Val Ackerman, commissioner of the Big East Conference, and Larry Scott, commissioner of the Pac-12 Conference, argue paying student athletes would turn them into professional players first and students second. They say most college athletes are scholarship students and are among the first in their families to go to college. College athletics is supposed to provide a route to higher education. Paying students would put their education in the back seat.
College is a time for learning, and college sports provide young men and women alike a chance to learn, grow, graduate and achieve great things in life. College graduates make more in earnings than non-graduates, and for countless students, it's athletics that give them the chance to get a degree and become successful.
We hope the day never arrives when students are paid salaries, turned into professionals because of lawsuits that disregard these critical principles. These are not professional athletes. They're students. It's that simple.
Most students who play in college do not go professional. The purpose behind college athletics goes beyond business.
Of the 1,210 students who played Division I men's basketball in 2013 (the latest year data is available), only 3.9% were drafted into the National Basketball Association.
The overwhelming majority of college students who play a sport know that college will be the last time they suit up and play competitively a game they've enjoyed since they were kids. They recognize that college is ultimately about getting a degree and getting ready for life long after their playing days are over.
Jay Bilas, a sports analyst and advocate for college athlete compensation, told Complex the NCAA fundamentally operates like a business. It should own up to that and pay student athletes, because students are the ones who are doing all the work. The NCAA profits off video games with players' likenesses but won't share any of the money. Meanwhile, coaches and other staff are making insane amounts of money. Everyone in college sports makes a lot of money but the students.
"Well, college sports is a commercial enterprise. If they ran it the way Division III runs it, like Williams College or Amherst, where they don’t charge admission [it might not be a commercial enterprise]. The NCAA does not charge admission for tournaments in Division II and Division III. They charge in Division I. They charge big money. And they sell it, they sell it to television.
It is intellectually dishonest to say paying student athletes will somehow ruin the game or their school experience. Student athletes are already getting an experience separate from the average student. The NCAA is actively exploiting the student athletes to make money. Then the organization turns around and says not paying the students is for their own good. It doesn't make sense. If money is so corrupting, shouldn't the NCAA give up its profits?
"So everything teeters on the athlete? Every responsibility is on the athlete? Nobody ever said, 'If we start paying these coaches hundreds of millions of dollars the game is going to crumble.' Nobody says that. Nobody says, 'If we start putting these things on TV and we start having billion-dollar television contracts the game is going to go to hell.' Nobody says that. 'If we start charging hundreds and hundreds of dollars for tickets, nobody is going to come to the games anymore.' Nobody says that. And, 'If we start selling jerseys with the player’s number on them, that ain’t right, that’s going to ruin the game.' Nobody says that.