Everybody should be paid for the work they do, right? But when it comes to Division I sports, the answer to that question becomes much more complicated than a simple yes or no. There are many arguments on both sides of this discussion, but ultimately the paying of collegiate athletes creates more problems than it fixes.
The NCAA places restrictions on compensation to maintain the structure of amateurism for all athletic programs, instead of just the ones that can afford to pay their players. There is currently a class-action lawsuit in California, filed by numerous former players, over the legality of paying athletes through direct compensation.
“We are proud that many student-athletes can receive a college education debt-free, access to resources that ensure greater academic success, and an experience that will pay dividends for a lifetime,” Donald Remy, Chief Legal Office of the NCAA, said in a statement. “Allowing paid professionals to replace student-athletes on college campuses would change the face of college sports as we know it.”
If NCAA athletes start receiving a salary, in addition to their scholarships, then amateurism will die, and education with it. When athletes start demanding to receive compensation, smaller teams will go bankrupt. Sports like volleyball and cross country, among others, that don’t bring in substantial revenue will be cut. All of this will cause access to higher education to be restricted, as academic values will be abandoned, all in search of short-term financial gain.
While paying student-athletes is not a good idea, there are other steps the NCAA can take to improve this system. The NCAA should give student-athletes the option to stay on campus for another two years in order to finish their degree. It is incredibly hard to get one when their days are full of athletic practices and film sessions. According to the NCAA, only 2.04 percent of NCAA athletes their six major sports become professionals; the rest need their education.
In addition to providing education, the NCAA should consider providing healthcare to its athletes as well. Kyle Hardrick was a 6-foot-8 forward who committed to Oklahoma at the age of 14. In one of his first practices at school, he tore his meniscus and was never able to play basketball again. The university dropped his scholarship and refused to pay for the procedure to repair his knee. Hardrick was left on the hook for his surgery and could not afford to stay in college. He had no education, and no career to fall back on.
Healthcare should be provided not only while they are at school, but later in life as well. Injuries like a former football player with CTE or a baseball player who needs elbow surgery. The system shouldn’t be a free-for-all, but like financial aid. Former players should prove what they can afford, and the NCAA should cover the difference.
Athletes commit to colleges, colleges should commit to athletes; but there is no reason to go so far as to pay them. Creating an unregulated system in which only select student-athletes thrive would strip thousands of students across the country of college degrees, as well as redistribute money, currently used for academics, to select revenue-generating sports.