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Red Card: Cashing Out

May 9, 2018

Recently, it has been a controversial and largely discussed topic in the sports scene whether or not student-athletes should be paid. While they attend college and balance their practice and training schedules, most student-athletes accept the reality that their everyday life feels like a full-time job, so why can’t they receive a salary? As in any great debate, there are always two sides to the argument.When it comes to paying student-athletes, there are those who support it and those who reject the idea.

Those in favor of student-athletes getting paid argue that when coaches, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and athletic programs reap the benefits of successful seasons, deals with television and advertising companies, and the revenue from jam-packed playoff games, it is not fair that the players do not receive any piece of this financial profit.

Even though the NCAA is a non-profit organization, it has the power to delegate lump sums of money across its member institutions. For example, in 2010, the NCAA signed a 10.8 billion dollar 14-year contract with CBS and Turner Broadcasting to televise the men’s basketball tournament. While the NCAA does not profit from the money, it funnels portions of the money across member programs which helps elite programs maintain their financial stability and keeps smaller programs afloat.

On top of the dollars that are funneled into athletic programs from the NCAA to help them prosper, many people in favor of paying student-athletes believe a lot of money is pumped into universities in general because of sports. Universities often use their athletic teams’ successes to advertise and promote their school and gain admissions. While student-athletes are members of their respective sports teams while in college, they are also members of their school’s advertising committee, whether they know it or not.

While coaches and universities across the country help mold young adults through college athletic programs, at the end of the day, the student-athletes are the ones on the courts and fields each day pushing their bodies and risking injury for the success of their team. This is why some critics believe student-athletes should earn at least a small portion of the dollars they help bring into their schools in compensation for their hard work and physical sacrifice.

On the flipside, there are many reasons why paying student-athletes doesn’t make much sense. For example, if scholarships were taken out of the picture and student-athletes were paid employees of their university, they would have to pay taxes. Depending on their salaries and income, this could end up reducing their earnings to where they couldn’t even afford their tuition and living costs. Also, some scholarships aid student-athletes in specific areas like tuition, books, housing, or meal plans. If these athletes received cash salaries, the money could go anywhere, and would probably not stretch as far.

Paying student-athletes has the potential to change the entire idea of what college athletics is all about.

To the athletes, it might feel like a full-time job, but it isn’t; they’re not professionals. Student-athletes receive a rare opportunity to engage in sports at their university, which is actually considered an extracurricular activity that they pursue alongside their academics, not a job. Allowing student-athletes to pursue college athletics as a job could turn college athletics into something that is strictly a business engagement.

Apart from those who either support the idea of paying student-athletes or reject it, I believe there is a third angle in this debate. Who says that student-athletes don’t profit and benefit from the hard work they put in and the exposure they help their institutions receive? Although they might not be financial profits, I have profited in multiple ways from competing on a college sports team for four years. From my point of view, the experience itself is worth a million dollars.

College athletics gave me the opportunity to move away from home and experience a new state, new people and new traditions. I got to see parts of the country I would have never seen before if it had not been for the opportunity to compete across the Southland Conference. I was surrounded by coaches and teammates who helped me peak as a soccer player and grow as a person. Most importantly, I learned about life, grew stronger, and was able to make a difference in the lives of young, aspiring soccer players in the community by sharing my own knowledge and love of the game.

Student-athletes must remember the roots of their dedication and why they chose to pursue a sport in college in the first place. No student-athlete would turn down money in exchange for their efforts, but sometimes the profits come in different forms. Despite the two sides of this current debate in the sports world, as I approach graduation and kiss my college soccer career goodbye, I can’t help but feel that I am still cashing out.

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