"Money and student athletics is a muddy issue. Without the university they would have no place to compete and no exposure. Compensation? How about the value of a free education?"
– Judy Rose
The term “student-athlete” is ingrained in the college sports vernacular. It applies to a student that is enrolled in a college and plays sports while studying for a degree. Although athletes are recruited to compete in sports, "most of them" are required to live up to the same academic, moral and ethical standards as other students. And many forget they are students playing sports, not professionals.
In 1906, The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), a nonprofit organization, was founded to oversee the rules and playing conditions for student athletes in American universities. Today, it regulates 1,268 institutions and conferences. It oversees 480,000 athletes who compete annually in college sports. The NCAA sets policies for universities and players to maintain sports credibility.
The U.S. Supreme Court recently handed down a heavily caveated victory for college athletes in their unanimous ruling in the National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Alston dispute. The court ruled student athletes can receive additional college-related earnings for education expenses. But this case could have broader implications that could destroy the tradition of competitive college sports.
“I fear the courts will now someday completely destroy the collegiate model."
– Bubba Cunningham
This decision is another chapter in a legal saga that began in 2014 between the NCAA and a group of high profile college athletes. This group of athletes, from college Division I sports programs, filed the suit against the NCAA challenging rules that place strict limitations on athlete compensation.
All elite athletes receive scholarships that cover tuition as well as room and board. Many receive private tutoring, free meals, dorm rooms and free medical care. Since this is "college" they don't receive "astronomic salaries" like professional athletes do. But their compensation is more than many U.S. workers make. A full scholarship can be as much as $50,000 a year at a Division I school.
The NCAA is a multi-billion dollar industry that benefits both the students and colleges. The NCAA financial aid programs such as the Student-Athlete Opportunity Fund provide need-based aid and assists them with Federal Pell Grants. Most athletes do not pay a dime to go to a first rate national university and can obtain an equitable degree that will benefit them for a lifetime.
"A college degree is the key to realizing the American dream and well worth the financial sacrifice."
– Dan Rather
With today's "the world owes me a living" attitude, student athletes believe since sports brings in a lot of money to universities, they should get some too. These prima-donnas feel since they spend so much time dedicated to sports, including games and training, they should get paid. But many of those complaining only go to college to be trained for professional sports and they never graduate.
In 2003, the NCAA introduced the Graduation Success Rate (GSR) to measure athlete academic graduation rates. Teams are penalized if they fall below 50%. Of the top 2020 playoff teams, Notre Dame had a 97% student graduation rate (No. 1 nationally) with Alabama and Clemson only at an acceptable 75%. The average GSR for the top 25 teams was around 50%.
According to the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athlete database, every university invests a great deal on their student athletics. The University of Alabama spends 26 times more annually on a scholarship football player averaging $419,000, compared to $16,000 for the academic students.
"A school without football is in danger of deteriorating into a medieval study hall."
– Vince Lombardi
Some college players claim if they got paid to play they'd feel more motivated to raise their level of performance. Yet the only way they can play in professional sports is after they do well playing in college. Only a handful of professional athletes in the NBA and the NFL never attended a college.
These elite athletes claim colleges bring in big bucks from ticket sales, radio and TV, conference distributions, bowl games, and concessions. And they want their "fair share" of it! But these athletics should learn the facts. The reality is, only a few major top-tier programs make any profit.
“There’s no more money. All but a handful of schools operate in the red.”
– Steve Patterson, UT
According to NCAA revenue data for the 65 Division I power five schools, only 25 reported positive net gains in revenue in 2019. And their median profit was $7.9 million. The 40 schools that reported negative net revenue lost a median of $15.9 million in 2019. And their numbers are worse in 2020.
Much of the college sports revenue pays for athletic and academic scholarships. A great deal is reinvested in the athletic programs, equipment and training facilities. The rest of the earnings pay the coaches and administrators salaries. In fact, some small colleges and those in smaller markets lose money. In order to keep athletic programs, they cut education budgets just to keep them afloat.
A study by Bleacher Report revealed college players that go to the NFL have average careers that last under four years. When players leave school early and don't graduate, universities are simply a farm system for the NFL. Those that graduate before going to the NFL have better paying careers after the NFL.
"It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves."
– William Shakespeare
Laurence J. Peter wrote, "Against logic there is no armor like ignorance." Many of these athletes are lucky to attend a major university. Alumni associations bend over backwards to help them pass the SAT just to get a scholarship. Then universities coddle them for two years of school with tutors and nursemaids – just to watch them leave for the NFL after training and teaching them their trade."
These elite college athletes that think universities can't live without them should spend more time in the classroom and less in the training room. Colleges bring value to students in the classrooms and in the athletic programs. No athlete brings more value to a college than that college brings to them. It's an oxymoron for any elite college jock to think that they should be paid to go to college.
"All of us should thank our Lord everyday, just for the opportunity to play this game."
– Tim Tebow
For years victory-hungry coaches have gone the extra mile to recruit a high school star only to be disappointed when that jock ends up in trouble on campus or has legal problems. Coaches have tolerated bad attitudes from good players so long, now those players want more. If colleges want to maintain their education integrity, they have to recruit players who get high marks on their SATs, and are team players in and out of classrooms. They will have better students and better athletes.
"To convert college sports into professional sports would be tantamount to converting it into minor league sports. And we all know that minor league sports aren’t very successful.”
– Mark Emmert