Pay for Play.
My opinion on compensating student-athletes
Over the past several years, discussions and opinions surrounding paying student-athletes have made headlines in the national news. At the start of this school year, some institutions were allowed to provide student-athletes with a modest stipend. Most institutions offering a stipend are paying $2,000-5,000 per student-athlete, a number which is determined after accounting for the cost of attendance (COA) and expenses covered within any scholarships awarded. This money is intended to cover food, supplies, gas, and expenses beyond what university costs are covered through scholarships.
This brings an interesting twist to the idea of amateurism in collegiate athletics. The money in this situation is provided by the school directly to the student, but it is not necessarily a paycheck, salary, or negotiated contract. While this is a step towards paying student-athletes on a merit-based system including their academic and athletic performance, it still teeters on the line of amateurism. Student-athletes are arguably still not compensated fairly for their work, performance, or the money they bring to their university and the NCAA.
Look at it this way. An art student can sell their pieces while remaining in school. A theatre major can pursue professional gigs amidst studying. A music student can perform and record all they please while still being an eligible student – and then they can all graduate and continue working in their field without penalty at any step of the way. Student-athletes cannot. And due to the rigor of being a full-time student and participating in a collegiate sport, most student-athletes do not have time to work, even during summers. This puts students in an interesting position when they do not have the resources to support themselves.
As this infographic shows, the highest-paid public employee in most states coaches either football or basketball at the state’s largest institution. Most states that do not fall into this category still are within higher education, with university presidents and deans topping the list. The topic of revenue from top-grossing athletic departments and NCAA events hasn’t even been covered yet. Yes, coaches put in a lot of hours, they have weird schedules, they work all year with no clear down time, but so do the student-athletes.
While the stipend system is indeed a step forward for student-athletes, it should not be the final destination. As ESPN Analyst, attorney, and former Duke basketball player Jay Bilas explains, implementing a system for paying student-athletes is not as difficult as the decision-makers want us to believe. Bilas also points out there is plenty of money floating around between universities and the NCAA to provide sufficient financial support to student-athletes across the board. After all, student-athletes in all sports bring in big time money, inspire contracts between universities and companies for sponsorships, and drive up application numbers. For example, after Florida Gulf Coast University rose as an underdog on their tear through the NCAA men’s basketball tournament a few years ago, the institution saw a 35% increase in applications for the following academic year. This rise is arguably directly correlated to the increased marketing and social media presence institutions have during sporting events. When your school is trending on Twitter and shown in commercials during every time-out, people notice.
With a successful athletic programs, enrollment and interest in an institution may increase. With the ability to pay student-athletes, we may, too, see an increase in student-athlete persistence to graduation. Many student-athletes elect to turn professional in large part for the money. Perhaps if they felt supported and stable during school, they would be more inclined to hold of professional competition for a few more years. No one seemed too upset when Tiger Woods left school early for the PGA tour, but when a big-name football or basketball student-athlete leaves early, we hold press conferences and question why they want to leave, criticize their choice to profit from their work. It’s all in the money.
> BONUS <
Podcast With DT Henry on Academic Advising First-Year Student Athletes