College Athletes: To Pay or Not to Pay?

Posted by on Nov 4, 2019 in Current Events, Economics, You Decide!

They bring in billions of dollars in revenue and tons of recognition for colleges, yet they themselves are not allowed to profit from their skills in any way. This has always been the role of college athletes, even at Division I schools that can make thousands or even millions by using the athlete’s image for promotions. But all of that might be about to change, according to the NCAA. Here, btw takes a closer look.

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The Case for the Status Quo

Traditionally, college athletes haven’t been paid because they receive scholarships to the university in exchange instead. Those who are against paying college athletes argue that doing so would change the nature of college athletics by turning them into a business. College athletes are students, first and foremost; sports are an extracurricular activity. But if sports participation becomes a student’s job, education will take a back burner. For example, an athlete might start out at one school, only to transfer several times when they receive better offers from other places. Smaller schools might have to dissolve their athletic programs altogether because it might not generate enough funding to pay players. This, in turn, could lead to less money coming in for smaller universities overall. Plus, the whole concept raises logistical questions: Where would the money to pay athletes come from? Would some sports pay more than others? Would men be paid more than women, since their sports tend to generate more revenue?

The Case for Payment

But supporters of payment, including many college athletes themselves, point out that because athletes make money for the university, they should be treated as employees; as such, they should receive a paycheck, and maybe even benefits and a union as well. Between games, practices, workouts, and travel time, they argue, being an athlete is a full-time job. And if the team does very well, such as making it to a championship game, the coach gets a bonus but the players–the ones actually doing the work–do not. Above all, supporters say, athletes advertise for a school, and their image or likeness is often used to promote it, so paying athletes for their contributions is simply the right thing to do.

A New Era

Whether you agree with paying college athletes or not, the NCAA recently made the announcement that it will allow athletes to receive payment from corporations using their name or likeness. But why the sudden shift in policy? The decision follows on the heels of a recently-passed California law which allows college athletes to hire agents and to accept money from advertisers. After the California law passed, several other states followed suit as well, and Congress may also be gearing up to take a second look at the issue.

Details about how the new policy will look, or when it will take effect, haven’t been ironed out yet. But no matter what, this decision is likely to change what colleges sports look like–for better or for worse.

NOTE: btw first asked you about this issue in 2013. Click here to read that original post about paying college athletes and compare the arguments made then to the facts being considered today. Look at the results of the original 2013 You Decide? poll. Think about the question today and vote again. Have opinions changes within these last seven years?

Should college athletes get paid?
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