Defending An Unpopular Opinion: Why College Athletes Should Not Be Paid

It seems like many people support D1 basketball and football NCAA athletes receiving pay because their events generate so much revenue. It seems unfair to these people that the players are not getting compensated even though they are the sole cause it. This is a complex problem and it’s difficult to unpack it concisely. This is not a yes or no question. It has many, many possible answers. Lastly, some may see this as a “traditional” view, which is fine, but I hope to address the possible counter arguments to this approach.

Bottom Line

The two sports that raise the most revenue for the NCAA are be football and basketball. Paying players will have many unintended consequences that no of us can forsee first of all. The problem is that Americans tend to see everything as a capital oppurtunity. If we didn’t, we’d be fine with not charging ticket fees, letting students watch the games for free, or shrinking the size of the stands.

Here is the problem: players are not being rewarded for the revenue they drive in. The goal to this solution? Equal it out. If the NCAA makes money, players should make money. Done deal, right? I feel like 97% of the U.S. population will stop right there in terms of possible options. However, let’s discuss a second option: if the NCAA makes no money, the players make no money. All of a sudden the sides are back to equal in this situation too.

This situation will sound familiar to us all because it is what practically any other sport is like. No ticket fees, no revenue. People coming to watch the sport and support their team. This is what virtually all division III sports are like. I’m not suggesting this because this solution is way too simple. With prices low or equal to zero, ticket demand goes way up and an important ACC basketball game would never be able to choose between people who get to attend the game. There are systems that could resolve this problem, but let’s not go there.

All I did there was present an argument. An alternative point of view. With no reasoning. Now, let us continue.

March Madness is happening right now. I just watched Duke nearly lose to UCF in a nail-biter. Let’s analyze what March Madness really is. I guess some would call this an anthropological perspective. Parents have kids that really like basketball. They play in community leagues, travel leagues where they are dominant. They get recruited to play in college where there is a basketball dynasty like Duke or UNC. But, we forget why they are even able to play basketball at universities. No one pays attention to the simple fact that we are so lucky that universities have athletics. Why should they? Like legitimately, there is no reasoning as to why they would even decide to start athletic programs. Let’s hypothetically get into the minds of University faculty in 1910 (around when the NCAA formed) as to why that would approve NCAA athletics: well it could increase name recognition for marketing purposes and it could be fun for the students. Let’s not even the possible negatives of it for argument sake. If anything it would make more sense to have intra-university athletic competitions, than between schools. But I’m not advocating that. Not even close, and that is the point of this.

We’ve lost track of the purpose of collegiate athletics. Universities provide higher education to students. A century ago, this was more of a priviledge and rare occurrence than it is now. It was and still is considered lucky to attend a university. The point is not to focus on basketball and get by in school. It’s the opposite. Priorities are rearranged. Inter-collegiate athletics are lucky to even be a part of universities and I am not sure how you can disagree with that (if you do infact disagree, please refer to the previous paragraph).

Let’s assume we are all on-board here. We are fortunate and lucky to have athletics. To have excitement where we can watch students from various colleges play against each other.

We have taken it too far. Having established this mindset, it’s preposterous how much attention is and products are focused on these players. Now, here’s where I’m starting to frustrate people. Here what you, the reader, are probably thinking:

“This dude is a purist. He misses the old days. The days when there wasn’t media attention or hype, just the love of the game. – probably you

That’s not what I want at all. Not even close. Sure, I think it’s ridiculous how much media attention college basketball players get by ESPN and the attention high school recruits receive before they commit to a school. But, that’s not the point. I LOVE march madness, I LOVE making brackets and betting money on it. I would pay SERIOUS MONEY (if I had money) to watch a final four game. I love North Carolina basketball a lot. I am NOT advocating for a simpler time or a time without all this BS. What I’m saying is: I LIKE THE BS. Just like you.

STEP 1: Cover Costs For Players Who Need Help

The exact details can only figured out by the NCAA in terms of monetary allocation, but there are so many cases where a player is on scholarship, but can not afford a meal plan. Here’s where the revenue comes in handy: give them enough money for food, textbooks and other stuff. Even if they are not on scholarship but need the money. That would be incredible. Just bring the players to a point where they are financially comfortable while in school.

STEP 2: Approach this problem with a perspective that understands college athletics for what it is

These are amateurs athletes pursuing a higher education degree. Without the academics-part of a university, college basketball would never exist. Without college basketball, academics and the university would still exist. Just this simple logic, put a greater importance for academics. So let’s enjoy college athletics for what it is. Students getting involved in university activities outside of academia. I am in no way downplaying what the athletes have achieve. I genuinely do not want to reduce their accomplishments to playing a simple, trivial activity. Not at all. Their work and accomplishments are incredible. I have some idea as to how difficult and busy their lives are because I was a division III athlete. So if i multiply my athletic sacrifice by 2, 3, or 4, depending on the time of year time or team, i can get some abstract idea of what it takes. Still do not know. My commitment to the sport is a fraction of what the athletes in March Madness went through.

Logically, anthropologically, and unbiasedly, it does not make sense to pay college athletes. It seems as though we currently have our priorities backwards, which is fine. But at the very least, let’s acknowledge it.

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