Should College Athletes Be Paid?

On April 4th, the Villanova University Wildcats played the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Tar Heels in the championship game for the 2015-2016 college basketball season. The Wildcats successfully defeated the Tar Heels 77-74 on a thrilling three-point buzzer-beater to help claim their second national championship. This game was viewed by 17.8 million people that night and millions more saw the highlights after the game ended. When all this is said and done though, you have to think about how the players on this team benefit from their time at Villanova. When you look at someone like Kris Jenkins, the actual player who made the game-winning shot, what is going to get from his time at Villanova other than a quality education and an opportunity to live out his passion. Thoughts like this bring up the age-old discussion that has constantly be had about NCAA athletes; should college athletes be paid? According to Time.com, in 2009, Villanova received the equivalent of $6 million in free media publicity, and in that year, Villanova did not reach the national championship game. The fact Villanova won the championship this year makes it easy to believe that that number is set to increase over the course of this year. While it is great that Villanova, how can this success be used to benefit the student-athletes that provide this success for them?
One of the main problems that college athletes face is the fact that they are not able to provide for their families. Many college athletes come from less than affluent areas and may need money in order to help support their family back home. While some people believe that giving these athletes a free education is more than fair compensation for their time as an athlete, I believe it is not enough. Sports like football and basketball bring in far more money to these universities than these universities give back to these athletes. As a student at the University of Florida, I have spent many Saturday’s in Ben Hill Griffin cheering on my Gators as they take on their opponent. As a season ticket holder, this past season I paid $15 for each game I went to, and for the sake of the argument, let us say that everyone pays $15 to watch the game. The stadium capacity of Ben Hill Griffin is 88,548, and while I have seen this number well above 90,000, I will use the capacity as the maximum amount of people in the stadium at any given time. With this means is that for each home game that the Gators play, the university makes $1,328,220. This also does not take into account the fact the amount of money spent on food and merchandise by those at the game that day. When you factor in the fact that the Gators play seven home games a year, the University of Florida makes $9,297,540 just from ticket sales on the assumption that the game against New Mexico State is just as expensive as the game against Florida State. If you were to divide that up amongst the 85 scholarship players on the team, each one would get approximately $109,382.82. This is far more than what they receive right now in the form of a full-ride scholarship with room and board and if we were to include revenue from the merchandise sold across the world, the refreshments sold in the stadium, and payouts from bowl games and the Southeastern Conference, that number would skyrocket. Not only that, but up until very recently, the NCAA forbade athletes from getting part-time jobs, so even if they wanted to make their own money, they were not allowed to. While these athletes do have a unique ability due to their physical abilities, we have to remember that they are students at the end of the day. If a college student wants to pick up a part-time job, they have more than enough freedom to do that. Just because these athletes are going to school for free does not mean they should be limited in their off the field actions. Not only that, but other students are allowed to profit off of their skills while student-athletes are not. Let us take an engineering student for example. If an engineering student were to invent something useful to society while they were taking classes, they would have complete autonomy to control their outcome when it comes to that product. They would be able to file for a patent, sell their product to a manufacturer, and overall, make money based on their personal ability. With these athletes, they are not able to profit off of their abilities even though it is proven that their respected universities profit off of them.
Overall, it is important to remember what these athletes contribute to each of their universities. Sports like football and basketball bring millions of dollars to these universities and that money ultimately assists the university in areas outside of the athletic department. I know for myself personally, one of the reasons why I chose to attend the University of Florida was because of their fantastic athletic program. If the University of Florida did not have the athletic program that it currently does, then I would not have applied and I would be at a different university such as Penn State or Ohio State which does have the exciting and entertaining athletics that can fit my needs. The fact that athletes can go out on the field day in and day out and work their hardest for the entertainment of the masses and they cannot profit off of it just proves that we need to fix our broken system. There will come a day when this system will be corrected and all the work these players do will be rewarded, but until that day arrives, we must keep raising the issue in order to help keep it in the spotlight where it belongs and to bring justice to those who deserve it.

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