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.

The University of Maryland’s most talented basketball player in history, Len Bias, just two days after being drafted 3rd overall in 1986 by the Boston Celtics was getting ready to live out his dream but instead had his life cut short because of an irresponsible decision involving cocaine. A frantic call came from the University of Maryland’s dormitory at 6:32 a.m. on June 19, 1986, where a young 22-year-old campus hero was sprawled across the floor unconscious and without a pulse. Bias had been killed by a nearly pure form of cocaine that he had been snorting with his friends on his team. It turned out that in the last semester Bias had gotten F’s in three classes and dropped two others leaving him unable to graduate like the majority of his teammates. The nation had just witnessed the birth of the next Magic Johnson and were excited for the big things that life had in store for him. People everywhere were excited for him to be joining up with the returning NBA Championship Boston Celtics joining future teammate Larry Bird but in a moment everything was over because of one poor decision that could have been avoided. The incident involving Len Bias at the University of Maryland spread throughout the country uncovering the corruptions of drugs and academic failure in high pressure, big revenue producing sports forcing government officials to take action. President Ronald Reagan sent Bias’ parents a handwritten note, the Celtics’ Larry Bird called the death, “the cruelest thing I think I’ve ever heard,” the first flowers the Bias’ family received was from Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson’s mother called the Bias’ family, it became obvious that everyone in the country had known Bias’ son. Athletes need to begin to truly understand that they are not just playing for themselves but they are playing for their communities and whether they like it or not all of their choices have a great affect on everyone around them. The NCAA cannot begin to even think about paying student-athletes a monthly salary when these same athletes are struggling to handle their current responsibilities.

An amateur athlete in our society today is anybody who competes in a sport strictly for the love of the game and not for any personal monetary values. Francis Ouimet grew up across from The Country Club in a working class home. He learned the game of golf from his older brother in their families back yard using tomato cans as holes and anything else to they could find to help his game. At the age of 11 he began to caddy at The Country Club and he won the Massachusetts State Amateur Championship which later inspired him to go out for the National Open. In the 1913 U.S. Open Ouimet, a 20 year old former caddy playing a gentleman’s game, did not just beat British legends Harry Vardon and Ted Ray but he changed the perception of an entire sport and generation. Growing up in a lower class of society it was extremely uncommon for people to rise up against the odds of paid professionals and win all for a title and no pay. Ouimet played because of his inner drive, his total devotion, love for the game and pride of wanting to be the best.

A few years later in 1980 a group of college hockey players would try their luck on the ice going up against the odds for the same internal drive of wanting to be the best not because of any money thrown in their faces. The U.S. Olympic team made up of college athletes and long shot pros defeated a Russian program that had dominated the Olympics since 1964. The Russians had seven players from the 1976 Olympic team and one who had played in three prior Olympiads. Former executive director of U.S.A. Hockey Dave Ogrem said, “It’s the most transcending moment in the history of our sport in this country.” These young college athletes came together from all walks of life with no means of getting paid but just playing for the love of the game. If the NCAA began to pay athletes some of the beauty and heart that athletes depict when they compete would be lost in their pay checks.”

Revenue generated by student-athletes should be used to help ensure the athletes well being and safety while also pushing to benefit the surrounding local community. I recently had the opportunity to sit down and talk with some of the rising talent eager to be making the transition from high school basketball to high profile college basketball. ESPN  Top 100 High School Basketball players ranks Dezmine Wells #43, Robert Brown #89, #20 in his position Marquis Rankin. These three student athletes will all have the privileges of going on to the next level of playing college basketball for coaches who are making million dollar salaries and will all most likely see the outcomes of the NCAA’s decisions regarding student-athletes receiving money. Brown and Rankin are both committed to go play basketball for Virginia Tech and both also shared the same feelings saying, “Student-athletes should not be paid.” Brown stated. “College basketball is much more pure than the NBA and a lot of that essence would be lost if they were paid.” Rankin pointed out, “If the student-athletes cannot receive the money then the money should be tied back into the schools athletic facilities.” Dezmine Wells, who is committed to go play college basketball for Xavier next season said, “I feel that student-athletes should be paid but based primarily on a financial aid system and the distance the players are away from their homes.”

I had the privileges of not only sitting down with the promising young athletes to ask a few questions with but also attending the same rigorous military academy and helping them out during the year with their basketball team. These student-athletes are some of the most dedicated athletes he has seen and are about to become the most privileged kids in society today living elaborate lifestyles. Their individual experiences in the future should be humbling realizing how lucky they are and should leave them wanting to give back as much as they can to their local schools and communities in any way possible. I recently dropped my full scholarship half way through my college basketball career to chase a bigger dream of a much higher service than myself, to attend the United States Naval Academy. I should currently be an unranked junior playing college basketball but instead uprooted my life for a higher calling. While I was with these athletes I wanted them to take away one thing from me, it was that there is a way to go about achieving personal success and it is measured on how many people lives you change along the way. Regardless of whether or not these three student-athletes received the message they all have bright futures ahead of them and I like what the next generation of college basketball has in store.

The NCAA is making efforts to help support the future of college sports by helping to funnel $750 million over 11 years into funds strictly designed to benefit athletes. This money is ideally going to be used by the NCAA to help fund student-athletes who are looking for clothing, emergency travel, educational and medical expenses, personal needs and also a catastrophic injury insurance. Even though student-athletes do not deserve to make additional salaries there are still small efforts being made to look out for their well-being. These amateur athletes deserve to compete in the same brilliancy as so many athletes did before them trying to earn the right to be called the best and maybe even some day make money as a professional. Until that day comes, the future student-athletes have a lot of hard work, dedication and lessons to be learned from before they are all worthy enough of being able to accept salaries for their individual efforts.

Kevin A. Doran attended Christian Brothers University where he played college basketball on a full scholarship. Kevin’s Buccaneers had success making an NCAA Elite Eight appearance and Conference Championship in ’09. Kevin set records for most 3-pointers made in a game (7), led his team in three-pointers made (45), and three-point field goal percentage (44.5). Kevin was named to the All GSC First Team All Academic Team in 2010. After finishing his sophomore year Kevin decided to attended Hargrave Military Academy through USNA Foundation School where he helps mentor the Post Graduate basketball team. The Naval Academy Foundation recently recognized Kevin as one of only three Honor Scholars in the program. Kevin is looking forward to graduating from his Foundation School in May and moving onto attend the United States Naval Academy entering as a plebe this summer. He continues to work on his book relating his college basketball experiences to wanting to get much more out of life.

Feel free to contact Kevin through his email kevball_32@hotmail.com with any feedback.

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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