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Should Division One Athletes Be Paid?

Imagine working for 43 hours a week. On average, you and your fellow employees generate your employer $876,650. You would expect to be compensated handsomely. What if you did all this, and still received no financial compensation from your company? This scenario may seem unbelievable, as employers would pay to receive this type of profit from employees. However, this happens every day with division one athletes. They pour their heart and soul into their sport, dedicating time, hours, and physical effort for the school. And schools earn handsomely off of athletes: Michigan earned over 150 million dollars from its football team alone. Division one athletes work and earn like elite members of our society; it’s time they receive.

Take March Madness for example. The NCAA makes over a billion from TV deals for the tournament, a sum comparable to the super bowl. NFL players often have super bowl clauses built into their contract, so they are fairly compensated for the money they bring in. March Madness is a tournament between the top 64 basketball teams, and the schools’ players had to put in unbelievable amounts of time in order to reach the tournament. The tournament greatly benefits the schools, but the players—the people who the credit belongs to—receive no compensation.

One example of this was the MVP of the NCAA tournament last year, Shabzz Napier. Widely considered the best player in college basketball, Shabzz often would burn over 5,000 calories a day, but did not have the money to buy food. Shabzz called attention to the injustice in this scenario: he was bringing in millions to his school, but could not afford to eat. To be fair, the NCAA responded, declaring that free food should go to all division one athletes. This is a step in the right direction, but Shabbz still does not have the money to live the life of an average college student.

Not only do schools make money from ticket sales and merchandise, they also make tons of money from TV networks. As part of its conference, the ACC has several deals with major broadcasting programs such as Fox and ESPN. Last year alone, these deals brought in 258 million for the conference, or roughly 20 million per school. Duke’s income from broadcasting deals brought in enough revenue to cover the expenses of all other sports, so the money they made from merchandise and tickets was pure profit for the school. Despite all the money the school was making off of him, Duke star Quinn Cook still did not have the cash to go to the movies with his teammates and still have money for dinner. Since Cook dedicated all his free time to basketball, bringing in money for the school in the process, he did not have the time to work a job in order to make walking around cash. Schools ask athletes to work without any financial compensation, despite the fact that many athletes come from backgrounds that make it difficult for them to have money to socialize or buy textbooks without working a second job.

Also, in denying athletes compensation, the NCAA is defeating its purpose, as more and more high school athletes decide to go overseas rather than go to college. For the basketball recruiting class of 2014, Emmanuel Mudiay was ranked as a top three recruit in the country. Mudiay originally committed to Southern Methodist University, but he revoked his commitment when he was offered a spot overseas. A Chinese basketball team offered Mudiay a one-year, 1.2 million-dollar contract—an offer that Mudiay could not resist. Mudiay needed the money to provide for his family, and so the decision was a no-brainer.

The decision to attend school overseas defeats the purpose of the NCAA because the NCAA claims that the primary purpose of the organization is the education of the athletes. The professional sports leagues have done their best to promote going to college, as athletes can no longer go directly to the league out of high school. However, when choosing between getting an education and making sure their mothers have safe places to live, most athletes will choose providing for their families. Furthermore, coming out of high school, 18 year-old kids cannot be expected to give up money for their education. Instead of making kids choose, the NCAA should set up a trust fund for the kids: they can access the money on a limited basis in college, and once they graduate, they receive their full earnings as a more responsible twenty two year old.

NCAA athletes also face an extreme risk participating in college-level athletics.  In men’s football, student athletes can have future brain damage, with six out of every seven concussions going unreported. Athletes essentially get by in school in order for the shot to play pro sports. This works out great sometimes, as some athletes achieve their dream of playing pro sports. However, many of these athletes are never good enough and end up wasting away their college education with nothing to show for it. Another common scenario is a career-ending injury. For example, Marcus Lattimore was a star running back at South Carolina, primed to make millions in the NFL. However, his senior year he tore his ACL, and did not get an NFL contract. Lattimore worked tirelessly during his college years, bringing in millions to his school. Despite this, Lattimore does not have a dime to his name. This disparity in money received versus money earned cannot continue.

Furthermore, of those athletes who turn professional, half are broke within five years of retirement. Take Allen Iverson for example. During his playing career, Iverson earned over 200 million dollars. Within five years of retirement, he declared bankruptcy. A combination of bad investments coupled with requests for money by friends lead him to waste away his earnings. This problem could be avoided if anticipated. Athletes from impoverished neighborhoods often return home after making millions to face old ties and demands; if college and professional sporting organizations could prepare them to anticipate long-term budgets, they would be able to negotiate this transition more easily, and benefit the people they care about in the process.

So the NCAA has a problem, but what is the solution? It obviously does not condone a salary for athletes, partially due to liability issues. The NCAA would come under a scathing attack if money received from the organization were used to buy drugs or other illegal substances. So if the NCAA cannot pay their athletes a salary, what can they do? What the NCAA should do is to give the athletes a delayed salary. Athletes should receive a delayed check from the NCAA: once they graduate college, they should receive a check for their dedication and commitment to the school. Many athletes go broke within five years of retiring from their sport, so colleges should go out of their way in order to educate athletes in finance. Coming out of college with a solid background in money management and a solid base, athletes would be much better off.

 

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