It's one of the biggest debates in sports: should college athletes be paid? Everyone from sports fans and media personalities to the players and general public seem to have an opinion. And regardless where you stand on the issue, like it or not, college athletes might soon start to get paid. A federal judge just ruled that the NCAA can't stop players from selling the rights to their names, images and likeness, striking down NCAA regulations that prohibit them from getting anything other than scholarships and the cost of attendance at schools. This ruling could potentially allow players at big schools to have money generated by television contracts put into a trust fund to pay them when they leave school.
The judge made the right decision because it's time to start paying college athletes. After all, the college sports industry generates $11 billion in annual revenues, mostly generated from the sale of broadcast rights, ticket sales and sponsorships. On top of that, college coaches take home a nice paycheck, so why shouldn't the players? They are the very backbone of college sports and the ones who drive television ratings and generate millions of dollars for the NCAA, schools, vendors and local cities and towns where the sporting events take place, so it's only fair they get a nice portion of those proceeds as well.
USA Today reported last year just how much money the top 10 coaches in college football made. Nick Saban from Alabama topped the list earning roughly $5.5 million in 2013 alone, followed by Mark Brown at Texas bringing in about $5.4 million. Even number 10 on the list, Charlie Strong from Louisville, took home more than $3.7 million.
So why not pay the athletes? The problem is the people who make the argument that these athletes are also students, and they are getting a full scholarship and a completely free college education. There's no denying that and it is a valid point; however, let's look at the numbers. Let's assume the cost of a four year college education at a good school is somewhere in the neighborhood of $150,000. That might be high or low depending on the school, if it's a private or public institution, cost of living and a number of other factors.
The problem with the free education argument is that from a monetary standpoint, these athletes deserve a lot more than that free education. So yes, they save $150,000 over the course of four years, but they walk away with a piece of paper. There's nothing wrong with a college degree, but a college degree on its own isn't going to make them successful. So what happens to the college kids who might be superstars in the NCAA, but don't have the talent to make it to the NFL or NBA? Then what? What happens next? Where do they go?
Paying college athletes now is the right thing to do because it will give those who fail to be recruited by the pros a chance to buy some time, and hopefully figure out how they are going to get by with the rest of their lives and give them a little savings in the bank to work with. Also, they deserve to be paid because they are the very reason college sports fans turn on the TV and attend the games. They are what generates revenues all around. Without these kids, college sports wouldn't be college sports, and it's time to compensate them for their talents and abilities that make college sports so great.
The NCAA has defended its no-pay rules on many different grounds. One of particular interest is it claims that compensating student-athletes would destroy competitive balance in college sports. There's absolutely no logic to this statement. As a former professional athlete and someone who coaches many professional athletes, we're all on different pay scales. Corporate executives earn different amounts of money; pro athletes earn different amounts of money. If anything, waving greenbacks in front of the athletes would be more motivation and increase that competitive spirit. The athlete has a shift in thinking that says, "The harder I play and the better my performance, the more compensation I can receive." There's certainly no destruction of competitive balance in that logic. This is America. This is the basic premise of free enterprise and capitalism. It teaches these kids to equate making money with performance.
The bottom line is it's time to pay college athletes. The NCAA is a big business, and like any other big business, it must take care of its greatest assets - its athletes.