As football season is getting into full swing, I thought it would be appropriate to write a piece about one of the most hot-button issues in sports—whether or not NCAA athletes should be compensated for their participation in sports.
I am writing not to share my opinion on the matter, but rather to promote a discussion so that others can share their opinions on the matter—so please feel free to leave comments or post your response on social media.
Both sides of the argument bring up great points. On one side, there are supporters of what seems to be the NCAA’s stance on the matter, which is that athletes should not be compensated for their play and that because this group is labeled “student-athletes” and to preserve the sanctity of amateurism, a scholarship to go to the respective school should be adequate “compensation”. On the other side of the spectrum are those that believe student-athletes are being exploited to generate revenue for their schools/NCAA without being adequately compensated for all the money that is brought to the institution due to their play.
It seems—from the former’s perspective—that student-athletes are “pampered royalty” and that there is no need to compensate such a privileged group that already seemingly have so many advantages. It is definitely true that student-athletes on most major Division I campuses enjoy the best facilities, free academic tutoring (debatable if this is really utilized in some cases), and, on occasion, extra benefits from university athletic donors (which is obviously an NCAA violation). It is evidenced in a few Public Infractions Appeals Committee Reports that student-athletes receive benefits like money, automobiles, free housing, and air travel.
On top of that, student-athletes have the opportunity to play in front of thousands of fans in stadiums each week—depending on the sport—and are glorified in a way that makes them seem like royalty. The athletes are also on television sets across the country in front of millions, which brings more fame. In some other cases, it is clear that student-athletes have the option of not doing their academic work, but rather, have tutors that do the student-athletes’ work for them. These are the arguments for why they are considered “pampered royalty” and why student-athletes should not receive compensation for playing their sport; however, the issue with this view is that many do not truly see the reality of the situation of most student-athletes and their academic and scheduling conflicts and the exploitation that goes on behind the scenes.
As to the argument for the side that believes student-athletes should be compensated, it seems that these student-athletes are “exploited victims” and “indentured servants” for their universities. According to 2013-14 data gathered by Daniel Rascher (a sports economists/expert witness who I will interview later so that his perspective and advice on sports law is available to the readers), Division I sports generate over eleven billion dollars in revenue per year—and that number is growing each year. It has been a continuous issue with student-athletes being seen as pampered royalty because of their facilities, the fame that comes along with playing sports, and the other benefits received by student-athletes that are not received by the “regular” student body. However, given the amount of money that these student-athletes generate for their universities, these “extra benefits” do not really amount to much—especially considering they are not allowed to receive anything more than a scholarship for school (which the “school” part is arguably not present in several cases due to the high demand and rigor of a Division I athlete’s schedule) and they are bringing in millions of dollars for their school each year.
In a recent case, O’Bannon v. NCAA, there is the issue of student-athletes having their name, image, and likeness being used in a major video game without the student-athlete signing off on this use or the student-athlete receiving any compensation. This, of course, is a major argument for the side that favors players being compensated. While the NCAA and video game company make millions, the athletes in the video game were being profited on without their permission (sorry to the NCAA gamers on Xbox and PS4—this is why there isn’t a video game out right now). Some argue that these athletes should be “happy” just having the privilege of being on a major video game while the other side argues that this is yet another form of exploiting these student-athletes without allowing them to receive any compensation or protection.
Whatever the case, I am not sure whether this debate will be settled any time soon. As I said before, there are credible arguments for both sides and there are definitely arguments for either side that I did not mention in the article—but hey, that’s why I want you all to share your opinion on the matter and bring new perspectives to the forefront.
I hope this article promotes some type of debate and sharing of ideas & information and I look forward to reading the responses. Be on the lookout for more articles, advice, and interviews that deal with sports and sports law topics very soon.
Thank you for reading and God Bless!
“You go to Chapel Hill and try to go to a Carolina-Duke game, good luck trying to find a ticket. It’s nationally televised. There’s so much money that goes behind just one basketball game. I do think the players from both sides should definitely see some type of benefit.”
Marvin Williams, former UNC-Chapel Hill basketball player
“I don’t think athletes are being exploited. I think there’s a symbiotic relationship there. Without the university platform for them to compete, there is no exposure for them. None. So that experience alone and that opportunity creates the platform for them, for visibility. I just think the money issue has clouded what the real purpose is, regardless of where the money is coming from and how much is coming in. I want the whole story to be told about the value of an education and put dollars to that.”
Judy Rose, athletics director, Charlotte 49ers
– Dale Hutcherson