The Treatment of College Athletes

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What is the actual purpose for college sports? Although college has always been considered a stepping stone on an individual’s path to achieving their full potential, the question of just how to make the time itself in college useful is rarely asked.
College athletes are currently attend university with their attention torn between both their academic life and their sports career. Students could be part of 24 possible programs, from their football team, field hockey, water polo, all the way to gymnastics. The number of student athletes registered with the NCAA is currently 460000. In this paper we hope to verbalize the increasing costs of being a college athlete, and the relative pay as a result.

Even with athletes on a scholarship receive an education valued at 60,000 a year and is constantly increasing, Scholarships have slowly become commodity products, often having an actual value that is heavily dependent on the activities of the student and is not equivalent to receiving a cash value equal to the value of their scholarship.

College students need to live a very different lifestyle from the average student. Whether or not the actual college athlete is actually on scholarship, the university system is not taking the proper steps to educate their athletes on what they are signing up for. Between the psychological pressure that can be felt from students and alumni on their performance, efforts to be a professional, or the limitations on other activities, students that are athletes need extra warning from the university about what they are giving up.

The psychological warfare of sports is something that is not talked about at either the professional or the college level. It is now something that the population takes for granted as a given. In some ways it is, if you are going to be in the public eye, then you are going to take public scrutiny. In no other public activity is an individual constantly being watched than public sports. There are more statistics, and coverage for the individual members of the NFL than there is for members of congress. Aside from the position of President of the United States, these athletes take on an extreme amount of pressure, and they start on this path in college as young as 18.

Taking an individual that is less in a sport that might not be properly appreciated by the public, they are still under pressure from their fellow athletes. They are competing to maintain a quality of performance that allows them to continue to play their activity. The amount of effort that they put in over what is really their entire life can be squandered by an injury, or by being overshadowed by another player. The sheer competition between their teammates is at a high level, independent of the social pressure between players to also work together as a team. A player at any sport has to deal with these problems, but these are enough to consume the thoughts, cause restless nights thinking through the problems, or emotional stress from worrying about that freshman behind you wanting your scholarship.

A student that will have even more pressure under them is the student that participates in mainstream sports such as football, basketball, or soccer. These students all have a chance at being professional athletes as division 1 athletes. If the students are in a lower division, they will still feel the pressure of the alumni that are subsidizing their scholarships, the students, and the weight of representing their school. Every game is a memory that you will have to live with, and the amount of “what ifs?” can increase more rapidly than one can believe. Their stats will be posted everywhere, and the pro scouts will know of every own goal, fumble, or free throw percentage you keep in your 4 long years at school.

The last group of student athletes are not on the same plain as normal students at all. This is not because they are much different, but the mood, hope, and fan base rely on them for results. Some of these players are the main 7 of a basketball teams, the lead wide receivers, safeties, running backs, and quarterback of the football team, and the start forward, midfield, defender, and goalkeeper of the soccer team. Many of these players names are in the minds of students for their tenure at the school, as well as alumni and for some, ESPN broadcasters.
These are the athletes that bring in money for the university and are under immense pressure to do so. The difference between the change in a school between having a top 25 program, and missing the mark, has an impact on attendance numbers as well as the students on campus.

These athletes are under scrutiny from people all over the country, and are sometimes, such as the recent bowl game season, the number one thing in America to watch. Football players will be talked about for the entire fall semester, and social media pressures are no help. Student athletes are merely expected to ignore the calls for replacements, the insults because of missed kicks, passes, or turnovers. The hostility that an athlete is susceptible to is above and beyond that of an amateur, despite NCAA claims.

With all of that in mind, take one of the players on the teams of the March Madness Tournament. They are 5 games from the 2nd most prestigious award in the game. What exactly is the probability that they are focused on their Calculus II class? All of the players are being watched, talked about and scrutinized for a month straight. It is as it is called, absolute madness. Sports media covers all of the games in depth, and if they happen to not get to one of the 64 teams, there is a large population of alumni and current students watching. Student athletes are being put under such a large amount of pressure, the amateur argument used by the NCAA is proven less true year after year.

With all of this in mind, the practice schedule on top of all of this psychological stress and the traveling necessary to be part of college sports is time consuming and takes away what little study time they would be able to achieve if they were able to look past the pressure. One of the most important things for a college student is not only completing their academic program at a high level, but experimenting with their interests and their mind. Students should be set to not to step off the assembly line of diploma receiving students with just a piece of paper, but a more developed and unique mind. These athletes are likely foregoing internships for summer practice, and trips abroad for them in-school practice requirements. If they start falling behind in any way, they could lose the spot they worked all their lives to earn.

The students work for 4 years in these programs, and generate revenue for the university. Two sports generate large amounts of revenue, football and men’s basketball. Other sports such as women’s basketball,men’s lacrosse, and men’s and women’s soccer, can generate small amounts of revenue, but are minuscule compared to men’s basketball and football.

Professional sports organizations, schools, the NCAA, and sports conferences all benefit from the profit after scholarships for these athletes. Universities also receive large amounts of funding for their school through donations from alumni, many of which donate towards these sports teams.

The NCAA’s claim that these students are amateur athletes might be true for the non-revenue generating athletes, but there are certain sports that can generate large sources of profit for these “non-profit” entities.

Some of these students come from the most difficult circumstances. Although scholarship money is very beneficial for their financial future, the quality of their education is diminished by their sport. This can even be seen in pop-culture with specials on how these athletes train constantly, and academic study is far from first on their priority list.
Only the best athletes in the most lucrative sports move on to a professional league. The financial benefits of sacrificing attention on the athlete’s education is an illogical conclusion from a financial perspective. Another important factor to consider is the risk of injury. In professional sports, there is a requirement that a player must play in a developmental or college league upon entering the professional sports league of their respective sport. What if a player suffers a career ending injury during the year of playing college sports? What about the millions of dollars he was guaranteed in the pros? This has also played a role in shaping the controversy of whether or not these players should be compensated, due to risk of injury and ultimately never reaping the the financial benefits that you plan to recieve after bringing in immense revenue for a specific school and sports program. Now that there is an understanding of the financial pros and cons of the “pay-to-play” controversy that has been amidst our nation, it is important to analyze some possible solutions.

The first solution entails listing college athletes, similar to any other job, based on their fair market value. This would mean superior athletes that are expected to be professional athletes will be listed for higher prices, while the less known, mediocre players will be listed for a lesser salary. Although this could potentially prove to be beneficial, it brings about too many risks. By enlisting athletes for their fair market value based upon the coverage and revenue that player or team brings to the university, it would bring about many disparities in income. Firstly, men sports programs would be compensated much greater, due to their popularity among the rest of the population and how much revenue events like March Madness and the Rose Bowl bring in. Not only would there be an immense wage gap between men and women college athletes, there would also be major disparities between the different sports programs.

Due to media coverage and popularity, football, basketball, and baseball are without question the programs that bring in the most revenue, so their players would be compensated much greater than players on the rowing or gymnastics team. After careful analyzation of this controversy and some financial barriers that the NCAA must overcome, our group came up with a opinion on how to potentially solve this problem within the United States. Although this may arise controversy, a potentially amicable solution would be to pool a percentage of all the revenue gained from all of the sports programs within the college. After the percentage is pooled, one solution could be to invest the funds into low-risk portfolios that would create a gain and then have dividends issued to the players. Another potential solution would be instead of investing the funds, create trust fund accounts of equal value for all student athletes, that can be accessed upon graduation or one year in the college sports program. Although this compensation wouldn't be too large due to it being equally distributed across athletes, it provides some financial protection and incentive to these athletes who ultimately are the ones making the NCAA a billion dollar industry.

Ultimately, the current state of the NCAA demands change. Change that will take into consideration not only the physiological commitments these student athletes faced, but as well as the immense revenues these sports programs bring in without the athletes seeing a dollar of it. If we want to provide an environment that will act as a transition from the college sports leagues to the professionals, there must be solutions made to contribute to the financial protection and psychological protection of these young athletes.

Works Cited

  1. Student-Athletes. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  2. Chait, J. (2018, March 31). How to Pay College Athletes Without Ruining NCAA Sports. Retrieved from
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The Treatment of College Athletes. (2019, Jun 10). Retrieved July 25, 2024 , from

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