The National Collegiate Athletic Association reported over $1.1 billion in revenue during Fiscal Year 2017. However, the student-athletes that bring in this revenue will never see it in their own pockets.
Collegiate athletes dedicate their lives to the sports they play, making sacrifices both on and off the field. At the Division I level, in-season, student athletes put in a total of 20 hours of regulated practice time per week. But these 20 hours do not include the countless more that dedicated athletes put in on their own time to be able to compete at the highest level. This hard work inevitably pays off, and colleges take advantage of their success using student-athletes as icons for the institutions’ own publicity. But, if left unpaid, these students will never reap the benefits of their hard work during their time at the institution.
Personally, I believe that collegiate athletes’ success should be their own and not a mechanism to help colleges gain more publicity. Many high-level collegiate athletes only compete at the NCAA level because they are expected to. As NBA phenom and former Louisiana State University athlete Ben Simmons said: “I was in school to play basketball; I wasn’t trying to be a doctor. I was trying to reach my dreams, and that was to play in the NBA.” Simmons is one of the 32% of NCAA basketball players that end their college careers early in order to be able to make money at the professional level. In my opinion, there is no reason why athletes should not be able to compete at the collegiate level and earn a living.
According to the reports by College Pulse, 60% of students who polled voted that salaries should be paid to all athletes, but 38% voted that salaries should only be paid to athletes playing sports which bring in revenue. Yet, when inspected closely, much of the money brought in from revenue is returned to member schools, who use it to fund their sports programs and coaches and administrators. The athletes themselves are compensated only in financial aid.
Collegiate athletes across the country should be paid fairly for the tremendous amount of work put into their commitment to their respective sports. They should not just be used as publicity icons who make absolutely zero profit. Paying college athletes for their participation in sports eliminates the need for them to find outside employment to support themselves, allowing them to focus on academics alongside athletics and encouraging a healthier attitude and drive to work harder academically and athletically.
It is this argument that has compelled the state of California and the NCAA to change. Starting in 2023, college athletes in California will be able to sign endorsement deals, hire agents, and receive compensation for the use of their likeness. Governor Newsom, the pioneer of this bill, stated: “[The entire concept of no pay] is a bankrupt model – one that puts institutions ahead of the students they are supposed to serve.” California’s “athlete-first” mentality is garnering the support of many collegiate and professional athletes alike and has pushed the NCAA to make a similar change. Starting as early as 2021, student athletes will be able to retain NCAA eligibility after accepting endorsement money.
These changes emphasize the point that college athletes should be able to fiscally benefit from their athletic ability.