In the past several years, an argument in favor of paying college athletes for their time spent on the field has been slowly picking up traction.
Controversies surrounding star Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, accused of violating NCAA rules by signing autographs for money, and the Oklahoma State football program, whose boosters reportedly paid players under the table, have brought new attention to the issue in recent weeks.
The answer, though, is simple: Student-athletes should not get paid for playing a sport.
Numerous athletes are awarded scholarships, essentially free tuition and room and board for sacrificing their bodies for the school they attend. They do not need any more payment for what would equal roughly $80,000 in the long run.
That doesn’t mean the NCAA is treating its student-athletes fairly, however. When it comes to NCAA restrictions, athletes more often than not get the short end of the stick.
Take Manziel, for instance. There is very little question whether he violated NCAA rules by signing those autographs. But should that be against the rules? If athletes are asked to sign a kid’s jersey for free, why should they not be able to make some money for it? That’s standard practice in most circles.
This doesn’t mean athletes should be paid like the student workers on an hourly basis like some would suggest. After all, when you really get down to it, we’re only talking about games.
But they’re games that generate universities nationwide millions upon millions of dollars. That’s especially true of football. Many athletics programs, and even whole universities, have essentially been built from the ground up by their football programs. That would not have happened were it not for the hard work of its student-athletes.
These universities and the NCAA itself have profited off of the players’ names and their likenesses, selling jerseys, T-shirts and more online and in stores as a way to generate even more revenue.
Even if the players shouldn’t make a salary, wouldn’t it at least be fair to let them in on at least a small piece of any money universities, conferences and the NCAA make off of them with their names?
Leaving aside moral issues and questions of fairness, the NCAA, if it is honest with itself about finding ways to cut down on the increasingly corrupt culture surrounding college football and other sports, has an obligation to let players in on some of that money their names bring in.
Right now, the NCAA is fostering that culture of corruption. These players, many of whom come from impoverished neighborhoods, see sports as paths to success in life, and if a booster comes along and offers them money for playing, most feel compelled to take the money, rules be damned.
That is a direct result of NCAA policy. These players dedicate their lives to their sports, leaving them little time to pursue a job. So, if athletes become big enough so that their names become marketable, they should be allowed to profit off of that. Especially if the university profits off of them, too.