For quite some time now, there has been a big debate about whether or not college athletes should be paid. Some people believe that a scholarship should be payment enough. After all, a scholarship can be easily worth $15,000 – $25,000 or more per year, plus a career after college that can be worth a million dollars over a lifetime. Additionally, student athletes receive all kinds of perks while they are in college, like staying at fancy hotels, being seen on national tv, and all of the notoriety that goes with being a stare athlete. Its hard to put a price tag on all of that.
However, considering the fact that certain college sports generate millions of dollars for college athletic programs, many people believe the athletes are being used. If the average football scholarship is worth $20,000 per year, yet the university gains $70,000 per year in revenue per scholarship player (please note that this figure is just an estimate – the actual number may actually be higher), the university will profit $50,000 per year, per scholarship player, or $200,000 over a four year period. NIL
It is very difficult to put a numeric value on exactly how much an athlete is worth to a college. A star quarterback will not only help sell tickets, but will bring in plenty of merchandise sales as well. The NCCA won’t allow the universities to sell a college football jersey with a player’s name on it, but they will sell the jersey with the player’s number on it, which is easily recognizable in local, and sometimes national markets. The major colleges earn enormous sums of money on this kind of merchandise alone, yet the student athlete who’s number is being used to sell merchandise will not see one dime of the profits. To say that the student athlete isn’t being exploited in this situation is an understatement.
It goes way beyond that. College athletic programs rake in millions from television and advertising contracts. They also bring in millions of dollars of donations from sports boosters. Yes, salaries need to be paid to athletic directors and coaches, not to mention travel and other costs for the student athletes, and it is great that major college football and basketball programs help fund non-revenue athletic programs. However, the fact of the matter is that, compared to the amount of revenue that student athletes generate for their colleges, what they receive in return is very small.
Here’s where it gets really interesting. An athlete can be “disciplined” for selling their tickets to a fan on game day, yet how much money do the directors of the NCAA earn as a result of the efforts of the student athletes? The reality is that the college athletes quite literally pay for a large portion of the salaries of every person employed by the NCAA. If an executive from the NCAA is able to drive a Mercedes, he can thank a star quarterback or running back for that, and perhaps even several walk ons.
So here is the point: if the NCAA, coaches, and athletic directors can earn huge sums of money from the student athletes, shouldn’t student athletes have a piece of the pie too? This isn’t to say that college athletes should get paid large amounts of money, but it would definitely be nice if their scholarships would pay them a little extra to go out for pizza every once and a while, or buy some nice clothes – just a little extra spending cash as a way of saying “thanks” for their efforts.