Should student athletes be paid? It should not be overlooked that many larger college athletic programs are seeing an increase in their yearly revenue. In 2010, some of the top college athletic programs generated a revenue of $1 billion and in 2014, that number rose to $11 billion. About 50 colleges in 2014 reported a revenues exceeding $50 million and five colleges reported revenues exceeding $100 million. Still, the National College Athletics Association maintains rules against the payment of college athletes.
Ohio State University, with one of the largest athletic budgets in the nation, spends about $110,000 on each of their 980 athletes almost triple the cost per each student for undergraduate education. This budget also pays for the men’s basketball coach to travel about 11 hours or $65,000 worth of miles in a private jet plane for scouting and another 15 hours for personal travel. While OSU’s athletic budget grew by 46% from 2000 to 2005, the household income dropped by 9.3%. This just further reinforces college sports as a blossoming industry.
The basketball and football teams at OSU, however, are the only sports actually generating a profit. Overall, these two teams are funding the other 34 varsity teams at OSU, that excluding basketball and football generated a revenue of $1.5 million. This may seem like a considerable amount, but just to put this in perspective, the women’s ice hockey team made a profit of about $1,642, but had an operating cost of about $1.2 million. Among other colleges this is also a common trend, along with perpetual need for new equipment, job positions, etc. Yet, most of the athletic earnings go into the general fund to aid in scholarships, tutors for student athletes and maintenance, operations and security. However, this does not offer any clear vantage point or evidence for paying college athletes.
From these excesses, college coaches are reaping the benefits with average salary of $2 million for football and $4 million in basketball. But the coaches are not the only people making money off of the athletes. There are also the advertising hustlers, television suits, arena operators, concession hawkers, athletic gear manufacturers and retailers, university administrators, coaches and sports media noisemakers. All the while many of these athletes come from homes where they were living beneath the poverty line, come to these colleges and earn the school large sums of money without any form of retribution. Most of these athletes, come to college not for the education, but to be scouted for professional teams. This leads to the argument that these athletes are not even being compensated through education as costs as majority will not and do not care to finish.
But, in paying student athletes more problems would come about. For example, what is the determining factor for being paid? Performance? Participation in a revenue creating team? If basketball and football are the only sports creating a profit, should the participating team members be the only ones paid? In order to pay players on other sports teams funds from revenue sports would have to be used. In not paying all sports equally, the college would risk being in violation of Title IX. Further, some argue that athletes are already being compensated for playing through having their education, housing, food, etc. paid for, estimated at a value between $50,000 and $125,000.
In August 2014, however, the case for paying college athletes made huge strides when federal Judge Claudia Wilken of United States District Court in Oakland, California made the decision against the NCAA’s rules against athletes making money from the teams use of their names and images in games and on television. This ruling would take effect in 2016, and would allow the athletes in the top ten football conferences and all Division I men’s basketball players to earn a share of the billions they generate in a trust fund for after graduation. Though this is a somewhat tentative foray into the payment of college athletes, who knows what the future holds?