Should College Athletes Get Paid?

Elliot Gere, Guest Writer

NCAA football is a lucrative business… an extremely lucrative business. A study by the Wall Street Journal estimated that in the 2018-2019 season alone, Division 1-A football brought in a revenue of $5.6 billion. To put that number in perspective, in the same 2018-2019 season, NFL teams collectively grossed $8.8 billion. From this perspective, $3.2 billion is all that separates collegiate football — a college sport just like field hockey or water polo — from the NFL — a franchise built on the premise of making money. 

Ever since the similarity in these two numbers was noticed, questions about the compensation of college athletes (especially football players) have been prominent; “if NCAA football and the NFL are so similar in revenue, how is it fair that college athletes get paid in mere tuition reductions while NFL players make millions of dollars?” It’s an important question. 

The NCAA has stated that college athletes can only be compensated through tuition reductions from their schools. Furthermore, athletes have been prohibited from making money off of their names, e.g. endorsement deals, commercials, etc. The NCAA has based these decisions on the idea that college is meant to be a place for academic growth, and not money-making opportunities. When this position is applied to the original, small scale model of college athletics, it makes sense. However, it becomes less reasonable when one takes into consideration that the college sports industry grossed $14 billion last year alone, according to  The New York Times. 

The tension caused by these exorbitant revenues has come to a head in California. Just over a week ago, the state’s governor signed a bill (planned to go into effect in 2023) that gives college athletes the right to profit off of their name. This is the first instance where an entire state has gone against the NCAA’s strict compensation rules. This landmark disobedience, for better or worse, is going to have a permanent impact on college athletics. 

It’s hard to understate the potential implications of this ‘fair pay to play’ bill. Will the NCAA ban California colleges from participating in the league? Will other states join California? Will the NCAA actually allow California colleges to stay in the NCAA, creating a new precedent for other schools to do the same? These questions are important, but it goes much deeper than just the short term effects. The prospect of making college a profitable opportunity for student athletes could change the entire meaning of higher education. It is entirely possible that exercising this new bill throughout the country would produce a shift in the focus of college from education to athletics. This is a dangerous shift that deserves the country’s attention.

My fellow KHS students, whether you plan on playing a sport in college or not, you should be keeping up with this issue. Before this is over, the prospect of ‘paying’ college athletes will end up having a major effect on the dynamic of higher education in our country.