One of the most controversial topics when it comes to the NCAA is paying the student athletes. We’ve all had this debate with friends and family, but have you ever sat down and really thought about how paying student athletes would affect college sports?
Before I highlight the areas in which I think would be affected the most by paying student athletes, let me just say that I have always been the guy that has called the NCAA corrupt for not paying athletes, and by all means I think they make way too much money, but as I sat down and thought about the pros of schools paying student athletes, I quickly realized the cons significantly outweigh anything else.
Power Schools Get More Powerful
We don’t have to look any further than the National Championship game that featured Alabama and Clemson (again) to realize that there are “power schools” in college sports. Power schools have built the reputation of winning, great culture, and top of the line facilities that attract five star players in bunches, and some of these power schools turn into dynasties that the majority of us get tired of seeing win. Paying student athletes would only magnify this problem and create an even bigger separation from the elite schools with tons of money to the average schools that just get by and don’t have the money to sign big time recruits.
If you think Ohio State and Michigan wouldn’t benefit from paying student athletes more than Nebraska and Maryland in the Big 10, you’re being delusional. The NCAA is trying to do things like limit scholarships as a “salary cap” to keep the competition close, and paying student athletes would create a monopoly of sorts for the big schools and would create a monster gap in competition all around college sports.
Can All Schools Afford It?
This isn’t the NFL or the NBA. These teams do not have multi-billion dollar owners to support them, and many of these schools flat out do not even have the funding necessary to pay any athletes. Don’t get me wrong, in many cases schools make millions of dollars off of sports, but 90% of these programs do not make nearly as much as professional sports teams and they do not have billionaires to back the team like the professional teams do. This further proves that it would almost certainly only be beneficial to the elite schools to make a rule where you may pay student athletes, and it would create a huge disadvantage to “small market” schools that are already having a tough time trying to convince student athletes to come to their school.
It Makes College Sports Authentic
Lets be honest, part of the pleasure to watching a college football game is knowing that these kids are student athletes that are playing their butts off each and every week. They aren’t playing for the sole reason of money, the fame, or to get a contract extension, but instead to represent their university and their brothers on the field. Don’t get me wrong, they’re playing with the hope that they will eventually go pro, but there is something unique about watching college sports when you know you are watching a group on young men or women playing to represent their state and university, with far fewer egos and fame chasing going on.
Turning NCAA sports into a bidding war would take away from the authenticity that we have grown to love. Taking this away by paying student athletes would only create a dumbed-down version of the NFL or NBA.
I know, you’ve heard the same argument your whole life; “They are getting paid, they’re getting scholarships.” I’ll start first by saying not only is this statement true, but it is the best option available. Many incoming student athletes are not very good at handling money, and that’s not a knock on them, it’s just a fact. When you are 18 years old, you aren’t going to manage big chunks of money in ways that are beneficial to you. So what can you do to still “pay” them in a way that will benefit their future? The answer is offering students scholarships, this guarantees that they get an education that will give them something to lean on if sports don’t work out, and for most of them sports will inevitably not be where they make a living. Many scholarships are in the range of $20,000-$50,000 a year, which is not bad for a country with a median household income of $60,000 in 2017.
My Solution: What the NCAA Should Allow
The NCAA would be hurting competition and the real college authenticity by allowing schools to pay athletes to come play for them, but here is what they should allow. Student athletes should have the right to use their own body of work as their own brand. What I mean by that is if they have the ability to make money off themselves in a way that is not being paid for by the school they are attending, it should be allowed. If Nike wanted to offer Kyler Murray a contract while he was playing football at Oklahoma, he should be able to accept the endorsement and make money off of his brand.
This would mean that schools would still have the old school recruiting philosophy of having to convince students to come to their schools by the culture, facilities, campus, whatever it may be, and they would not be allowed to offer any type of money to the athlete. However, if the student is talented enough to make money off his or her self from an endorsement deal, it should be allowed.
From an NCAA perspective, there are almost no benefits for them in allowing student athletes to be paid directly by the schools. It would hurt overall competition, and it would make the college game feel more aligned with the professional level, hurting the authenticity that college sports have to offer.
It would severely hurt the two to three star schools who are already having a hard enough time putting a competitive team on the field each and every Saturday, and would only allow the rich to get richer at the top. The solution to me is simple, if you are the NCAA you should not allow schools to pay student athletes, and I would expect them to use the same arguments that I have, but there is no defending the fact that student athletes have every right to make money off of themselves on their own terms if they have the capability to do so. If they are out there making millions of dollars for not only the NCAA, but their school as well, they should have every right to cash in on themselves as well.