Should College Athletes be Paid?

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.