The Wide World of Sports: Pay for Play?


Parker Abate

Parker Abate, Columnist

The media has reported that in 2005, Reggie Bush, then Heisman Trophy winner, and current professional football running back, was given improper benefits by the University of Southern California. This is just the most recent scandal that regards colleges paying student athletes. This scandal, and many others that have happened in the past, always raise the question: Should college athletes be paid? This has been a heavily debated topic for a long time, but especially in the 21st century.

At one of college football’s powerhouses, Ohio State University,  tuition and fees cost just under $40,000 per year. At big football schools like OSU, the majority of players receive full scholarships. If a player keeps the scholarship and plays for four years that would be a total of $160,000 that he did not have to pay because of scholarship funding. This is why it blows my mind when some people argue that college athletes should be paid.

That Ohio State player saved $160,000, and that should be considered his salary, paycheck and scholarship money all in one. Not only are these players going to college to play football, but they’re receiving a great education for almost no cost. It is always amazing to me how people don’t take that into consideration when arguing this topic. Many students come out of college with huge debts. These scholarships spare athletes that hardship. Not only do they have an incredible college experience, they have a head start on other people their age because they have no debt. The counter-arguers complain that these student athletes don’t have time for a job to earn a salary. But what about the hefty amounts of money these athletes or their parents are saving? The athletes are not necessarily making money, but they’re saving a whole lot.

Another often used counter argument is that because universities are making millions off of athletics, student athletes deserved to be paid. The reasoning behind this is that the athletes are the source of the multi-million dollar profits. This would make sense if it were true. In 2014, Representative Jim Moran did a study on colleges and their athletic programs. He came to the conclusion that only 20 colleges and universities in the Football Bowl Subdivision have athletic departments with revenue exceeding expenses. As hard as that may be to believe, it is true. These schools lose money because of the large scholarships they give in addition to transportation, facilities maintenance, equipment, and other costs that come with running an athletic department.

Can you imagine if colleges were permitted to offer money to certain players who they believed deserved it? The bigger schools would become more dominant, smaller schools less relevant, and pay-for-play could potentially cause even more corruption in college athletics. The great thing about college athletics is that coaches use all kinds of recruiting tactics. This should never change into a bidding war like professional sports does during a free agency.

Think about it: student-athlete. Notice that “student” comes first. These students are not professionals. Coaches tell their athletes that getting a good education is a priority. These kids are in college for an education first and sports second. Playing a college sport is a privilege. There is no reason to fill up student athletes with benefits. What about the academic teams that win championships for their schools? These students are at school on academic scholarships, yet no one argues that these hard working, dedicated, gifted students should receive benefits other than the original scholarships they were granted.

As a student athlete at a Division III school, I am not writing this because I am jealous of Division I athletes and the athletic money that they receive. I am writing this simply because this heavily debated topic has always been an interest of mine. The pay-for-play prohibition has not stopped the greatest college athletes from participating in college athletics in the past, and that will never change. College athletes do so many things for a college or university. They create community, enthusiasm, and passion throughout campus. They receive scholarships, achieve great social status, and enjoy a college experience. The NCAA has gotten this right since it was founded, so there is no reason to change it for the worse.