Forget About the Price Tag

By BREANA TAN, sophomore

Since the beginning of time, money has always influenced arguments, debates, and controversy. The question of who should be paid, and how much, has been the driving force behind major events in history, affecting serious matters such as the economy, labor unions, and much more. Now this issue of payment has surfaced not only within the world of finance, but, surprisingly, also within the world of college athletes. Athletes like Texas A&M quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner, Johnny Manziel, or former Tennessee running back, Arian Foster,  dragged the issue of paying college athletes into the limelight after being investigated for receiving money from outside sources. Manziel and Foster were eventually cleared, but this case sparked a major question for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and sports enthusiasts everywhere: should college athletes be paid?

According to NCAA rules, college athletes are not allowed to receive payment because they are only students, falling under the same league as unprofessional amateurs. No one can deny that certain athletes do deserve payment; however, they are not professional athletes yet. They are simply students trying to gain an education. On top of that, only a few sports generate a large amount of revenue. For example, football, baseball, and basketball are usually the three top-grossing sports. If college athletes were to be paid, those athletes would get the most because those institutions have the most fans and receive the most profit. On the other hand, athletes who play less popular sports will collect a significantly smaller paycheck, if they get any at all. Will the golfers get paid? What about the swimmers, gymnasts, squash players, or ultimate cup stackers? Are they left to be choking in the exhaust fumes of a football player’s new Mercedes?

What separates a professional athlete from a college athlete is payment. Professionals receive  unbelievable salaries each year from endorsements; however, college athletes have yet to prove themselves. Think of the difference in level of competition. Is a player only a few years past high school worthy of the extreme praise and endorsements usually reserved for professionals? NCAA president Mark Emmert argues that paying college athletes defeats the purpose of college sports. Paying them makes them professionals, “something very different from collegiate athletics. One of the guiding principles [of the NCAA] has been that this is about students who play sports.”

For these student-athletes, scholarships substitute for a regular paycheck, in that their tuition is waived in return for playing on the team. However, the opposition does not believe that a virtually free education passes off as payment. Former Tennessee runningback, Arian Foster, for instance, points out that he did not have enough money for food or rent, despite practicing long hours and winning games for the team. Moreover, he had to pay for his own medical care from football injuries. College athletes put their safety on the line every time they walk out onto the field. A football player could get a concussion, a baseball player may need Tommy John surgery, or a basketball player might tear an ACL. At the very least, the athletes should be compensated for their hard work and dutiful representation of their team.

People are forgetting that everybody struggles at some point in their lives. Non-paying collegiate sports is the starting point for athletes, just as garage bands are for musicians or columns are for editors. Every goal comes with a struggle, and these people pursued these goals, fully aware of the hardships blocking their path. Because of this, college athletes should not be expecting money to grow from trees as it may seem for the pros. Paying college athletes is akin to paying old high school athletes. Both have great potential; however, there is no guarantee that they will become professionals. When and if that time comes, then they can be compensated for the labor that they put into playing the game.


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