Student-Athletes and Compensation

Created in the 1950r’s, the term student-athlete is still the NCAAr’s foundation of all prior and current debates about not paying collegiate athletes. The current debate is less about should these high caliber players be paid by the universities and now seems more focused on how they can receive their share of a multi-billion-dollar industry and the effects if student-athletes do get paid. The effects of student-athletes being paid is where the opposition continues to rely on an out of date defense that tuition is fair compensation. Pay for students is illegal and competitive balance in college sports will be compromised. The NCAA has a history of dealing with players being paid on a case to case basis. Most recently permitting some athletes to earn money for use of their name, image, and likeness (NIL). A great example of these inconsistencies would be Katie Ledecky having to leave the Stanford swim team to take advantage of her Olympic success, whereas Arike Ogunbowale was allowed by the NCAA to continue playing basketball for Notre Dame while being paid to be on Dancing with the Stars because it was not related to basketball (Brennan 2). After hearing the NCAAr’s explanation, Commission chair Condoleezza Rice said, ?I couldnt for the life of me understand the explanation . . . because obviously sher’s there because she hit two winning shots in two basketball games (in the womenr’s Final Four), so thatr’s the connection…It’s time to clear this up (qtd. in Brennan 2). If Commission chair Condoleezza Rice believes NCAA policies are confusing, it must be time for existing policies to be reevaluated. The NCAA executives should clearly define a consistent way and then allow student-athletes to be compensated for their personal name, image, likeness, and participation in non-collegiate events because the non-profit organization has evolved, there are ways to properly regulate payment, and numerous cases of paying student-athletes already exist.

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In 1906 President Teddy Roosevelt founded the NCAA to provide safety for college football players, and at the time students were not allowed to be recruited based on athletic ability (Katz, Vaughn and Gilleran 1). Athletic scholarships were not first introduced until the 1950r’s, and the term student-athlete was used soon thereafter by the NCAA President of the time, Walter Byers, to protect the NCAA from legal issues (Katz, Vaughn and Gilleran 1). The main issue the NCAA faces today, pay for play, goes back to 1984 when they were forced, by the Supreme Court, to stop limiting the telecasts of college sports and revenue started rapidly increasing (Katz, Vaughn and Gilleran 2). A century after its creation, the NCAA President Myles Brand spoke at the NCAA convention in 2006 about the status of the organization (Katz, Vaughn and Gilleran 1). He expressed that the NCAA as an enterprise had commercialized, but the players must remain amateurs: ?Amateur defines the participants. . . not the enterprise (qtd. In Katz, Vaughn and Gilleran 1). This shows that President Brand is contradicting the NCAAs original intentions. They are not the only organization to transform into something they were not intended to be. The Olympics is a perfect example of how a platform deeply rooted in the term amateurism (student-athlete) can change and allow players to receive endorsements (Solomon 17). The Olympic model has evolved to combat the opposing opinion that funding student-athletes will make it less competitive and less appealing as Jon Solomon notes: The public hasnt stopped watching the Olympics with professionals. Making money through endorsements while being good at a sport doesnt seem to hurt interest in the Olympics, which once had the most stringent definition of amateurism (Solomon 17). While not paying these athletes according to The New York Amsterdam News the NCAA is violating the law, Jaimie C. Harris wrote, In 2015, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling stating the organization violated antitrust laws by limiting what athletes can receive while participating in college sports (Harris 1). NCAA Commission chair Condoleezza Rice sees the problem, she addressed it in a telephone interview with USA Today stating, ?We believe that students ought to be able to benefit from name, image, and likeness. . . It makes sense for the NCAA to have a legally justifiable framework that works, and currently the framework doesnt work (qtd. in Brennan 1-2). If the framework is broken, fix it; there are plenty of companies, professors, former athletes, etc. that have ideas on how to legally pay student-athletes.

Major companies like EA Sports would like to pay the collegiate players for the use of their name, image and likeness, so some form of legal structure needs to be developed to provide this (Solomon 14). To combat legal concerns, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick suggests, college sports could manage group licensing for athletes (Solomon 16). This method will provide a fair distribution of the wealth across all players (Solomon 16). With a group-licensing approach, representatives for the players go to the companies to work out a fair deal for the players, which will create an all or nothing deal made with the player and the interested company. These ideas from Jack Swarbrick are created from the fact that students and student-athletes are separated (Solomon 16). If a player also wants other forms of endorsement for their NIL, this will be possible with some conditions. As proposed in the CAP Act as a benefit it would allow student-athletes to . . . engage in commercial activities that reflect the athleter’s public visibility as long as the athleter’s college sport or institution were not identified (Sack 3). The final way players should get paid is through prize money from all events outside the NCAA. Ideas like the ones mentioned above would allow the NCAA to maintain its non-profit status and allow players to profit financially.

Some student-athletes are already profiting financially under NCAA guidelines, some more than others. Take University of Texas swimmer Joseph Schooling, he won Singaporer’s first gold metal by defeating Michael Phelps and received a huge bonus from his home country of $740,000 (Solomon 1). Some of the most recognizable collegiate football players can hope to pick up a bowl gift worth no more than $550 (Solomon 2). This random allowance does not seem to be relevant when a tennis player can earn $10,000 in prize money. Kyle Parker is not amused by these tennis players earnings because he got a $1.4 million bonus for signing as a professional baseball player and was still the quarterback for Clemson in 2010 (Solomon 2). NCAA players split $60 million awarded to them in a case against EA Sports for using their likeness (Solomon 14). All of these exceptions make it hard to understand what is and is not allowed and becomes more confusing which brings up the question whether the NCAA should just allow the athletes to get paid by outside resources. Tom McMillenr’s statistics help support this argument, 79 percent of athletic directors in the NCAAr’s highest football division support players making money off their name for non-athletic related activities (qtd. in Solomon 13).

Policy makers for the NCAA need to specifically clarify and grant permission for student-athletes to be paid for their name, image, likeness and participation in non-collegiate events because it would bring the NCAA regulations up to speed, properly regulated payments are possible, student-athletes have already been paid. The opposition’s stance on the debate believes that tuition is a fair compensation, paying students is illegal and the competitive balance in college sports will be compromised. Not only is this defense outdated but can also be rejected by the Olympic model and the legal structure developed above. As Condoleezza rice says, ?Itr’s time to clear this up there needs to be some changes to the policies derived from the NCAA to cope with the desires of the players (qtd. in Brennan 2). These wants for payment is very understandable given the facts provided by Knight Commission, In 2015, the 53 public schools from the five major conferences [SEC, Big Ten, ACC, Big 12, Pac-12] paid their football coaching staffs (530 individuals) combined $405.5 million, compared to $179.8 million in scholarships to their football players (4,979 individuals) (Solomon 4). This large gap in ratios makes it easy to agree with Bob Bowlsby prediction; ?that the day will come when players decide not to play in a major college sporting event (qtd. in Solomon 17).

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Student-Athletes and Compensation. (2019, May 28). Retrieved December 4, 2022 , from

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