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Should College Athletes Be Paid to Play the Game?

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In January 2014, some Northwestern University College students petitioned the National Labor Relations Boards (NLRB) to register a union. The athletes were after all, following in the footsteps of their coaches; it’s estimated that seven college basketball coaches and seventeen college football coaches are paid more than $3 million annually. The NCAA, however, disagrees with the decision, stating that federal laws do not categorize students as employees.

The clearest argument for paying college athletes points to the fact for example that a typical Division 1 College Football player spends 3.3-hours more in sports than a typical worker who works 40-hours a week. The other argument stems from the fact that the NCAA makes nearly $11 billion annually from all college sports. This amount is more than the combined revenues of NHL and NBA professional leagues. Indeed, during last season’s March Madness event, the NCAA made a whopping $750 million from television rights. Turner Sports and CBS, the main broadcasters of the March Madness event made over $1 billion in ad revenues.

Because of the big money involved in college sports; Universities and colleges have invested heavily in building sports infrastructure, with the aim of enticing athletes. The construction of Lowell Steven’s Football Facility at the University of Arizona and USC’s John McKay Center cost the institutions $72 million and $70 million respectively. Despite the top dollars in college sports, college athletes have to work hard by balancing studies with sports engagement. Most college athletes are forced to skip classes, which mean they have to continually make amends in order to recover the missed sessions. All these hassles, in addition to the risk of ending their careers because of injuries every time they play, make it a valid argument to remunerate the athletes. 

What makes this argument more compelling is the fact that most of the revenues collected from college athletes do no support classroom projects. Those who support the idea of paying athletes add that it’s unfair for athletes to work hard and create so much more, yet have nothing to show for it. One of such athletes is Nick Johnson; the top scorer and brand ambassador of the Arizona Wildcats in last season’s men’s basketball team. This valuable athlete is estimated to have earned his university about $2.25 million. This excludes the exposure he has given college basketball and the university.

It’s also critical to acknowledge that getting a college degree is not a simple walk in the park. Indeed, the whole idea of making grades to earn a degree can be very stressful and frustrating. However, unlike most college students, who have to painfully struggle to pay their tuition, college athletes have the advantage of having numerous scholarships readily available. 


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