The Right to Compensate the Athletes

Whether it be watching football on Saturday afternoons in Fall or trying to predict the perfect bracket for March Madness, many Americans seek to be entertained through college sports. In fact, college sports, namely football and basketball, generate billions of dollars of revenue each year (Edelman, 2017). At the heart of this revenue are the student-athletes who give everything on their respective playing fields, without compensation. Some play as a means of funding their education, while others do it for a chance to compete at the next level. Regardless of the reasons as to why each athlete plays, these student-athletes all sacrifice their time, personal autonomy, and physical health and therefore, should be entitled to some compensation for their efforts (Edelman, 2017).

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College athletes sacrifice countless hours of their time practicing and competing in their particular sport. College football players contribute an average of 43.3 hours per week to their sport (Edelman, 2014). Thus, the time invested in the student-athleter’s sport is more than that of a full-time job. In combination with their classes, this leaves very little time for student-athletes. Furthermore, the schedule of games and consequent travel to and from said games often entails athletes to miss classes (Edelman, 2014). Between practices, games, and academic life, student-athletes are afforded marginal time of their own; time that could be used to work a job.

Moreover, strict rules and regulations for student-athletes warrant constant oversight by coaches, prohibiting many freedoms afforded to non-student athletes. Coaches provide itineraries for players dictating their activities each day (Karcher, 2017). Every aspect of a student-athleter’s life is scrutinized by coaches as disciplinary action and the potential loss of scholarship looms for those who violate rules (Karcher, 2017). Athleter’s course schedules are directed by discouraging enrollment in courses that may interfere with their athletic schedule (Karcher, 2017). Until recently, even the amount of food that may be provided to athletes by colleges was limited by NCAA rules (Edelman, 2017). NCAA bylaws and each universityr’s athletic program govern student-athleter’s lives in a manner that is clearly unprecedented and unfair, to say the least.

In addition to their sacrifices of time and personal autonomy, student-athletes sacrifice their personal health just as professional athletes do. Every time that an athlete steps onto the practice field or performs in a game, they put themselves at risk of injury. The inherent risks involved with sports range from sprains and concussions to broken bones, paralysis, and in some cases, even death. In spite of the risk of injury, student-athletes continue to compete. The athletic trainers at the universities may provide some treatment but in the case of negligence or improper treatment, it is the student that suffers and who is responsible for the medical bills (Walsh, 2013). Athletic-related medical bills are the responsibility of the student who cannot work due to his or her competing. As college athletes, unlike their professional counterparts, are not classified as employees, they are not entitled to workers compensation or similar benefits (Karcher, 2017). The NCAA does not help to cover the costs of medical bills until they exceed $90,000 (Walsh, 2013). Put into perspective, if an athlete were to get seriously injured competing for their university, then they could end up spending the equivalent of a college education or more for treatment.

Despite the sacrifices that these athletes make to represent their particular school, there are a plethora of people who advocate against the paying of college athletes as many of them already receive scholarships covering tuition, room, and board (Wilbon, 2013). However, unlike non-student athletes on an academic scholarship, student-athletes must sign a commitment to the school (Walsh, 2013). Moreover, these students may work a job, whereas athletes are restricted to the type of jobs they may work and prohibited from holding jobs during their competitive season (Garcia, 2014). Although student-athletes receive scholarships, their value to the universities they represent typically exceed the value of the scholarship benefits they receive as the athletes are core members of the schoolr’s marketing team (Edelman, 2014). With yearly revenues in the millions of dollars, it would only seem right to compensate the athletes that put in the time and effort to produce such revenue (Edelman, 2017). Finally, student-athletes more closely resemble employees than students. The control exercised by the NCAA and a schoolr’s athletic program in combination with the scholarship agreement which serves as a contract for the athletic services performed on behalf of the school constitutes employee status under common law (Karcher, 2017). As such, student-athletes should be entitled to compensation relative to their value to the school as well as entitlements such as workers compensation.

In conclusion, student-athletes at the college level should be paid relative to the revenue they produce. As an athletic program thrives and reaps the rewards, schools should do a much better job of compensating the players who make it possible. At the very least, schools should recognize players as employees entitling them to such benefits as workers compensation in order to protect their well-being.


  1. Edelman, M. (2014, January 30). 21 Reasons Why Student-Athletes Are Employees and Should Be Allowed to Unionize. Retrieved from
  2. Edelman, M. (2017). From Student-Athletes to Employee-Athletes: Why A Pay for Play Model of College Sports Would Not Necessarily Make Educational Scholarships Taxable. Boston College. Law School. Boston College Law Review, 58(4), 1138-1168. Retrieved from
  3. Garcia, A. (2014, April 16). It’s Time for the NCAA to Pay Student-Athletes. Retrieved from
  4. Karcher, R. T. (2017). Big-time college athletes’ status as employees. ABA Journal of Labor & Employment Law, 33(1), 31-53. Retrieved from
  5. Walsh, M. (2013, May 01). ‘I trusted ’em’: When NCAA schools abandon their injured athletes. Retrieved from
  6. Wilbon, M. (2011, July 18). College athletes deserve to be paid. Retrieved from
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The Right To Compensate The Athletes. (2019, May 30). Retrieved January 28, 2023 , from

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