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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The U.S. and Cuba in Baseball

If you have watched any level of sports news in the past week, you would have seen some sort of coverage of Major League Baseball (MLB) playing a friendly exhibition in Cuba.  This month, the Tampa Bay Rays played the Cuban national baseball team in Havana.  This is the first time an American team has visited Cuba since 1999 when the Baltimore Orioles went to Cuba to play the Cuban national team.  While negotiations between the United States and Cuba are finally starting to get better after a long period of mistrust, tariffs, and animosity, there is still a certain level of hesitation to go forward with this new found friendship.  When you look at Cuba’s track record of human rights violations and citizen dissatisfaction, American politicians may be wary about starting a new relationship with Cuba.  Not only that, but many people who have ancestors who come from Cuba may not be ready to forgive the nation for the actions committed against their family members.  As a new generation of American-Cuban politics is upon on, it can take friendly moments like these baseball games that can eventually lead to more positive relations between the two very different countries.

In order for tensions between the U.S. and Cuba to ease, there needs to be a certain of common ground for these two cultures to identify with.  Since both of these nations are passionate about sports, specifically baseball, it is an excellent place to start a friendly relationship between their people.  Sports has an opportunity to bring people together and show us that we truly are not that different from one another.  While we may be separated by culture, borders, religion, or political ideology, we are all still people at the end of the day and we need to have basic respect for one another.  Sports has a unique ability to unite people together and make people forget about their problems for a moment and focus more on something that can bring them joy and make them happy.

Baseball games like this are a great way to help show future generations that we can establish diplomatic relationships moving forward.  While both countries have done terrible things to each other over the last few decades, the people who committed these atrocities are now figments of the past.  The next generation of people coming up were not directly exposed to the negativity that occurred between these nations, and for us to move forward as societies, we need to leave the negativity in the past and focus on the future.  While people who went through this period of negativity and are still around today are adamantly opposed to working with Cuba, but in order for us to move forward in this world, we must put the negativity of the past behind us and focus on making sure the people of the future do not have to deal with the same problems that we do today.

One of the most interesting parts about this baseball game was the team chosen to represent the U.S.  When you choose the Tampa Bay Rays to represent you, you are choosing a team from the state of Florida, you are choosing a team from the state with far and away the largest Cuban-American population in the country.  What this will do is help younger people, especially of Cuban-American descent, help form more of a bond with the country of their ancestors.  People are more receptive to working with one another if there is some sort of commonality or bond between one another.  When you choose a team that has a direct connection with the nation that you are trying to build a better relationship with, it is more effective in building that relationship than sending a team with no real connection with the country you are trying to get closer with.  Both the American and Cuban communities have a deep-rooted passion for baseball, so showcasing what each country has to offer to the other in the realm of athletics is a great way to expose us to something new from a country that we do not know a lot about from a positive standpoint.  Not only that, but as tensions ease, we will see an influx of Cuban players enter the MLB.  When this influx happens, more communities will be exposed to positive elements of Cuban culture.  Once these elements are put more into mainstream society, Cuba will lose the negative stigma it currently has in our country and people will understand that the things that make us different are arbitrary and that the actions of one’s government are not a true representation of the people that live there.

Overall, baseball has more than enough potential to be used as a tool of diplomatic peace.  Sports has a long history of bringing people together and this will be no exception if were to be implemented more frequently in the future.  Whether it is table tennis, hockey, or track and field, history has shown us that sports can bring people together when their societies tell them not to.  Any two people, regardless of where they are from, what they believe in, how they see the world, can be bonded solely on grounds that they enjoy the same sport.  Sports allows us to share beautiful moments with one another that can break even the strongest of rivalries.  If we were to use something like sports to help us understand one another in a better way, eventually it will lead to a far less hateful and spiteful world.  Sports will help us on a geopolitical level as people who want to work with one another will focus on the bigger issues at hand such as war, world hunger, and global warming.  If we were to raise the next generation on a common foundation with sports as the mainframe of it, we will see much more change in the world and many more individuals will not feel like they do not have a voice in this world.