A new American dream of making a huge living in sports at both the collegiate and professional level is rapidly growing. Today’s youth strive to join the ranks of the greatest who ever played a sport, and college is the beginning of that dream. At this level athletes forfeit a great deal to be able to spend hours each day practicing. Currently, a college athlete cannot be given money or marketed in a way that profits the school or the athlete. A growing controversy centers on whether these athletes deserve to make money for all their hard work.
Every year, the NCAA and universities earn millions of dollars from athletes that every average Joe loves to watch. For instance, the University of Southern California (USC) probably made a few million from their stars Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush. Should these athletes be given some of the earnings since the money was made because of them? When considering this, one question must be addressed: what is the purpose of college, and is an athlete’s decision to attend reason enough to deny them compensation?
At college, getting an education should remain the most important purpose. When an exceptional athlete attends, however, it is often their goal to showcase their talents and take easy classes. Art school students can sell their paintings, science students can publish their findings, and journalism majors can have an article published. Is it the same to be able to receive money for producing a marketable talent for a school’s athletics department? Can we bring ourselves to pay a teenager millions more than some second-rate professionals who had to work to gain any natural talent that they were not blessed with? Some say that paying college athletes will make professional sports obsolete because more athletes who are unable to make it in the pros (but have the talent to star in college) will find a means to go to school.
The decision to pay college athletes would have many reparations. Is it ethically right to pay a college athlete? College is where the line has been drawn and a garrison has risen to protect it. If the populace were to concede and pay someone who plays sports, then America would see people clamoring for outstanding high school athletes to be paid, which, of course, is absurd. College is where one should gain the education to succeed in life. Some may attend college, but because they’re getting paid to play sports, learn nothing and consequently suffer when the real world hits them on graduation day, and their sports career doesn’t pan out, or is derailed by injury.
The decision to pay college athletes, prodigies or not, would be a very grievous mistake. The point of college sports is two-fold. First, an exceptional athlete can refine skills and prepare for that next level where they can reap the rewards of their years of hard labor. Secondly, college sports serve to give students extracurricular activities to help them through the difficult academic life. I hope that the greed of America’s youth will never outweigh the importance of a good work ethic and a tough, yet valuable education.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.