What the Howl?

By Ashley Parnell
On April 3, 2014

Should college athletes get paid? This has been a question for the ages, and it’s easy to see a reason why student athletes should start getting paid when seeing players like Johnny Manziel or Stephen Strasburg. Playing for a college takes incredible talent and extreme dedication.

While universities, athletic conferences and the NCAA make millions from these players’ performances, students are compensated with scholarships worth much less than the contracts resulting from their skills.

With the amount of money being generated by college sports, many people argue that not paying the athletes for their work is unfair and must be changed.

Aside from tuition and fees, athletes are provided with tutors, trainers, nutritionists and other minor conveniences which are easy to overlook.

In a potentially game-changing moment for college athletics, the Chicago district of the National Labor Relations Board ruled last week that Northwestern football players qualify as employees of the university and can unionize.

NLRB regional director Peter Sung Ohr cited the players’ time commitment to their sport and the fact that their scholarships were tied directly to their performance on the field as reasons for granting them union rights.

Ohr wrote in his ruling that the players “fall squarely within the National Labor Relations Act’s broad definition of ‘employee’ when one considers the common law definition of ‘employee.’”

A prime example of why many student athletes believe they should be paid is the University of Florida. Gator football brings in almost $600 million in revenue.

“On the field they are making the school millions and millions from revenue from TV deals,” Judd Davis said in a press release.

Davis, who played for the gators in the early ‘90s, said the athletes are the ones generating those funds.

“When you walk into one of the stores on campus and you see Percy Harvin’s name or Tim Tebow’s and they are selling these jerseys for a hundred dollars apiece, and Tim Tebow and Percy do not get one penny while they’re playing... It just doesn’t make any sense.”

Advocates of players getting paid will undoubtedly praise the move because it is one step closer to players getting their share of the revenue they help generate, while opponents could view this as a ruling that could drastically change college athletics forever.

If players are employees, that could bring along a long line of unintended consequences including major tax issues. If players are employees, the value of a football scholarship and all of the benefits that come along with it would theoretically be taxable.

Perhaps we are overlooking how much the value of education is worth itself. A-State students on average pay $60,000 for a bachelor’s degree, including living on campus.

With the knowledge that their education may give them, some student athletes use their degree to make millions after graduating. A college education is worth far more than the dollar amount it is given.

Less than two percent of student athletes will go professional, so maybe there is a bigger picture. Universities maintain athletic programs to draw attention to their school, to promote the brand in a way.

Money earned at college sports venues goes into the bettering of the university itself, something that benefits all the students and encourages future students.

There is no question that college is for education, improvement and requires dedication just as sports do. But is an education alone enough for the amount of time and energy put into playing a sport?

On average, a full Division 1 scholarship is $25,000 per year according to NCAA.com. That’s $100,000 over four years. It seems like a lot, but if you think about it, that hardly covers the basics. It covers thousands of dollars in mysterious, unknown university fees, tuition, housing, a meal-plan and multiple hundred-dollar textbooks.

“I can see and understand both sides of this issue. On one hand, scholarship athletes are getting paid—it’s just in the form of a full educational scholarship. On the other hand, I can see how the total costs of a four year degree may not be equal to the four year revenues that are generated as a result of the scholarship athlete, and I can understand why this is a serious issue to some,” said Sharon Lee, a former ASU basketball player.

“My advice to any scholarship athlete is this: do not leave school without your college degree, which is essentially your paycheck. After all, this is what you were promised—an opportunity to obtain a college education which can lead to a successful future after the end of your sports career. An unfinished degree is equivalent to a ‘voided paycheck’ which is bad inventory for any university. You have earned that opportunity; be sure to take the finished product, your degree/paycheck, with you before you leave.”

Being an athlete is a full-time job. Some student athletes here at A-State have another job along with being an athlete and a full time student. Is that fair to them, is that even possible to balance?

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