Should the NCAA Pay College Athletes?


By: Maggie McPherson

Copy edited by: Kevin Qiao and Stefon Wynter

Research Edited by: Stefon Wynter

Format edited by: Arthur Carlton-Jones

College athletes make billions of dollars for the NCAA, which begs the question: Why don’t they get payed? Some think college athletes should be amateurs, while other thinks they should be treated as professionals. Regardless, it seems to be that college athletes are beginning to minimize their time in the NCAA in order to move on to the pros, where they can get paid for their efforts. This could cause sports fans to grow disinterested in college sports as the major stars begin to leave earlier and earlier. So, how can the NCAA implement a new system that treats athletes more fairly, while still maintaining the amateur spirit of college sports?

Don’t Ruin the Spirit of the Game

There are a few ideas floating around that try to answer this question. Many college sports fans believe the athletes shouldn’t be paid. This attitude is most common among college alumni. According to Kurt Scott, in his article “Breaking Down Why the NCAA Absolutely Must Pay Exploited Athletes,” this is because they feel a sort of “nostalgia” for their college days and like to think the athletes they watch are living the way they did.[1] So, instead of paying them, why not just increase the other benefits? They already often get free tuition, tutoring, fitness training, meals etc., so just give them a little more. In fact, many think that is the best plan of action. Howard P. Chudacoff of The Wall Street Journal, in his article “Let’s Not Pay College Athletes,” argues that although athletes do not get an actual salary, they get paid enough through scholarships and other benefits.[2] Chudacoff believes the athletes are already undeservedly treated like royalty, and paying them would only add to such treatment.

Additionally, there are complications of who should pay the athletes, the colleges? Or the NCAA? Convincing the NCAA to surrender money would be a difficult task, but many colleges simply can’t afford to pay their athletes, or at least, not as well as some of the richer colleges out there. There is the difficulty of creating an imbalance in the competition as all the star players would be pulled to the richest colleges.

Work Hard, Get Paid

On the other side, those who are more involved with the athletes usually wants to throw all these arguments out the window. They find that all the arguments against paying them pale in comparison to the mere fact that the athletes do the work, and yet the NCAA gets the pay. Scott argues that most college athletes put in about three hour practices every day, on top of games and work outs. He claims they have no time to study, making scholarships useless. The athletes may get some fame and some extra fun, but that is not much and does not last, especially for the athletes not headed for the pros. Many athletes end up with an awful education, no money, and no future.

So, pay them what they want, pay them what they need, and pay them what they deserve. In response to the problem of the imbalance of competition due to the imbalance of available funds, Joe Nocera suggests minimum and maximum salary caps in his article for The New York Times, “Let’s Start Paying Athletes.”[3] Some even take a more radical approach and say that colleges sports should separate from the college and create their own program. Louis Barbash, a writer for The Washington Monthly, is one advocate for this approach. She claims the athletic programs should be run similarly to university hospitals. The teams would remain affiliated with the colleges but would still be independent. The NCAA could pay them and treat them as professionals. Unfortunately, this approach essentially throws the old college student-athlete feel out the window.

So, What?

It has become increasingly clearer that the NCAA should change something if they want to survive, and paying the athletes seems to be the only plausible solution.  Overall it seems that the athletes deserve to be paid, and if the NCAA wants to continue attracting players, they’re going to have to compensate them for their work.