college athletes

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Pay To Play: Should College Athletes Be Paid?

Does it make sense for an academic institution to run a multimillion dollar entertainment business, which is what college football and college basketball have become? Does it make sense for these institutions to pay the student-athletes who participate in these football and basketball programs?

The reality is that college sports programs, namely the "big name" programs such as football and basketball programs at marquee schools, are businesses that stand to make a large amount of money for their respective schools. According to an article in the Harvard Journal on Legislation, "[i]n the past twelve years, the amount of money generated by these two sports has increased nearly 300%, such that they now fund almost all other sports programs. 41 Harv. J. on Legis. 319. The student-athletes who participate in these programs are part of the reason why these schools stand to make such handsome profits: through ticket sales, endorsement deals, broadcasting deals, and jersey sales (although player names cannot be represented on jerseys), among other things.

Mark Murphy, Director of Athletics at Northwestern University, who participated in an ESPN debate on the topic of paying student-athletes, argues that these athletes currently receive scholarships, whose value, in some instances, totals close to $200,000 over four years. He stated that all student-athletes have made similar commitments to the schools, and that football and basketball players should not be treated any different than other athletes, who participate in sports that are not as popular and lucrative. Paying athletes anything beyond a scholarship, argues Murphy, would cause problems, particularly from a gender equity standpoint. What Murphy seems to referring to when he says "gender equity" is Title IX federal regulations, which cut off federal funding of colleges if those colleges discriminate on the basis of sex. Paying male student athletes more than female student-athletes could possibly be construed as discrimination.

However, others argue that these athletes are producing revenues not only for the schools, which gives these students scholarships, but also for shoe companies, television networks, and the conference in which these schools belong. Moreover, the equity problem could obviously be solved if all collegiate...

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... should be about more than just dollars and cents.

Despite the strength of the reasons as to why student-athletes should not be paid, there are certain problems with the current NCAA system which can and should be cured. The gap between a full scholarship and the cost of attendance should be covered by the academic institution, especially when a student athlete does not qualify for a loan. Such a policy will go a long way in ensuring that student-athletes are not leaving school to become professional athletes because they cannot pay their bills. Academic institutions should be able to provide at least that much for their athletes. Ultimately, this is a form of payment, but it is not the type of payment that some individuals are advocating. The primary purpose of these institutions is to educate; it is the coach's job to teach, and not just in terms of the sport a student athlete plays. These schools should facilitate the educations of student-athletes through scholarship grants, but not through a system of salaries dependent on supply and demand, which ultimately detracts a student-athlete from picking a school, and detracts them from attending a school, for the right reasons.

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