It’s time to determine once and for all what college athletes deserve for their years of athletic service on the field.
With another national signing day come and gone, the question inevitably arises whether college athletes, particularly money generators like football players and basketball players, deserve to receive compensation.
It’s an issue that just won’t go away, despite the NCAA’s best intentions. As tensions rise over player payment, the question of whether or not football and basketball players deserve compensation should stop being asked, and the attention should instead turn to whether or not colleges are doing enough to prepare their players for life after stadium glory. That’s the true payment being lost.
ESPN recently asked some of the top high school recruits what their take is on the controversial topic.
While opinions may be split due to financial circumstances and limitations brought on by the time commitment involved, running back Keith Ford, committed to the University of Oklahoma, was quick to choose a side.
“I think we shouldn’t get paid because we are coming to the school and getting a free education,” Ford said. “College is a lot, and I’d rather take that: a free education.”
A well-rounded education is worth much more than previously proposed weekly allowances or trust funds, especially when considering the length of a typical professional athlete’s career.
For the select few college athletes who move on to a professional career, most will retire by the age of 30. Even though newspaper headlines are quick to cover player’s exorbitant contract deals, the real story is how quickly that money goes out to taxes, agent fees and expenses for supporting their families.
So let’s pay our athletes with what they really came to college for: an education. Don’t let them skim by in classes. Don’t fill their heads with unsustainable dreams. Give them a reality check.
Universities should make it a priority to pay players with real-life experience. Teach them personal finance management, connect them with career resources and bring in former college athletes to give them advice about transitioning from being a player to a business professional. That’s the best way to give back to the players.
Coaches such as Steve Spurrier and Les Miles have shown their support for giving players a stipend for each game played during the season. Pay-for-play systems (for schools that can afford to pay them) may help financially challenged players, but let’s not forget the other ways players are getting “paid.”
These days, a full scholarship is equal to an average of $42,224 a year for a four-year private college and $21,447 a year for a four-year public college, according to the College Board. Ask any of the millions of college students currently dealing with student loans and you’ll find that incentive alone to be worth the effort of participating in college athletics.
Besides a full scholarship, most athletes receive free housing, a free meal plan and access to an army of personal trainers, nutritionists and tutors. Specially released shoes, clothing and accessories like Beats by Dre headphones and Nike backpacks also come with a roster position. Not to mention perks such as $550 worth of gifts for appearing in bowl games and discounts on services like scooter rentals.
College programs may serve as minor leagues for the NFL and the NBA, but players need to realize that, for now, their worth comes from the logo on their jersey as much as their talent. When it comes down to it, the majority of the revenue brought in by athletic programs (ticket sales, broadcast revenue and alumni donations) is due to the university’s overall brand, not individual players. Though each player contributes to the success of the school’s athletic program, trying to assign a dollar value to each player, as a recent National College Players Association study does, just doesn’t make sense in the current system.
From one college student to another: Take the education over a paycheck.
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