For decades, college athletes performed for their schools without the expectation of any reimbursement for their performances. College athletics always has been an amateur spectacle because, well, the athletes are still in school. Now however, with all the money pouring into college athletics, there has been an increase in discussion over whether or not these amateur athletes deserved compensation. But even with all the money going into college athletics, it would be incredibly difficult and irrational to try and pay all college athletes.
There are many reasons why college athletes should not be paid but to start, one needs to look at how many sports and athletes are actually involved in college athletics. When most people hear college athletics, they think of basketball, football, and maybe baseball. But those are just the major sports at schools. There are several other sports like soccer, track and field, tennis, swimming, and diving. With almost every school in the nation participating in these sports and then having men’s and women’s teams for each sport, that’s thousands of athletes that would have to be paid. Divvying up money amongst all these athletes would be a monumental task and after dividing up the money, each athlete would receive only a miniscule portion because of how many athletes there are. Not only are there thousands of athletes to pay, not every sport brings in as much money as the big time sports.
Every year when March rolls around, basketball fans everywhere look forward to the beginning of the Men’s March Madness College Basketball Tournament. It is estimated that appearing in just one game of the March Madness tournament generates roughly $1.9 million for a team’s conference and a trip to the Final Four generate $9.5 million for a team’s conference. While this is a lot of money, there is only 64 teams that compete in the tournament and 351 total schools in men’s Division I basketball. March Madness and the Bowl Series for college football are the main moneymakers for schools. But what about the swimmers, tennis players, and all the other athletes? While other athletes are just as athletic and talented as the athletes from the “big time sports”, they don’t bring in nearly as much money so it begs the question: if college athletes were to be paid, how would the pay be divvied up between the different sports? Yes, the men’s basketball and football players bring in the most revenue for their schools, but is it fair to pay other athletes less when they compete at the same level? And then what about the bench warmers on teams who rarely ever take the warm-ups off and get into the game, what would they be paid when they didn’t contribute? With all these dilemmas on how the money would be distributed amongst the schools, sports, and athletes it just seems to make more sense to not pay the athletes and to keep college athletics amateur.
With all these reasons to not pay college athletes, there are good cases to be made to pay them. Many advocators for paying college athletes look to how college athletics has had such an influx of money into the big money sports. There are lucrative television deals, independent athletic departments who receive funds separately from the university, and many other endorsements that bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars into schools across the nation. What many people fail to realize is that even though there is all this money going into athletic departments across the country, almost no schools turn a profit at the end of the school year. So even though there’s really no money to give college athletes, let’s assume every school made a profit. Would the lower tier teams be paid less than or the same as the Dukes and North Carolinas? Then there’s also the issue of whether teams from Division II and Division III should be paid. If a decision is made to pay Division I and not pay Division II or III, then that would spell the end of the lower divisions of college athletics because athletes would only want to play for the money of Division I.
There can be cases made to pay college athletes, but for every reason to pay them there are several more reasons not to. With all the money flowing into college athletics, there’s just no way right now to figure out a way to divide that money amongst every single school and athlete in college. The only way to put these discussions to rest for the time being would be to stem the flow of money into college athletics. The idea of paying amateur college athletes is really heating up, and it is something that will continue to be discussed for years to come as more money is brought into the equation.