Should College Athletes Be Paid?

According to a new report, the fair-market value of a Division I football or men’s basketball player is more than $100,000. The report, penned by an advocacy group which believes that college athletes should be paid, shockingly concludes that college athletes should be paid.

Given that big-time programs can generate upwards of $20 million in just TV revenue, there is some validity to this argument. Given the fact that head coaches are paid $1 million or $2 million or $4 million a year, there is additional validity to this argument. The notion that it’s important to preserve the amateurism of college sports is rendered absurd by modern coaching salaries.

But I still have mixed feelings about the idea of paying college athletes. And I still have questions about it:

— While many athletes come from impoverished backgrounds, how did their parents manage to clothe and feed them before the students left for college? Couldn’t those parents lend some financial support?

— If only football and men’s basketball players are paid, doesn’t that further remove those sports from the auspices of being part of the educational process? How far are we willing to carry this charade?

— Isn’t it silly to suggest that athletes on full scholarships are living below the poverty line when their room and board is provided? I would think that if you don’t need to worry about your next meal or about a roof over your head, then you’re better off than a lot of people in this country.

— Isn’t it foolish to argue that paying college athletes would eliminate the black market that results in rules violations? If athletes are paid, they’ll simply want to be paid more, and there will be boosters willing to lend a hand.

— While there’s no doubt that the revenue generated by top-tier college athletes exceeds their compensation, there’s also nothing that says they have to be a college athlete. If they feel they are under-compensated, can’t they take their vast array of skills and go get a job? Hard to say they aren’t part of the free market when they have even more options than your typical 20-year-old — get a job or accept a scholarship.

— If we pay athletes because their sports generate revenue, does that mean we eliminate scholarships for wrestlers and volleyball players and softball players because their sports don’t generate revenue?

The argument about whether college athletes should be paid is not going away. If some additional compensation is provided, the argument will turn to whether they should be paid more.

And if we’re truly interested in turning big-time college sports into a free market, then we’ll remove those sports from the colleges. Until then, the system will remain a exercise in contradictions.

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