Not only is college athletics a billion-dollar machine that generates obscene profits for schools, it doesn't actually have to pay the labor responsible for those profits. And before you get on your high horse about higher education, ESPN's Jay Bilas thinks paying students might actually encourage students to stay in college longer before going pro:
They might stay longer. Now, you’re not gonna get the top pick. Like Kentucky’s not gonna get Karl-Anthony Towns to stay longer, but they may get some of the other guys to stay longer. They may decide, 'You know what, I’m making money here.' When you start making money, then you can go when you’re ready. I think part of the culture has become: 'If you don’t want to be here, go.' Instead of: 'No, it’s good for you to be here.' If we really think it’s good for kids to stay in school, why shouldn’t we provide incentives for them to stay? It’s a good thing.
Ekow N. Yankah argues paying student athletes would make the NCAA's exploitation of black athletes completely transparent and would undermine any positive contributions student athletics can bring to a campus:
But this understates the exploitation. The athletes in major football and men’s basketball programs are disproportionately black, many from poor and educationally disadvantaged backgrounds. For too many of them, the N.C.A.A. is the only game in town. In some dispiriting cases, the students are so unprepared that academic failure seems inevitable. In worse cases still, their scholarships are cynically undermined by the schools themselves. Coaches steer students into empty classes (what one recent report from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill characterized as a “shadow curriculum”) or supply so-called academic support that amounts to cheating. It hardly seems coincidental, then, that sports with less African-American participation, such as baseball and hockey, maintain robust minor-league systems without the national gnashing of teeth.
Malarkey! Want one good reason to pay student athletes? Here are 21! Almost all of them basically reiterate that it's disingenuous to call them student athletes; they're asked to work more than full-time employees and often told to compromise their education.
1. The typical Division I college football player devotes 43.3 hours per week to his sport — 3.3 more hours than the typical American work week. ... 4. Meanwhile, the annual NCAA men’s basketball tournament affects more than six days of classes (truly “Madness” if the players aren’t “employees”). 5. At some schools, the road to the NCAA men’s basketball championship may require student-athletes to miss up to a quarter of all class days during their Spring semester. ... 8. [In 2014], the University of Alabama reported $143.3 Million in athletic revenues — more than all 30 NHL teams and 25 of the 30 NBA teams. 9. Much of the huge revenues collected from college athletics do not go directly back into the classroom.
Money makes a good argument that paying student athletes a salary is probably a losing proposition, because if they make $100,000 per year—after you take out taxes and the average cost of attendance—they're left with just $100.
So, a student-athlete paid a salary would owe $23,800 in federal income tax and $6,700 in state taxes, a total of $30,500. In cities that levy an employee payroll tax, the salaried student’s taxes go up about $2,400 per year. Income taxes then are $32,900. And, as an employee, the player would have to pay at least $2,000 in other taxes, such as Social Security, for a total of $34,900. This leaves the college player with $65,100. Since college bills come to $65,000, the player has $100 left.
You want to know how unfair this is? Student athletes can't even accept endorsements. No other work-study job prohibits students from using their skills for money on the side. Journalism students can freelance for professional media companies, music students can work freelance, etc.
If you won't give student athletes a piece of a pie, at least let them collect endorsements:
Simply put, if some company, large or small, wants to make a student-athlete an endorser, and the student-athlete wants to do it, let them do it. And then what we'd have is a system where the best players in the biggest sports would be financially compensated, and the system wouldn't cost the NCAA or its member institutions a penny.
That's ridiculous. The moment we start reducing college sports to a business, and removing college from the equation, we might as well get rid of college athletics. The point is to give these kids an education, not to make lots of money. Students get an opportunity to learn skills that will last them well after their athletic careers. The rest of us have to take out student loans—athletes are the lucky ones!
Students are not professional athletes who are paid salaries and incentives for a career in sports. They are students receiving access to a college education through their participation in sports, for which they earn scholarships to pay tuition, fees, room and board, and other allowable expenses. Collegiate sports is not a career or profession. It is the students' vehicle to a higher education degree. This access is contingent upon continued enrollment, participation in the sport for which they received the scholarship, and academic eligibility. The NCAA Student Assistance Fund can be used to help those student-athletes who have unusual needs in excess of the usual cost of attendance. A high percentage of student-athletes graduate without the burden of student loans, which most other students accumulate.