The debate on whether college athletes should be paid recently gained relevance after several athletes, including University of Central Florida’s kicker Donald De La Haye, were indefinitely suspended from their respective teams for making money off of their image as college athletes.
Many student-athletes said that playing a sport while having to do well in school is a huge commitment and worthy of pay. The athletes also disagreed with how the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) was using them to make a profit and promote themselves.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, the NCAA believes athletes are already given several advantages and have the perks of popularity and respect on campus. Also ,many are accepted into the school over an applicant with better academics. While all college sports, particularly at the Division I level, are major commitments for student-athletes, this controversy mostly revolves around football and basketball.
When I was young, I enjoyed watching March Madness and the annual Bowl Games at the end of each college basketball and football season. One of my favorite moments was before the game when the players ran onto the court or the field in front of thousands of devoted, cheering fans. That was every little kid’s dream, including my own, and it seemed as if these 18-year olds were living a life full of media and attention while getting to do something they loved.
As I became older, I realized that there was a year of grueling practice before the glory of March Madness and the Bowl Games. I learned that teams had to earn their way to the postseason and that their success was due to 5:00 a.m. wakeups, eating copious amounts of protein, and working out in the gym. After watching several “Day in the Life” documentaries, I saw that college athletes work just as hard as professionals to improve their game and help the team win, but they aren’t paid.
What many college sports fans forget is that every player is also a student. Yes, it may be true that these athletes would not have necessarily gotten into the school because of a lower GPA than other applicants, but they provide the school with a skill of theirs that improves the school’s reputation. The “Day in the Life” YouTube videos show athletes such as Marvin Bagley III or Saquon Barkley spending many of their days in the classroom. People joke that players take the easiest classes, but they are still required to go to class and pass their courses, and they face serious punishment, such as not starting or dressing for the upcoming game, if they skip.
Even at the high school level, students talk about how they are too tired to go to practice at the end of each day. Since everybody is a student-athlete here at BB&N, we all know that keeping up with school work and playing a sport, regardless of what level, is demanding and time-consuming. In college, there are double the practices each day and even more school work, so one can only imagine the organization and dedication it takes to be a Division I college athlete.
Loyola University Chicago shocked the basketball world by advancing all the way to the Final Four in the March Madness Tournament. Not only did the team gain the school popularity, but also, according to The Chicago Tribune, it brought in $8.5 million for the basketball program and school and their respective conference. Not a cent was given to the players. The NCAA should not be making all of this revenue when it is the team that worked to win.
The NCAA does not even have to pay the players themselves—they just need to let the players make some cash off of their college career. De La Haye, the kicker for UCF, was recently ruled ineligible and asked to leave the school before the 2017 season because he was making money off his YouTube channel from the advertisements. He would post videos of his workouts and trick shots with friends, which garnered lots of popularity and fan support. The NCAA rules that players can’t hold on-campus jobs because they promote the student-athlete’s image, which is unfair to regular students. YouTube provides a convenient space for them to promote their interests while getting decent pay—yet this is unacceptable in the eyes of the NCAA.
Playing a Division I sport in college is a demanding commitment often outshined by the bright lights and packed stadiums and arenas on the weekends. What fans forget is the endless work on and off the field and court, in or outside of a classroom, that takes place Monday through Friday for a student-athlete to be successful. It’s time that they are rewarded financially.