 19 year olds are’nt bringing in millions in revenue. when ppl gonna keep it real?

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    Be paid? No, but the schools should by the kids everything involved in cost of living, even clothes. These guys are making the schools millions of dollars, infact, 60% of big school D-1 revenue comes from Football, so the kids should get everything, food, school supplies, classes, clothes from their scholarships. Or if they are paid, their finances (school given money) should be monitored at all times by someone in the athletic department to teach the kids how to manage and save their money. It would be good experience for the real world also, especially considering a vast majority of these guys have never had money in their lives, and are likely to have more then they or even their parents know what to do with in 4 years or less.

  • Tyler Whitcomb

    What your talking about is these players playing PRO ball overseas. I’m all in favor of these athletes making money if the free market will pay them, go over seas or play in the NBDL. If you read what I was saying as a collegiate/ Amateur player you should make nothing. To go back to my point The NCAA makes money off of about 25 players that have choices of playing overseas like Brandon Jennings, but the other 3,600 players that play college basketball make a killing as far as getting paid. Lets do the math if you now get 5 years instead of 4 of full tuition, plus meal money, laundry money, free room and board, free clothes, and free shoes. The math equals close to $200,000 per a student athlete times the 3,600 student athletes that don’t bring the school anything but expenses and your arguing a student athlete that brings the colleges money and were really talking about 25-35 student athletes that do bring in money, but not even close to the amount schools are losing to help support the other student athletes. Again they are student athletes AT33. I agree with you about how much the coaches make, its ridiculous. However, its there profession and there not a student athlete, to me there are alot of jobs that people make to much, this is a different topic.

  • Tyler Whitcomb

    NBK – There football programs also spend alot of money each year as well. There was a study done how Michigan Football brings in 37 million Dollars, but also spent 33 million. There is alot more costs than what we think and I really feel universities as much as I love college sports would do just fine without college sports. Not to mention to ask taxpayers to pay for stadium expansions is very questionable. We should be like overseas teams and have good minor leagues for these star players. This would make the NBDL alot better. There tournament would be televised and could you imagine if your city had an NBDL team and we got to go watch Kyrie Irving play there instead of him wasting time in the NCAA and being one and done. The true minor legues for Football and Basketball is the NCAA’s and this is why we have this argument. They need to make changes, but probably won’t.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    Tyler you could be right, I highly doubt a system like that is successful in the US though, as our citizens don’t seem to have the same emotional connection to any teams that is common over in Europe. Also, our most loyal, “diehard” fans are college fans, and it also adds in to the college experience, making it more fun, and “worth it” to more students, including ones that don’t partake in the sports as an athlete. And if they do what they should, get rid of the restriction on players out of HS, and make it mandatory to stay in school atleast 2 years then the college game will be that much better as a result. Actually getting rid of college sports isn’t even an option, there are too many jobs, careers, and too much history involved to just get rid of it. There has to be a better solution then just some drastic knee jerk change that has no basis in reality other then something similar works on a different continent.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    College Football is the 3rd most popular sport in the US, so they need not make a single change to that other then maybe a playoff format. – Also college sports are an outlet for underprivileged youths to get an education that they otherwise would not be eligible or have the opportunity to get, so that right there is reason enough to keep college sports, even if they don’t make you happy.

  • Roberto

    I agree with both Riggs and Tyler. How many of these students would be able to attend such prestigious schools such as Duke (around 41K a year), Purdue (40K), Ohio State (34K), UNC (45K), UCLA (50K) if they weren’t student athlete’s. In Texas, they are trying to remove the Top 10% Rule (Students in the top 10% oftheir class in any high school would be admitted to any TX state school of their choosing) because they receieve so many more applications than open spots they have available. So these student-athletes are pretty much “getting paid” to go to school, they may not have been able to attend for a variety of reasons and play a sport they love.

  • Tyler Whitcomb

    I completely agree with you NBK. I don’t want to get rid of college sports, I love college football and my favorite time of year is right now because of the Tournament. Your right about all the jobs and oppurtunities, my point is that there are lot of people that just shout out that student athletes should get paid without doing all the proper research. They do get paid! Also in this story the guy talks about how student athletes make poor decisions, I really didn’t understand where he was going with that alot of them don’t make poor decisions. Everyone in the world as a whole can make poor decisions this should have nothing to do with students getting paid.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    They do get paid, kind of. But they don’t get what they should, the majority of them are still expected to pay for everything not related to school, and that’s considering they live in a different state then their parents so the financial support if there is any from them is harder to come by. That also doesn’t figure in the cost of what some colleges consider necessities, like all-night available internet (a computer is required if the Library isn’t 24 hours), Cell Phones are almost a necessity in colleges now with the way athletes schedules consistently change. There are just so many costs that aren’t covered, that a lot of these athletes have to resort to other means to pay for. Like selling drugs, getting a job they already don’t have time for, borrowing money from everyone they can, or some other means of income. I am a little closer to the situation having friends playing ball all around the country so its kind of a touchy subject for me, if I am not makin sense just let me know, i’ll try and clarify what I mean.

  • Tyler Whitcomb

    I understand I ran two pro basketball teams myself and have helped many get overseas. They do get alot stuff paid for like meal money, room and board, Laundry money, Shoes-basketball,Team clothes. I do agree with you that they should all have cell phones, clothes to wear, etc.. I agree with you they do need these things and should get help. They need to make money some how to pay for small things to get by and going to school all day and playing there sport is just to time consuming.

  • http://slamonline.com nbk

    yeah its like a job, and they are grown a** men & women. I don’t think they should get any kind of unsupervised financial support however, I think everything they get, or spend from what they get, should be regulated and monitored, just like if they were on a permanent business trip for a fortune 500 company, receipts, receipts, receipts.

  • http://google c_cantrell

    if college coaches get paid then why shouldnt college athletes get paid? yeah alot of them are gettin there tuition and whatnot paid for but thats only a couple thousand dollars to where these coaches are making tens of hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.. but whats it matter? not like we will ever get paid for playin ball anyway

  • Tyler Whitcomb

    Because being a coach is professional job C Cantrell and a student athlete is an amateur job. that player can make money as a pro.C-Cantrell try about $200,000 over a five year period, not a couple of thousand. And for every star player that brings the college money there are 100 players that don’t. Players get paid all the time for playing ball? What do you mean? Kobe Bryant foe one makes $20,000 million per year and league minimum is $480,000. Most coaches started off making peanuts and worked there way up there profession to make a bunch of money, should they get paid that amount, no! However musicians and star athletes are overpaid as well.

  • http://google c_cantrell

    im just stating my opinion bro.. if a college want a student athlete to play for them, then they should be willing to pay for that athlete.. if coaches on the college level get paid for basketball, then so should the players.. and what i meant was if you consider a scholarship a form of paying these students, then i say they are grossly underpaid because a scholarship is worth just a couple thousand dollars, give or take alil (depending on the college)

  • greg

    i think they should give them some sort of grant at the end of the year based on their contributions to the team and school. i have good grades and i got a grant of a 1600 from it. I think they could do something reasonable like that. if you can get paid for good grades why not for good play as well?

  • http://slamonline.com Jon Jaques

    This issue is too complicated and there are too many loops to jump through for student-athletes to ever get paid. Don’t necessarily agree with this argument (amateur athetes can’t be trusted with this money), but I do agree with the conclusion. Not sure we’ll ever see the NCAA paying its athletes

  • Yesse

    Maybe some advantages, but no.

  • Young C

    I’m at work right now, but when I get home I’m gonna dissect this article and offer a counter-argument which shouldn’t be too difficult.

  • Erica

    Don’t bash Tennessee

  • Young C

    What people who argue against paying student athletes dont seem to understand is that the reality is that many of these athletes have no intention on being students. Does is really make any logical sense to expect a kid who barley passed high school and only was accepted to his school because of his athletic ability, to be able to perform at a high level in both academics and athletics while at the same time scrounging for legal money in order to maintain this silly charade of amateurism. The reasons that the author of this article gives for why athletes shouldnt be paid are laughable. All of his reasons are based on his own personal feelings and his misguided sense of the sanctity of amateur athletics. In no other area of the US can a person generate that much money for an organization and not be paid in cash that can be spend at the individual’s discretion. I find it ironic that a stipulation of amateurism is that a player receives free tuition for classes that not only does he not want to take, but he wasnt even properly prepared for in high school. Sure, some kids excel at being a student athlete and can graduate on time while still performing at a high level. But those are not the majority and even the ones that do were students who probably were smart enough to be accepted to the school even if they didnt have an athletic scholarship.

  • TD

    The NCAA like it or not has two systems….one that functions as they imagine for schools like Harvard, Navy, American, etc.

    …and one that serves as a training ground for the pros. What’s driving this system is between 30-50 college athletes a year who make it to the pros.

    This is billions of dollars for Universities but not in the best interest of the kids.

    Schools that are truly academic…like the Ivy League and Patriot league…need to walk away and start their own tournament.

  • Roberto

    This is a very controversial issue and no one will ever be happy with how the system ends, but you can look at it a couple ways. What if the schools said “Okay, we will pay you 30-35K a year to play here, but there is no scholarship and you have to pay for your own tuition, housing, meal plan ect.” The player at that point would be upset about that. It is unfair that these schools are making millions upon millions of dollars by using these students ability to play sports, but at the same time the students are using the school to showcase their talent for a few years, if even that, and then make at least hundreds of thousands dollars in pro sports. My question is how many of these students would be able to attend the school they play for if they weren’t athletes whether it be because of grades or financial reasons? A lot of the big names schools are very expensive to attend, Duke (around 41K a year), Purdue (40K), Ohio State (34K), UNC (45K), UCLA (50K), and also have high grade standards. Some, not all, athletes get to bypass a lot of that with their athletic scholarship. I don’t know about many people, but I couldn’t afford 50K a year to go to college when I was that age, even with grants, scholarships, and student loans.

    There are many student athletes who use their scholarships to earn degrees, they may be the lesser known players, but they take full advantage of what they are given. Myron Rolle is a better known example of this, he used his scholarship at FSU to complete his Pre-Med degree in 2 ½ years. He became a Rhode’s Scholar and being drafted in the NFL. He said he took advice from former NBA player and Rhode’s Scholar Bill Bradley to take advantage because a career in sports can be fleeting, but having an education will last forever and give you something to fall back on. They saw the free education as a chance to better themselves.

    I have seen fellow students who want to become doctors spend more time studying in a day then the athletes who play sports for the very same school. They do not get any recognition, but they work just as hard if not harder. To the people who say they do not bring in money to the school, they are called grants and research fellowships.

    The shame is that both parties use each other and then spit each other out. They both know the deal when they enter into these agreements. Neither side truly has a case. Athletes pick and choose they school that they feel will make them look the best to pro scouts, if they don’t get playing time they transfer to a school that will give it to them. Then when they get what they went for, whether it be a year or two or more, they leave. Schools use a player’s name and number to sell jerseys and apparel, if they player gets hurt or ineligible, they will happily get rid of them for the next rising star.

    Athletes should use their free schooling to have something to fall back on just in case their athletic career is a bust or they injure themselves while playing. It is sad to see great players who we watch and admired when we were younger end up at as a car dealer when they could have become more.

  • Josh

    Only pay the teams that make it so far in each tournament. Make the kids who had full rides pay the money back at that point. No one will ever be 100% right on this subject.

  • Levi

    They should not be paid, only because it would hurt the player, by giving him money, you give him chances of buying drugs and drinks, therefor the player would just end up suspended from the team for a short period of time.

  • http://Slamonline Hello

    I think college athleets should f***ing be paid because what if they dont have a job, then what are the going to do!?!? Those colloege kids need some money for a sport in my opinion.

  • http://Slamonline Hello


  • chris

    i agree

  • chris

    you get hurt in the sports you do in college and you need to get paid for what we go through

  • cuba

    i think joakimh noah has awsome hair

  • Mike

    Great article! It seems it’s time college athletes should be paid. The NCAA has held down this racket for a long time. If they don’t change, more than $2,000 per year, they’re going to fall. The debate over at TC Huddle got me thinking about this. I wondered what other people were saying and found your opinion.

    Thanks for the post! Enjoyed it. Here’s the article that led me here if you’re curious: http://www.tchuddle.com/2011/07/pay-the-kid-the-earned-dollars-of-college-athletes/

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/I7WHEDT3EZ2OXV2SQ7BNBDS2MU Stanley Perry

    sure they should get paid. Just think how much money is generated on one game, ticket sales,local economy, concessions and many other tangibles. Lets face it the academics have long been negated. Most of the players earn a degree in what , rock climbing? Suppose you get hurt, you are finished. They kick you aside and welcome the next sucker. Its a capitalist agenda now. The players are the product that is generating the money, “you darn tootin they should be paid”. The crooks are cramming their pockets with cash while denying the players their fair share under the guise of some outdated rules.

  • Thefan025

    To pay or not to pay, that is the question http://goo.gl/NbDHlG