It’s Time That The NCAA Begin To Pay All Their Student Athletes In Every Sport

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On Monday, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that they would not back the ability of football players from Northwestern University to unionize ending an 18-month fight for player rights. While this would seem like a victory for the NCAA and their university partners, the governing body of collegiate sports are still in the cross-hairs as players around the country are beginning to look at the money in college sports and ask questions about their role and their possible inclusion on the money train.

Earlier this month, a federal judge ruled against the NCAA in regards to college players selling their likeness to make a profit. Ed O’Bannon and 19 other players sued the NCAA claming that the organization violated antitrust law by not allowing players to receive a piece of the revenues from broadcasts, video games and other facets of revenue that the NCAA receives. While the decision is getting appealed and the fight is still continuing, EA Sports settled with college players to the tune of $40 million last year in order to get out of this fight, which is years away from completion.

The O’Bannon case has once again raised the age old question…should college athletes receive payment for playing college sports? Many believe that while colleges and the NCAA are making billions in revenue, the players are left in the cold to fend for themselves. Others see the players as being fortunate and greedy seeing how they receive a free education from top colleges around the country that they would not be attending if not for their athletic skill. In the last year, the NCAA has added to the benefits that collegiate players receive, especially those athletes in the biggest revenue making sports basketball and football. These new benefits include:

 

  • Unlimited Meals And Snacks For All Student Athletes
  • The NCAA is covering the travel costs for family of athletes playing in the College Football Playoff Championship Game and the Final Four
  • Further financial aid given to student athletes to cover some of their expenses

 

While this is a good step, the NCAA is only touching the surface of what needs to be done in regards to their “student athletes”. Let’s be honest, these students spent more time on the field or in their respective sports buildings than they do in most classrooms around their campuses. While NCAA rules mandate that students are limited to a certain amount of time for their sport, they go well above that amount between practices, walk-through’s and game day activities.

According to the Journal of Economic Perspectives, in 2013, the 126 FBS Universities generated on average $41.9 million dollars. The University of Texas made $163 million on athletics alone and while the NCAA stated that of the 126 schools only 20 finished the year with a surplus, the amounts that are generated from college athletics is enormous. The problem becomes that the NCAA is making so much money but then they are crying poor or using the “student athlete” angle to make their case that the students should not receive any portion of the money made. Remember, the scholarship money is not really from the revenues that are made by the school. It’s from the revenue that the NCAA receives from broadcast and sponsorship deals. The money made by schools is theirs and theirs alone after expenses.

In order to make this case more localized, let’s look at Rutgers. While the football team gained notoriety under former coach Greg Schiano, the entire athletic program was making a lot of money over the years. By a lot of money, the program was making on average $15-$18 million per year.  In 2013 according to NJ.com and the NCAA membership report, the program made $21.6 million and after using $19.6 million on expenses, that left Rutgers with a surplus of $2 million. These numbers are not as high as schools like Penn State or Ohio State but for a program like Rutgers, its good money.

With the move to the Big Ten last year, the school had new expenses to deal with additional travel costs and not being fully vested into the conference and their revenue sharing program. Although it is questionable whether Rutgers deserves to even be in the Big Ten, the school’s athletic program is set to see a major increase in revenue and get to a point where they will no longer have to get helped by the school as the athletic program has received millions of dollars in aid has the programs scope increased, especially in the last five to six years. This is commonplace in college athletics.

Let’s just look at the $2 million surplus that the school saw in 2013. The big argument over paying players is how much you would pay them for playing college athletics. On average there are about 500-600 athletes under scholarship at a school like Rutgers. I am not talking about paying players thousands of dollars a year. Let’s say a $250-$300 stipend per semester, around the same amount I received when I was general manager of my school’s college radio station. In total, we are talking about an extra $300,000-$400,000 a year to help these student athletes. That money, on top of their scholarship and unlimited meals, is enough to sustain a student for a semester and that is on the low end. The amount I mentioned is still a drop in the bucket for major universities and honestly, it should be more than $250-$300.

The lawsuits now going through the appeal courts states that players who are included in future video games and use of likenesses in other ways would receive money from those avenues through a trust fund paid out after they leave school. While that makes sense, a lot of these players need that money now for the expenses of college. Many of these players have trouble making it home for the holidays. Many of these players have trouble eating regularly as former UConn guard Shabazz Napier stated right before the Huskies won the National Championship in 2014. The argument of scholarships being enough for these players when schools are making millions off “students” who are practicing and preparing like they are professionals is outdated and needs to change.

I know that many believe that these athletes deserve no more than what they are getting and you are entitled to your opinion. But think about this: when you were in college and you had trouble filling your apartment with food or your favorite adult beverage, how fast did you call your parents to get some quick cash? Now imagine if you didn’t have that lifeline that you had. Now imagine a school making millions off of your hard work, sweat, tears, blood and body and you receiving nothing for it. Is that right?

Players need to receive more than what they are getting and it needs to be even for every school and every sport, male or female. What that field hockey player gets at the University of Vermont should be the same for that linebacker at the University of Alabama. It’s time to turn the page on this archaic amateur rule for college athletes and begin to look at student athletes as young people who are playing for their school and who deserve more than just unlimited tuna fish sandwiches at the dining hall and free books written by professors. The game has changed and it’s time for the NCAA to do the same.

Kahlil Thomas

Kahlil Thomas

Kahlil is the College Sports Editor for DoubleGSports.com as well as a columnist, hosting the Bump 'N Run column once per week. He also co-hosts a weekly basketball podcast, The Box Out, every Thursday evening with fellow DoubleGSports.com writer Jason Cordner.
Kahlil Thomas

1 Comment

  1. Jayson Love

    August 20, 2015 at 10:22 am

    Good points, although I still believe student athletes should be unpaid. All of their needs are covered ones who state that they aren’t are either getting bad advice or making poor choices.

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