$912.80 million; according to Indystar.com, in 2013 alone, the NCAA made nearly a billion dollars! The main employees of the NCAA- the student-athletes- made exactly $0.00. I’m no world-class economist, but $912,800,000 is a lot of money compared to the $0.00 made by the NCAA’s workforce.
How can the NCAA justify not paying their employees? Simply, the NCAA claims that college sports are still an amateur platform, and student-athletes therefore cannot profit from their sport. Nonetheless, we annually see examples of student-athletes being punished for violating these terms.
Why can’t student-athletes make money? Throw away the idea of having a salary; this will never come to fruition, as there is no way to decipher fair pay. But why can’t a student-athlete make money on their signature, jersey, picture, likeness, or by running a camp or clinic?
It seems unfair that the NCAA can make a billion dollars in one year, but University of Georgia running back Todd Gurley cannot even make a few bucks on his signature. According to ESPN’s Mark Schlabach, the Heisman Trophy candidate is suspended indefinitely while an investigation is held regarding Gurley selling autographs and jerseys on eBay.
Gurley is one of dozens of examples- Reggie Bush, the “Not So Fab Five” (it even happens at U of M), SMU- of student-athletes reaping the consequences of violating the NCAA’s policies. But is it far, that the NCAA and The University of Georgia can profit off of Gurley’s likeness, signature, and jersey and the man himself cannot?
It is absurd and hypocritical that an organization can tell an individual that they cannot make money on their own self, but the organization can profit off of them. There’s no organization telling all college musicians that they cannot profit from a concert or signing an autograph. Is it fair that one student can profit from their talents while another student cannot? The answer is no.
An argument can be made, “if student-athletes need money so badly, they should just get a job.” From firsthand experience of being a member of the University of Michigan wrestling team, I can contest that holding a job as a student-athlete is nearly impossible.
In an average day, a student athlete spends at least 3 hours at practice, at least 3 hours in class, and at least 2 to 3 hours at mandatory study hall. That means on a light day, student-athletes have 8 to 9 hours of required work. This does not include transportation, studying, homework. In comparison, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American works 8.7 hours per day. Essentially, being a student-athlete requires the same (if not more) amount of time as a full time job. This also does not factor in the exhaustion of being a student athlete.
Being a student-athlete is a daunting task that takes its toll. Athletes have all the stress of being a student, piled on with the mental and physical demand of their sport. Athletes wake up early to do mandatory strength and condition workouts, have practice after being in class all day, and must study until the late hours of the night. Student-athlete’s have a similar physical demand of professional athletes, and also must maintain a high enough GPA to remain eligible. It is ludicrous to expect any individual to go through such hard work and receive no compensation.
A common feeling is that student-athlete’s are fairly rewarded via scholarship. Nonetheless, scholarships are rare. According to CBS Moneywatch, only about 1% of college athletes get a full scholarship; only 2% of high school athletes receive any sort of scholarship; and the average scholarship is about $11,000, which does not come close to covering the costs of school.
Ultimately, student-athletes are in the same boat as other students; they are broke and will be in major debt coming out of college. But unlike nonstudent-athletes, student-athletes are unable to earn pay. For this reason, it is essential that student-athletes are able to make money in some way.
Again, I am not proposing a salary for student-athletes. Nevertheless, student-athletes should be able to make money on their own talents and from their person. I should be able to hold a wrestling clinic to make some money. Todd Gurley should be able to sell his own jersey, picture, and autograph to make some extra spending money. The NCAA and universities should not be able to use the likeness of players for videogames, posters, commercials, and ads for profit while student-athletes get nothing.
The debate over amateur status vs. professional status in sports has been debated for centuries. Eric Dunning debates in his essay, “The Dynamics of Modern Sports” that amateur sports are merely for pleasure, with no consequence or seriousness. I agree that NCAA sports are amateur, however I disagree with Dunning’s thesis. I am an amateur athlete in an exclusively amateur sport, yet there are consequences on the line. I work extremely hard and long hours on my sport, it is not just for fun. But I am very much still an amateur, not receiving any compensation.
Many feel that adding compensation to the NCAA would dismiss the purity of competing “solely for the love of the game.” To an extent I agree. Nonetheless what I am proposing does not take away playing for the love of the sport or amateur status. If one directly receives pay for their play, than they are a professional. But if one receives pay for their name, autograph, picture, signature, or likeness they are not being paid for their sport, but being paid for who they are. Therefore, they are maintaining amateur status, playing for the love of the sport, and fairly receiving pay.
Over the past few years, fairness for student-athletes compensation has begun to emerge with the emergence of public figures like former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon’s court case and the unionization of the Northwestern football team. Ultimately, the system that is currently in place is unjust and needs reform.