Davis: Student-athletes deserve financial compensation



Imagine a business that creates a very desirable product. This business can sell tickets, merchandise and negotiate media deals that earns itself close to a billion dollars in profit each year. This company has more than 400,000 employees feeding the profits but they don’t have to pay any one of them a single dime.

This ingenious business model is the very structure of the NCAA: the so-called “non-profit” association that organizes college athletics
in the United States.

Recently, former college and professional basketball player Ed O’Bannon has taken charge against the NCAA’s injustices and become the lead plaintiff in an antitrust class action lawsuit. O’Bannon, along with the other plaintiffs, argue that student athletes should be entitled to financial compensation for the NCAA’s commercial use of their images. The lawsuit may not have accomplished anything yet, but it has started the conversation about a very real issue.

I can distinctly remember as a young boy asking my parents how much college athletes were paid. I was shocked when they answered my question by saying “college athletes aren’t paid, Sam, they’re in college,” and as an impressionable young child does, I accepted the statement as fact and proceeded to live my life.

But as most young college students do, I tend to question things,especially the things I spend a lot of my time watching, reading and writing about. In my opinion the question shouldn’t be “why should college athletes be paid” but rather, “why aren’t college athletes paid?”

Many would say that student-athletes are more than fairly reimbursed for their services to their schools. It’s true that most college athletes receive scholarships for tuition, a place to stay and eat, as well as a multitude of other free services aimed at fulfilling their academic and athletic needs. But is that enough considering that all of it can be taken away in an instant upon injury or once their talents are no longer deemed necessary?

Being a college athlete is a full-time job. With morning workouts, class, practice, homework and study time, there’s no time for these young players to do anything else. Their entire lives for as long as they remain at school, are centered around their sport and making sure they are good enough to stay on the field or on the court so they can earn millions of dollars in profits for their school and the NCAA: profits they cannot touch.

Amateurism in college sports is dead. There is big money being made, but it’s not falling into the right hands. We live in a country where if you possess a unique talent or idea it can be marketed and make money overnight, but for some reason if that talent or idea comes from a college athlete no payment is necessary.

There is no one way to fix this evident and ever-increasing problem. The question will soon become “who do we pay?” and “how much?”

Those questions are to be answered later, but for now the continued injustice must be resolved. Paying student-athletes wouldn’t hurt the games we know and love; we have seen the competitive nature of professional sports remain, despite constant salary increase. It is likely that fans would even see increased performance on the playing-field as players would work harder and smarter in hopes of staying on the payroll. The college game may improve even further if players choose to delay their departure to more-professional leagues like the NFL and the NBA as a result of fair compensation.

When you break it down, all sports are forms of entertainment. Students, staff, alumni and fans around the globe indulge in the billion-dollar industry that is college sports on a daily basis, and the entertainers aren’t being paid.


  • Updated Jun. 22, 2014 at 4:40 pm
  • Yep

    College athletes don’t need to be paid. They are students being taught their future profession. These are students that plan on pursuing their intended choice of profession after college is done with, just like any other student at a University. While Joe goes to KU all day to become an engineer or accountant, Wayne Selden goes to KU to become a professional basketball player. While Dr. Shaftel is Joe’s teacher, Bill Self is Wayne’s teacher. They are at school to learn, not to make money. Joe holds down a job and takes internships because that’s what he needs to do to get a job in the future. Wayne practices during the morning and night and whenever else he can find time so that he can get a job in the future. Oh, and Wayne has his schooling paid for. Joe doesn’t. And you ask “Is it enough” if they could be injured and/or lose their scholarship? Why, yes it is. What makes one think they would continue to be paid if they got injured? How is an athlete getting paid to play make that scenario any different?

    And competition would drastically go down. Do you really think mid-majors would stand a chance against basketball powerhouses like KU, UK, Duke or North Carolina? Schools who have millions to spend on basketball talent against schools who don’t? The problem with any professional sport is the top market teams against small market teams. It’s the reason the Yankees go to the playoffs consistently and the Royals don’t. And it’d end up being the reason the same 68 teams would be in the tournament if athletes were paid.

    Paying student athletes wouldn’t help, it would hurt.