Second to None

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Every once in a while, an angry sportswriter will aggressively argue for paying college athletes money for playing their respective sports, most often in the wake of sanctions against high-profile football and basketball programs. The reasons they offer vary but most often fall under three main points: players are the ones who earn the money for the schools, playing baseball or basketball for the school is in effect a full-time job, and that players are treated as overworked slave labor for the schools (a claim that carries a little more shock value considering that most star college players are African-American).

Remember that these teens are students first, and athletes second.

However, the most over looked aspect of this whole debate is that instead of focusing on paying college athletes for performance, more emphasis should be placed upon ensuring that all the athletes have the opportunity to get an education. Teenagers are snapped up and lured away by prestigious universities not to just to develop their skills in a sport they love, but more importantly get a degree with which they may reap the benefits for the rest of their lives. Regardless of the argument it still seems that no matter what the athletes should be considered students first and not be paid.

Remember that these teens are students first, and athletes second.

It is important to note from the start that college athletes are not forced into playing a sport during their years in secondary education. They play in the college level for their passion and desire to succeed, and for this, many college athletes are offered full scholarships. That is not to say that there are not problems though with the scholarship system. Every year hopeful amateurs put themselves through the rigor of being evaluated by scouts, coaches, and managers all in an effort to get drafted by a professional league. Then reality hits. Draft day comes and goes without a phone call and with it no tryout invitations. The vast majority of hopefuls suddenly face the fact that their dream will never be anything more than that (Easterbrook). Athletes are petrified of this situation because it .means that all their hard work went to waste, and in many cases their chance at a superb college degree was squandered on some obscure humanities credit or they graduated with, in essence, a glorified physical education degree. It is situations such as this that are used by proponents of payment to support their points. It has long been proposed that Division I colleges drop their pretenses and simply pay basketball and football players. But this would not solve the problem. Not only would it spoil amateur athletics but it would still deny many players what they most need to advance in life, an education (Easterbrook). Instead it should be proposed that the NCAA ( National Collegiate Athletic Association) require that for every year an athletic scholarship is given, another be given to be used any time in the future for purely academic purposes. This would ensure that no matter what the students would receive an education if they wanted one. Obviously this sort of proposal would be frowned upon by an athletic director who would have to end up paying twice for a student’s education, but there are hidden benefits. Most athletic departments barely make any money, and most lose money for their respective schools (Anderson). If it is required that student-athletes get a second chance then college administrators would try their hardest to ensure that a student graduates on time , to avoid having to pay extra and cut costs. All this would limit the problem of former college stars complaining of their misfortune later in life and having nothing to show for their glory days at an institution. Payment would not be needed for athletes because they former athletes have already been paid in the form of a degree, which will take them farther than a few thousand dollars paid to play.

Remember that these teens are students first, and athletes second.

Most of the voices in favor for payment support mainly big time athletes playing football and basketball, but a ruling on amateur athletics should be representative of all NCAA athletes for the NCAA to pass any sort of ruling on the matter. Often the most frequently used example for payment is cases where a young boy, often black and from an urban ghetto, excels at a sport and receives a scholarship somewhere, only to be caught accepting money and improper benefits to support their families. By simply looking at, for example, the poor prep school basketball star, a small segment of the grassroots of organized sports, the argument for payment obviously becomes stronger. But when the athlete’s difficulties are taken in account in comparison with the average students’ struggles not much is different. Tuition for many schools is rather costly and without the scholarships that some students receive, they would not be able to attend college at all. For these students, college sports offer a great opportunity to have the best of both worlds. They may obtain an education that otherwise would not have been available for them and engage in athletic competition. This allows them opportunity to study something that they can use to build a better life for themselves and their families and follow their dreams (Meshefejian). Many people do not realize that the athletes already get perks to succeed in the form of special tutors, papers written for them, and assignments moved to a more convenient date. If anything, these perks will limit the value of the athlete’s degree from the school, and not really put them in a better position from the inner city that they wanted to escape. Once again there is no need to pay the players but rather educate them and look at a broad example as the basis for any future action, not a few, isolated, high profile cases.

Remember that these teens are students first, and athletes second.




All in all the NCAA does a great job in regulating the ability to cheat, but there are some areas in which its policy of no tolerance for any sort of payment is a hindrance to the students. For example, Jeremy Bloom was a standout stud athlete at the University of Colorado. He was part of the United States Ski Team and played football at Colorado. To help pay for his skiing costs Bloom became sponsored by some sporting goods stores and signed a deal with the U.S. ski team as well. The NCAA however ruled that Bloom had violated its bylaws by receiving an “improper benefit” and would not let him continue to play football for Colorado. As seen in Figure 1, Bloom appealed citing that his sponsorship was completely unrelated to his status as an amateur football player, and he was simply making money on the side as a business deal. His appeal was denied and Bloom was forced to quit the football team (Feinstein). Situations such as these need more leniency and the NCAA need not rule with such an iron fist. There should exist a form of competitive balance but exceptions should exist. Bloom is conducting an individual business marketing himself as a skier, not a football player, and should not be punished for being a multi-sport success. Likewise, there are many cases where an orphaned child could not use money set up in a charitable trust fund, accept jobs from boosters, nor sign a shoe deal. Though the all athletes should not be paid, there should be more leeway given for these athletes to earn some cash off their success.

The main issue in paying college athletes is that in college the purpose is not to earn money, but rather getting an education. It is the job of secondary institutions to teach, not ensure that their star recruit is well off financially. Remember that these teens are students first, and athletes second.

That is why they are known as student-athletes.





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