it’s like taking candy from a baby: college sports edition

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The integrity of the amateur status of athletes involved in NCAA Division 1 athletic programs has been called into question ever since the Southern Methodist University football scandal of 1987. Athletes involved in Division I programs are working as full-time employees for the school as both athletes and students, yet they are receiving little compensation in return. Throughout the history of the NCAA, it has been felt by most that a full ride scholarship is enough and that the players do not need any more incentive to participate in college sports.

But in today’s world, a world based in greed and desire, the only thing that players want is money. So when student athletes leave college early in order to play professional sports, it is hard to blame them for leaving. However, the NCAA still believes that athletes must remain amateurs. This statement means that athletes continue to receive only scholarship money, while universities gain more and more revenue from these athletic endeavors. The organization complains about the academics of the athletes and how they do not graduate, but they provide no incentives for the athletes to stay. The time has come for the NCAA to get over itself and give the athletes compensation for their great accomplishments.

Earlier in the semester, I attended two different events, one from Amy Perko and the other from Taylor Branch. Perko argued that a free education is enough compensation for student athletes and that the problem in the status quo is the individual’s failure to take advantage of the opportunities given to them. She believes that in a world where athletes have their priorities straight and understand what they need to do to have success in college then they should not have to be compensated for what they are doing on the field or in the arena.

On the other hand, Branch argued that student athletes do not have any rights – they are denied the opportunity to get involved at the University because of the time commitment necessary for both sports and school. He said that student athletes are simply cogs in the machine of the University and they should be compensated for their efforts, the same way that a non-student athlete would.

I think something important at the heart of this analysis is how money changes the ways that people act and it puts them in positions to make decisions that they may not have made under different circumstances. College athletes want money just as much as anyone else, and when many of them are given the opportunity to seek a career financially favoring themselves instead of staying in school, they are going to choose the option that has more money.

At first this decision may seem to be one of strictly self-interest, but I believe it is more than that – the athletes are also leaving in order to fight the system. They leave the structure which has inhibited their ability to do what they want and in turn find more success. In the same light, this action could be seen as a type of civil disobedience. In his “Letter From a Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King Jr. writes that it is necessary for people to fight the system in peaceful ways because that is the only way to create a constructive dialogue.

This argument from King has two reasons: first, if people were to simply try and create a discussion without resistance he says that there would be no compromise and people would not give any credence to the arguments from the other side. Second, if the revolution were to be violent, he makes the same argument – a physical clash is not going to create any sort of constructive engagement.

In the same light, I think that this argument holds to what is happening with college sports. Athletes are trying to show the universities that they are worth more than what they receive, and that they deserve to be compensated for what they do for the school. Many student athletes want to be paid because of all the extra work that they have to put in when compared with the average student. They also do not have the luxury of being able to sleep-in because they have to go to their athletic practices. These kids are outworking everyone else on campus and even some people in the real world, so it makes sense that they would get paid for it.

Anthony Davis

Anthony Davis is one of many former Kentucky players to leave college after his freshman year.

And unless the system is challenged, change is not going to happen. If athletes act complacent to the system, no change is going to happen because people do not realize there is a problem. On the other hand, if athletes violently protest the NCAA, they are going to be just as unsuccessful because they will just be revoked of their ability to play college sports as a whole.

I think that both Perko and Branch made good points as to why athletes should or should not be compensated, but ultimately I think that Branch is correct. Athletes give too much to the school to not be paid, especially when there are students who receive equal benefits without giving the same amount of effort back to the school.

On top of that, I think more athletes need to start leaving college early to send a message to the NCAA. Kentucky basketball is a great example of athletes leaving early – the majority of their players leave after freshman or sophomore year. This type of disobedience and defiance of the system is effective and need to continue in order to take down the system plaguing college sports.



  1. epdale10 · December 8, 2014

    I agree 100% with your argument. Although, I think it is worth noting that many athletes don’t receive full ride scholarships, if any scholastic compensation, for their role in the athletic program. Essentially, many work for nothing but pride itself. To contrast that, the money universities are raking in is tremendous, making billions in merchandise and tv deals. With the money these institutions are making, it seems almost morally necessary to pay these athletes based on the work they do and the limited compensation they receive. The system is simply not fair, and needs to be fixed.


  2. ethanmartin95 · December 8, 2014

    I think if you want to send a message to an establishment, you have to take direct, non-violent action. Just like Mr. Luther King did to fight for civil right, student athletes must also fight the system to get what they want. If they want action, there needs to be action. But this brings me to my next point. Should Athletes take action? I believe the answer is no. Athletes receive a lot of resources and don’t need any more compensation. Even if you don’t have a full ride (like myself), you still get so many opportunities that other students don’t have. No action is necessary. This is the way it has been for a long time and it does not need to be changed.


  3. joshblum2014 · December 8, 2014

    I agree with you. I believe that certain college athletes should get paid. I think that all should receive a little spare change while they’re here, but I think that the players who bring in revenue to the school should get paid. In the M Den there were three football players’ jerseys. As a result, I think that those three players should receive extra money. Not because they work harder and not because they’re better, but because they bring in a lot more revenue to the school than a third-string linebacker.


  4. dinaakhmetshina · December 8, 2014

    I agree with your interpretation of our MLK reading and the way you applied it to collegiate athletes. I don’t know that I necessarily agree that athletes should take action against the institution. I think both sides to the argument have valid points. It’s understandable that athletes feel they should get compensated, especially because of the all-consuming nature of their commitment; however it makes sense to treat their free education as compensation.


  5. lbongi · December 9, 2014

    The connection you make here is cool. It’s actually pretty funny because I was just thinking about this topic today. I saw a few U of M basketball players walking the opposite direction down State St. and thought to myself, “Wow, they have it good.” Even though I attend the University of a generous scholarship, they have many more privileges that really no one else does. They schedule classes first, have free tickets to all sporting events, free room and board (and meals) and living in arguably the best residence hall. They are given methods of transportation to class. An more than anything, they are idolized by the student body. What more could they ask for? They have all the tools necessary to preform at a high level. If they do, they will then have the opportunity to continue playing at a professional level and make money. I honestly don’t feel like they should be making money when so much is already given. I play hockey, and there are two routes to pros, juniors and college. They reason players choose college is so they can get an education in addition to playing at a high level, isin’t that enough? Why is pay necessary?


  6. maxmcquaid · December 9, 2014

    I agree that college athletes should be paid for their play. Based on the amount of money that universities make on some of these players, it is ridiculous that athletes are not compensated. I don’t think that players leaving early really is a way that players are sending a message. Basketball players on Kentucky leave after one year because that is the minimum amount of time they have to be there. I think most of the players who leave after one year wouldn’t even go to college if they didn’t have to. Its not that they are disobeying the system, it just that they don’t want to be there. Also, I don’t think the NCAA or universities really care if the players leave early because they still make their money, and there is always a new class of freshmen to make money on. I think that the only way they can take action is by not playing at all. However, they have so much on the line. The amount of money that these athletes make in the future often depends on their performance in college. If there was another way to send a message, I think that most college players would choose to take action.


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