$912,800,00 to $0.00

$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.

At the end of the day, the NCAA is a business trying to maximize their profits.

At the end of the day, the NCAA is a business trying to maximize their profits.

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?

The "Fab 5"- Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson- got in trouble with the NCAA for accepting money from booster Ed Martin.

The “Fab 5”- Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson- got in trouble with the NCAA for accepting money from booster Ed Martin.

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.

Chart of avg. American workday.

Chart of average American workday.

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.

Northwestern Ruling On Student-Athletes Rights to UnionizeOver 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.



  1. sgoldberg18 · October 13, 2014

    I completely agree with what you are saying and think that your proposal to allow athletes to make money for the use of their likeness, their signature, and jerseys with their names rather than giving them a salary is the best solution to the NCAA amateur situation. As someone who not only doesn’t get paid for my participation in a sport (synchronized ice skating on a team that competes for Team USA), but has to pay a substantial amount of money to participate in it, I completely agree with the argument that student athletes do not have enough time to have a job. I hate that my parents have to pay for out of state tuition and skating, but it’s impossible to do anything else. When you are a student-athlete, being a student is your first job, and your second job is being the best athlete you can be. There’s not much time for anything else. Eric Dunning’s definition of a amateur sports is problematic not only in the way you mention, but also in that he argues that amateur sports are only for pleasure. Yes, amateurs enjoy their sports. However, we participate in our sport for so many other reasons. Though we don’t receive compensation, we still want to be athletes for other reasons. Amateurs often play to get to a point where they can be professionals and make money for their efforts. The NCAA needs to allow compensation to these amateurs who give up so much to play their sport.


  2. jbaren · October 14, 2014

    I agree with hsharf as well. An extension of your ideas for when student-athletes should be able to fairly make money includes:

    – Being featured on SportsCenter. Oftentimes collegiate athletes are included in the top 10 plays of the day, which gains national attention. The higher number play one is featured on, the more compensation they receive.
    – When an athlete is doing well in a nationally televised game, announcers tend to say their name more: “what a run from X to the end zone ”; “did you see how fast X drove through the lane?”; “an impressive throw from X in right field to nail the runner at home” – the amount of times a player’s name is stated goes hand in hand, for the most part, with how well they are playing. There could be a statistical analysis based on how many viewers are watching the televised event and how many times a player’s name is used to determine how much compensation they should get.
    – When athletes do well in a game, they are often pulled aside at halftime or after the competition is over to do an interview. These interviews often make it on national television, websites, etc. which gain public attention. This could also be considered a fair way for student-athletes to be paid for their efforts.

    These are just a few more ideas that I’ve thought of. Not only will these help student-athletes earn money for the amount of time they are putting in, which not mention is as much as most normal work days according to hsharf’s research, but it will encourage athletes to do even better. If a defensive player on the Michigan football team realized he could gain fair compensation for his efforts, we might see the amount of sacks rise…who knows.


  3. ethanmartin95 · October 14, 2014

    This is a very strong argument and I agree with what you are saying. Athletes at the college level should not be given salaries. That is a precedent set long ago and is accepted due to the definition of amateurs. However it is ridiculous that athletes can profit themselves in other manners, such as the examples you stated above. Why are companies allowed to profit off an athlete but the individual athlete can not? That being said, athletes are undervaluing the education they are receiving. While we may not receiving a scholarship, we are getting a fantastic education with tremendous amounts of academic resources. We chose to partake on the athletic collegiate career based off the idea that we will not profit off our person and represent our university as an amateur. I understand the frustration of trying to pay for college and not being paid for the hard work you do, but it’s part of the journey we accepted. We get a lot out being a student athlete and it’s important to look at the good things.


  4. dverdere · October 14, 2014

    I disagree with you that salaries should not happen in the NCAA. People constantly express the idea that it would be too difficult and too daunting of a task to figure out a fair way in which to pay players for their efforts, but I think that is a terrible excuse. You even admitted the NCAA is able to partake in business practices that allow them to make nearly a billion dollars every single year. Clearly, any organization that is able to do that can handle establishing workman’s compensation and pay because, as you stated, athletes work more than most Americans. I am not claiming that this would be an overnight process, but to sit there and say that this multi billion dollar “non-profit” organization cannot handle setting up salaries and benefits for its players is simply ludicrous. For example, with Gurley, if he were to win the Heisman, jersey sales for the University of Georgia would skyrocket. Now, I believe he deserves a percentage of those sales but that isn’t the point here. If Gurley were to go out on the field the next game and have a serious, career-ending injury, he would receive no help in terms of medical benefits or workman’s compensation. He just made the University of Georgia millions of dollars, but hurt himself in a voluntary extracurricular activity, so he would receive nothing and the university gets to reap all of the benefits. The first step is not paying players for their likeness or paying for their salaries, but paying for medical benefits. I agree though, that in the future salaries and jersey sales are a necessity for student athletes across all sports.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. pburt117 · October 14, 2014

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading a post from the perspective of a student athlete. It is informing to hear about the time constraints regarding gaining employment, and I understand that time is cramped as an athlete. However, I think that I may be able to offer another perspective that is not usually considered.
    In your post, you suggested that athletes should be able to sell their own jerseys, posters, and other items with their name involved with it. This seems fair and practical at first glance, but upon further examination, problems begin to emerge. If a student is allowed to sell anything involved with their name, chances are that they will sell anything that might make them money. By selling their merchandise, their team and the NCAA becomes affiliated with what is being sold. Once the athlete begins selling things that may not necessarily represent the views of the NCAA, how are licensing issues to be resolved? At that point, the athlete is using the likeness of the NCAA and their University to make money. Conflict is bound to ensue in this situation. Another issue is that the products they sell may present an issue of liability. For example, if one of their items leads to someone getting hurt, the athlete could be liable for medical bills or lawsuits. If an athlete was to get sued, one of two things would happen. Either they would have insurance, or they would not. If they did, that would present another expense the already struggling athlete would have to pay. If they did not, they would probably not be able to pay liabilities, and great financial turmoil would ensue. The final problem is the logistics of selling the merchandise in the first place. If an athlete is so cramped for time, there is no way they can be expecting to run a business. Selling their items would require for them to pay for merchandise manufacturing, employees, advertising, and distribution. There is no way someone with so little time could accomplish all of this.
    Although I understand frustration regarding the NCAA barring athletes from profiting off of their sport, perhaps it is for their own good. While you may not agree or even choose to consider this point of view, it is one that needs to be examined in an extremely complex situation.


  6. acfalk2 · October 14, 2014

    I agree with you. Being a student athlete myself I can completely relate. Playing a collegiate sport is exactly like having a full time job with no income. Yes, it is a game, but once such a high performance level is reached the game becomes life. Thinking about the future causes me a lot of stress. Students our age are all working, earning money in some way. I feel as if they are getting a head start because we do not have the time to have a job during the school year. Even in the summer, many athletes stay at school to take more credits so that they won’t be so busy during the up coming semesters. While they are here in the summer, they will still train for their sport, again making it difficult to earn money. Looking at the future from this perspective is extremely overwhelming, because in a sense we are spending four crucial adult years without making any money. When I express this opinion to other people they usually will try to comfort me by saying that companies are more likely to hire collegiate athletes than they are non-athletes because it shows how discipline and how much of a team player they are. Yes, this is a perk of being a collegiate athlete, but this opinion can differ from company to company, because some companies can be completely biased against athletes. Also, as athletes we might not have as much experience in the workforce as non-athletes would. Internships are too time consuming to fit into our busy schedules, so we loose the opportunity to feel out different career paths and find different interests. This being said, being paid as a collegiate athlete would be great, but there are so many negative effects, that would arise if collegiate athletes were paid.The issues of salaries would arise, and so would the equality of payment between sports, and genders. I think that if collegiate athletes were paid it would take away the innocence of the sports, and change the attitudes of the fans, making collegiate sports no different than professional sports. There needs to be a happy medium between these two extremes, but finding one that can be accepted seems almost impossible at this day in age.


  7. alexdt2014 · October 14, 2014

    Great, great article. As a response to the comment above, I don’t think that fixed salaries for student-athletes are a good idea. Firstly, if schools have to pay their student-athletes, then recruits will simply pick the school that offers them the most money. A school with a huge endowment would then be able to form a “super team,” just because they have more money than other schools. Of course, to make sure this doesn’t happen, all student-athletes can be payed the same amount. However, this would be unfair to better, higher-profiled athletes who bring in millions of dollars more to their schools and the NCAA than players who sit on the bench. There just would not be a fair way to handle this. Student-athletes DEFINITELY should still be compensated for the use of their brand, though. It is disgusting that the NCAA makes so much money off of their employees, while the employees themselves make nothing.


  8. mcpatton2014 · October 14, 2014

    The Fab Five were essentially cash cows for the University and the NCAA. Sales of University of Michigan merchandise went from 1.5 million per year after their championship season in 1989 to 10 million per year shortly after their first season as freshman. Nike released a sneaker named after the group, yet the players found them promoting a brand that was making everyone rich except for themselves and their families. The attention they received and the money they created was not consistent with what is considered amateur sports. College athletes should have the freedom to sell their gear or sign sponsorships. A theater major can go work on Broadway for the summer and make money and a student-journalist can spend his nights freelancing stories and as much money as he wants with no objections. A student-athlete should be able to sign sponsorship if the student-athlete so pleases. The player is no less a college student if he or she strikes a lucrative deal than the student-journalist and student-actor.


  9. haleyzap · October 15, 2014

    I think it needs to be clear to people that the NCAA is a NONPROFIT organization. If they earn more money in a year, none of it goes back to the employees. That’s right none. Only 4% of its budget is allocated to the 500 employees that run the organization. And with a little bit of math, that 4% comes to $64,000 a year per person if it were all divided equally. This is a decent salary, but it also equates to a year of free tuition and room-and-board for one student athlete the organization supports. And the other 96% goes to the student-athletes benefits, scholarships, athletic department funds, national championship costs, athlete-academic facilities, and more. http://www.ncaa.org/health-and-safety/ncaa-budget-where-money-goes I do agree that I think athletes should be allowed to make money off of their “likeness” on their own, but playing for Michigan is more of a benefit than I think you realize. The Big 10 spent $116,667 on average PER student athlete. All of the top-notch facilities, coaches, doctors, travel, food, gear, tutors, etc. are not cheap. Also, you did not provide a source for your information that only 1% of college athletes are on full-ride scholarship. I think you need to factor in the fact the a lot of NCAA athletes attend D3 colleges, where they are unable to receive athletic scholarships. I know that more than 1% of athletes here are on full-ride, especially when head count sports (scholarship is full-ride or nothing), like basketball and football have huge teams. For example, 85 football players are on full-ride and there are way less then 8,500 student athletes here. And for another sport, there is the equivalent of 20 full-ride scholarships for the women’s rowing team spread amongst it’s members.


  10. dverdere · October 16, 2014

    In reference to the above comment, the NCAA and the University athletic program are non-profit. However, 27 football coaches and 13 basketball coaches are the highest paid employees in their respective states. At the University of Michigan, for example, Brady Hoke is receiving a salary of over 4 million dollars per year. If he is pulling in the salary of a professional coach, why are his players not receiving salaries of professional players? The logistics of paying players and having compensation for student athletes would not be easy, but it can definitely be done. I don’t think it should be a free market of every man for himself, but if there are salary caps and a player’s association I believe it would be possible to start paying college athletes.


  11. azaryff · October 18, 2014

    I’ve always found that college sports in the US are interesting (I refrained from using weird here). Being a non-American and being raised outside America, I’ve never given much (if any) attention to college sports, and I think most places are like this. The huge attention given to college sports, especially football was really surprising to me. In Malaysia where I come from, we have the similar rules on amateurism and “being a student first athlete second” and all that, and I think it’s fair. Especially considering the small attention athletes get.

    But in the States the attention granted to college sports is just weird. And the insistence my the NCAA that these athletes are “students first” may look good on paper, but I’m not sure that’s true in the attention they’re given and the money the NCAA makes off of their likeness and all that. I don’t know about the specific American nuances in this particular topic, but from what I see, “amateurs” are treated like professionals and have money made off of them, but aren’t being paid, something I see as a problem.

    The opportunities granted by sports scholarships in colleges is really amazing, but coming from an impartial non-American observer, I just don’t think it’s fair that the NCAA can make so much while the players whom they make money from have to simply be “grateful they got scholarships in the first place”.


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