The issue of whether college athletes should be paid is heating up with the filing of a class-action lawsuit this week in New Jersey against the NCAA and the power conferences Southeastern, Big Ten, Big 12, Pacific-12 and Atlantic Coast.
The current plaintiffs are four college athletes who are arguing that college athletes should be paid more than the room, board, books and tuition that is allowed under the NCAA compensation cap. Since it is class-action, the lawsuit proposes to include both football and basketball players. It is significant to note that the National College Players Association is supporting the lawsuit.
I find this issue fascinating and can understand both sides of the argument. In fact, I have had this very discussion with not only my husband, but with several friends, over the years. Although there are differing opinions, all seem to agree that the situation needs to be revised. My opinion is that the athletes should gain something for their efforts. Tuition, books, room and board alone or together make up a very small percentage of the dollar bills the high ranking players bring to their respective programs.
According to the plaintiffs’ attorney, Jeffrey Kessler, schools are raking in “billions of dollars in revenues each year through the hard work, sweat and sometimes broken bodies of top-tier college football and men’s basketball athletes. The reality is that it is already pro sports for everybody but the athletes.”
I could not agree more. It is common knowledge that universities with winning teams make a lot of money on tickets, jerseys, t-shirts and other items, not to mention the profit from the lucrative television contracts and bowl games. Granted, there are expenses, such as the facilities, the travel costs and the coaches; however, I have yet to hear of a college with a power program that does not operate in the black.
The arguments are not difficult to understand. Those against paying the athletes argue it would destroy the “amateur” athlete and put competition above academics; that the paying of the college athlete belittles the significance and importance of a college education. To that I respond with: Do you really think competition is not already above academics in the power programs? And if you believe the majority of these athletes go for the education instead of the fame and the chance to play pro, then in the words of George Strait, I have some oceanfront property in Arizona to sell you.
Another notable argument against paying is that good players will only go to those schools that can afford them. In other words, those schools with high alumni support and television contracts. I do think this argument is valid, yet again, good players will typically go to the better programs that, in turn, have more money, so this argument sounds like the proverbial red herring.
On the other side of the coin, those supporting the paying of athletes cite to fairness. Schools, administrators and coaches are making large profits and salaries off the players and players often have to work or struggle to make ends meet.
Yes, I know some of you are coughing and spitting out your coffee with that last remark and thinking that players often get money on the down low. Yes, they just might, but why shouldn’t they? Shouldn’t they be rewarded? What about the profits from a jersey with their last name on it? Shouldn’t they receive something for that? What is fair? Why should they have to do what has been done in the past?
In the recent past, the Northwestern University football players tried to unionize and argued they were university employees who were forced to put football first or risk losing free tuition. That is a good way to put it.
Times and attitudes change, society changes and perhaps now is the time for this to change. Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue is credited with the notion that paying college athletes would not be in the athletes’ best interests; however, I am inclined to think that those opposing the paying of athletes believe it would not be in their best interest and the powers that be do not want to share the profit.
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