- This paper takes a look at articles and quotes by experts in this field and gives a solid idea of why the NCAA should consider allowing its athletes to make money from third parties like sponsors or boosters. This could greatly improve the quality of life for student-athletes who do not have the time to have a job while juggling school and sports and might come from a family that does not have much money. I was able to chose this topic at the beginning of my course and am now composing rough drafts.
Analyzing the Future of NCAA Athlete Compensation
Do college athletes deserve to be compensated for their on-field performance and the use of their image and likeness? This is a question that athletes and experts alike have been asking for about a decade now. As the rule currently stands, collegiate athletes can not be compensated in any way other than scholarships by anybody that is not immediate family. This may sound fair and normal to many people, but after hearing some statistics and stories, allowing these athletes to receive benefits for their performance may sound a bit more reasonable. Recently, experts have generally concluded that collegiate athletes deserve to be able to receive compensation for their performance and image because of the enormous amount of money they bring to their respective schools and sports, the impossibility of a student-athlete being able to have a job, and the possibility of the growth in women's sports.
To help better understand the question, here is some background on the current situation. College athletes are currently not allowed to receive any type of compensation from sponsorships or school boosters or they will have to forgo their eligibility in collegiate athletics. The NCAA has been very strict on maintaining amateurism in the past and showed no signs of changing for a long time. In the article, "College Athletes Permitted to Be Paid for Name, Image, Likeness.", Greta Anderson explains, "The NCAA has long drawn a line between collegiate and professional sports by upholding its definition of amateurism and disallowing payment to athletes, other than in the form of colleges paying for the full cost of attendance or providing other types of scholarships" (Anderson). These rules have been in place for quite some time, but that does not mean there hasn't been a fair share of infractions made by players, agents, coaches, boosters, and fans. But, a good number of these infractions were not made maliciously and were oftentimes a result of the people involved not knowing a certain rule. To support this, Bailey Brautigan wrote the article, "Cam Newton and 10 College Athletes in Scandal: Is It Their Fault or the System?" and said, "Cameron Newton is not the first college athlete to spark this type of investigation, and he certainly won't be the last. So we have to ask the question: 'What is wrong with college athletics?' Are these student-athletes just greedy? Or is there something wrong with the system?" (Brautigan). Cam Newton was the center of one of these scandals and was actually found to be innocent of any infractions. Ohio State's star defensive end Chase Young on the other hand, was not so lucky when his name was thrown around in a 2019 scandal. He was suspended one game in 2019 for receiving a loan from a family-friend to cover his daily expenses at school. He has paid the loan back in-full months before, but the NCAA still ruled it an infraction and suspended him for one game.
Just like Chase Young, all of these student-athletes have daily expenses just like everyone else, but lack the opportunity to have a job because they have to spend all their time training or in class. These kids literally have no way of covering their daily expenses without the help of their parents. Unfortunately in a lot of cases, like Young's, the parents do not have the money to cover these types of expenses on top of having to pay for a portion of their education or living. In the article, "College Athletes Deserve to Be Paid" Michael Wilbon expresses his distaste for the NCAA's rules by saying, "The players have become employees of the universities and conferences as much as students -- employees with no compensation, which not only violates common decency but perhaps even the law" (Wilbon). This is a very powerful quote and unfortunately pretty accurately depicts the current situation in college athletics. A great example of just how the NCAA denies its athletes a better quality of life is the story of Lilly King. Lilly is a swimmer at Indiana University and even won two gold medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics. But, her choice to go back to Indiana University after the Olympics cost her some money. In the article, "What Happens When College Athletes Get Paid" she is quoted saying, "I lost a lot of money due to that fact that I basically...decided to stay there and get my education and also swim for my college team" (Higgins). King ended up losing over $100,000 in bonuses awarded to her by FINA, swimming's governing body.
The next pillar of the argument made by experts is that these athletes are the ones who are responsible for bringing in millions of dollars in TV contracts and ticket sales for their school. Yet, they will never see a penny of that money. There are thousands of people who marked their calendar last year for the date that Duke's basketball team was coming to town so that they could watch Zion Williamson dominate. This same concept was true in the early 2010's when Johnny Manziel was the biggest name in sports during his time at Texas A&M University. But jersey and ticket sales are not even the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how much money these stars bring in for their school and sports. Later on in his article, Michael Wilbon dives deeper into this topic and points out the current $10.8 billion deal between the NCAA and CBS to cover March Madness from 2011 to 2024. Wilbon argues that this deal was entirely made possible by athletes, but not a single player will ever see any kind of compensation for that. He offers, "What if people in the business of money took $1.3 billion off the top, invested it, sheltered it and made it available to provide a stipend to college athletes, how could anybody stand on principle and argue against paying the people who make the events possible in the first place?" (Wilbon). This solution sounds great for everyone involved and would definitely help that issue of players not being able to cover their daily expenses unlike their classmates who do not play sports.
The third point of the case made by experts is that women's sports could see huge growth if the athletes were allowed to be compensated for their performance. A lot of female athletes decide not to take athletic scholarships at universities because they think that a professional career may not be attainable or not financially enough. Being able to receive compensation for their performance and image at the college level would be an incentive for more women to play college sports and thus the popularity of the game could grow. Going along with this point, Laine Higgins adds, "Women lack the same professional exposure as men--college softball players might never compete on a bigger stage than the College World Series on ESPN" (Higgins). With the game of softball potentially getting more popular and the fact that the CWS is televised on ESPN, this could be a great opportunity for college softball players to receive some compensation for their accomplishments. Also with the fact that professional softball will not be most of the girl's career paths, some extra money to go into the workforce could prove to be very helpful for these women once they graduate college.
Now, there are some complications that come with the possibility of states changing the rules of athlete compensation. The biggest fear that people have is the potential for the "scales to be tipped" in favor of states that have already begun the process of passing the law. For example, the rivalry between Ohio State and Michigan is one of the biggest sporting events of the year. But, the almost equal competitiveness of these two schools that makes this game so great could be changing very quickly. In Michigan, the rule to allow athlete compensation has already been proposed and could be voted on as early as next summer. The problem is that in Ohio no such bill exists at this time. In her article, Higgins asks, "What would 'The Game' between Michigan and Ohio State look like if only the Wolverines could profit?" (Higgins). This is definitely a serious issue, but would also be even more reason for all states to want to pass this bill. In the article, "The Case for Paying College Athletes" economist John Siegfried explains, "Fairness is in the eye of the beholder. There is no specific accepted standard for fairness. Economists usually accept the competitive market outcome as acceptable and fair. But in this case there is not a competitive market outcome" (Fleisher). In other words, Siegfried agrees that the scales would indeed be tipped in favor of schools that were located in states where their athletes could profit from their performance and likeness. Which, once again would either make these games unfair or would force the hand of other states to get on board if they want to compete athletically.
Amidst this battle between NCAA and its athletes, some high school players have come up with different ways of loosening the grip that the NCAA has on amature sports. Towards the end of her article, Higgins says, "The athletes could also loosen the stranglehold on college athletics by opting to play overseas or in upstart leagues, diverting talent away from universities" (Higgins). This tactic has already proven beneficial for high school basketball superstar LaMelo Ball. Ball opted to play overseas in Lithuania and Australia and is on track to be one of the first picks in this year's NBA Draft without stepping foot on a college campus. More local players like Jalen Green have chosen to play in upstart leagues in the United States, that will serve as a place for all college-age athletes to get exposure and play ball without having to adhere by the NCAA's rules. These types of leagues are getting more and more popular to players, and it would not be surprising to see this trend start making its way to other sports other than basketball.
All in all there has been a lot of talk about this topic for the past decade and how the NCAA should approach the issue. In the eyes of these experts, it is a no-brainer for the NCAA and individual states to pass this bill. There is a huge need for better care of student-athletes' needs while away from home and on campus. The cost of daily expenses can be too much for some families, which leaves athletes with the choice of starving or possibly doing something illegal to get money. Not just taking money from a fan, but some athletes have gone as far as being arrested for robberies and theft while at school. This type of behavior could be so easily avoided if the NCAA could get on board with this bill and improve the quality of life of all its student-athletes. Like mentioned before, the schools and the NCAA definitely have the money to make these changes happen if you look at the statistics of how much college athletics profits per year. Factor in the potential for women's athletics to experience growth like never before and it sounds like a great deal for everyone involved. Most powerfully and influentially leading the charge has been the state of California. Last September, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the bipartisan "Fair Pay to Play Act" into law, which grants student-athletes the ability to sell their rights to their name, image , and likeness without having to give up their eligibility. Since then, 30 other states have proposed similar bills, which simply allow athletes to receive compensation from third parties, without the NCAA or schools directly paying the athletes. California's "Fair Pay to Play Act" will not come into effect until January of 2023, but there could be changes made sooner than that. The NCAA, California, and student-athletes finally coming to a far more reasonable agreement was huge for the momentum of this issue and could be the first big punch that athletes throw in the fight against the broken and outdated system of the NCAA.
Anderson, Greta. "College Athletes Permitted to Be Paid for Name, Image, Likeness." College Athletes Permitted to Be Paid for Name, Image, Likeness
Brautigan, Bailey. "Cam Newton and 10 College Athletes in Scandal: Is It Their Fault or the System?" Bleacher Report, Bleacher Report
Martino, Díamaris. "Ohio State's Star Football Player Suspended for Accepting Loan." CNBC
Higgins, Laine. "What Happens When College Athletes Get Paid." The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company
Wilbon, Michael. "College Athletes Deserve to Be Paid." ESPN, ESPN Internet Venturers
Fleisher, Chris. "The Case for Paying College Athletes." American Economic Association