Bring in the Dough or No?

Ty Soutas, Sports Editor

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (The NCAA)makes annually close to a billion dollars a year, but the student-athletes don’t receive a dime. If it weren’t for college football and mens’ basketball, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. These two sports alone create billions of dollars through TV contracts and championships, and all of this money is harvested by the NCAA. Seem fair?

To Utah State Athletic Director, Scott Barnes, it is.

“Paying a handful of players a fee or salary contradicts our mission and doesn’t fit in the collegiate model. Those that want to be paid need to go test the pro market. Being a Student Athlete isn’t a right rather it is a privilege. What people forget is the incredible benefits our student athletes receive beyond their full scholarship,” Barnes explained. “If you put a dollar amount on the world class coaching, teaching, medical care, academic support, life coaching, nutritionist care, etc. that our student athlete’s receive, it would be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. And they have no loans when they leave.”

The NCAA will not budge when it comes to paying student athletes.

“As long as I’m president of the NCAA, we will not pay student-athletes to play sports. Compensation for students is just something I’m adamantly opposed to,” NCAA President Mark Emmert posted on the NCAA’s website. “ We’re providing athletes with world class educations and world class opportunities. If they are one of the few that are going to move on to become a pro athlete, there’s no better place in the world to refine their skills as a student-athlete,” he explained.

It is clear that the value of education is what is at stake here, but it is difficult for student athletes to make an income because they are too busy with their sport to be able to hold a job. Most people seem to think that a job is not needed though because they are already compensated enough through their scholarship money.

“Athletes can’t work to get money because of all their training and stuff. But I don’t think they should get paid because they pretty much already do with their scholarships they get,” said Jordan Evans, one of Bingham’s most talented players and a potential future college basketball athlete.

Back in Reggie Bush’s playing days as a running back for The University of Southern California, he and his family accepted numerous improper benefits which stripped the university of its national championship in 2005, as well as Bush’s Heisman Trophy. Though many speculated that the school paid Bush to play football, he denied all accusations. USC was placed on 4-year probation in 2010.

Boosters are another problem when it comes to athletes making an income. Under NCAA rule, college athletes are not permitted to receive any financial support of any kind directly from a booster. This means they are not allowed to even have a meal bought for them by a booster or they would get in trouble by the NCAA.

Athletes can’t even sell their own personal items including their own autograph. Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel knows all about that as he was under investigation during the past offseason. Former Ohio State quarterback and Heisman winner, Tyrelle Pryor, received up to $40,000 in autographs he sold to a freelance photographer as well as trading memorabilia for tattoos. Ohio State was also placed on three-year probation, and was denied going to the BCS National Championship last season despite their undefeated record. Perhaps this penalty is too harsh that a whole team can be banished for the actions of one player trying to make some money to support him or herself through schooling.

It may be that paying student athletes would be too much of a distraction toward their education. After all, education should be the athletes’ first priority, but in reality it is not. If they really want to earn money, then they should go pro. But how many athletes actually end up going pro anyways? Playing a sport for a college program could be a form of employment just as it is for other non-athletes who make an income while trying to obtain a degree.

Both sides have valid points. On one side of the issue is the value of education and fairness for everybody, and on the other side is the concept of capitalism because college sports are in fact a business.

“College athletics are just as much of a big business as professional sports—it’s just that the money goes into the pockets of coaches, athletic directors, conference commissioners and sports media executives. Further, the current system leads to corruption, as coaches and boosters regularly find ways to circumvent the rules and provide benefits to young athletes, “ Brian Frederick, a board member of Sports Fan Coalition wrote in his article to The Debate Club.

The billions of dollars generated is nowhere to be seen by the athletes even though they are the ones who brought it in the first place. But the coaches get plenty of it. The highest paid college coaches include Alabama’s head coach, Nick Saban, who makes over $ 5 million per year. Slightly above him is Kentucky’s basketball coach, John Calipari who makes just shy of $ 5.5 million a year. And who is Utah’s highest paid government employee? That would be Utah’s head football coach, Kyle Whittingham at $1.8 million.

If athletes were to be paid, how would this be done? Would only the star athletes receive a share of the revenue, or would everyone be paid an equal amount? How would the less-watched sports like women’s golf or men’s tennis be cared for? The spotlight seems to shine on the talented quarterback or the speedy-quick athletic wide receiver. Not many people give much love to the heavyset offensive linemen who make it possible for the more so-called skill positions to standout.

College sports can be like a gambling arena. The odds of making the pros are slim, but injuries sustained by getting roughed up through sports can take a toll on the athletes or make the value of their draft stock go down. Players who have the misfortune of debilitating injuries playing contact sports are certainly not covered by their “free education” after graduation. The medical bills for concussions and other serious injuries pile up. Former Bingham standout defensive back and wide receiver Jordan Pendleton saw his career end at BYU after he suffered a season-ending knee injury a few years ago as a linebacker. He had great NFL potential, but he never had the chance to go test the pro market of the NFL.

Maybe it’s time for a change, but in the meantime, more people need to know more about this issue, because whether an athlete gets his education paid for, the NCAA could be guilty of anti-trust laws.

“To be honest, I don’t really know enough about it. On the one hand student athletes are getting their education paid for, but on the other hand, how much money is the NCAA making off of them?” said Bingham coach Jim Applegate. “Now obviously times have changed where you’ve got billion-dollar TV contracts and video games and such, but I almost think it’s time to switch up the rules a little bit. College athletics are just as much of a big business as professionals.”