Nov 23, 2013; University Park, PA, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers players exit the team bus prior to the game against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O

College Athletics: To Pay, or Not to Pay?


Apr 7, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Connecticut Huskies guard Shabazz Napier (13) celebrate after defeating the Kentucky Wildcats 60-54 in the championship game of the Final Four in the 2014 NCAA Mens Division I Championship tournament at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

As College Basketball came to a close, Shabazz Napier of the University of Connecticut spoke out about player benefits from first hand experience. The two time national champion and centerpiece of UConn’s basketball program said that,

We do have hungry nights that we don’t have enough money to get food in. Sometimes money is needed. I don’t think you should stretch it out to hundreds of thousands of dollars for playing, because a lot of times guys don’t know how to handle themselves with money. I feel like a student athlete. Sometimes, there’s hungry nights where I’m not able to eat, but I still gotta play up to my capabilities.

Napier’s statement didn’t go unnoticed; shortly after the season ended, the NCAA voted in favor of supplying student-athletes with unlimited meals. Though the move is a good one, from Shabazz’s comments to the Unionization of Northwestern football players in order to reap the benefits of being in the limelight, things seem to be heading downhill — and they’re doing so at an exponential rate. Student-athletes need not to be payed or over-compensated for their work on the field, and doing so could ruin college sports.

The first issue with paying players comes in the form of something called Title IX. Title IX, or Title Nine, is a legislation that says, “[n]o person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” As it pertains to the financial stability of college athletics, Title IX means a lot. Should you pay the Football and Basketball teams, it would be necessary to pay all teams, in which case you are then legally obliged to pay both men and women on the teams listed below:

Baseball / Softball
Track & Field
Golf
Gymnastics
Field Hockey
Ice Hockey
Lacrosse
Rowing
Soccer
Swimming / Diving
Tennis
Volleyball
Water Polo
Wrestling

That sure is a lot of students. In fact, according to the NCAA and StatisticsBrain.com, there are nearly 420,000 student athletes across the nation playing on over 18,000 teams — but that includes Divisions I, II, and III. As for solely Division I, there are 2911 Men’s and Women’s teams.  Imagine paying every student on every one of those teams, and then try to develop a scenario in which that could be done, and each school could sustain their programs. Keep in mind that only 22 colleges, according to an NCAA Report, profited in 2010. The rest, which make up the vast majority of college sports, lost money. It’s an unfeasible idea to attempt, and could spell out major issues for the health of college sports.

Another big issue in paying players presents itself when we consider that the die-hard fans of any sport watch college games for, not the perfection and players chasing a paycheck like they do in the pros, but rather the love of the game and passion behind these players. The addition of economic incentives for student-athletes would change the dynamic and atmosphere of the game for the worse; don’t forget that some of the athletes are also attending world class universities. Is that not compensation enough?

It’s also hard to look at a guy like Napier and believe him when he says he goes to bed hungry — and if he does, it’s hard to believe its not his fault. Shabazz has tattoos everywhere, and for those of you who don’t know, each one could run someone hundreds of dollars. Moreover, it’s not just Napier. If you’ve ever watched the pregame show for college football or basketball, you’ve seen these guys hop off the bus in their fresh new Jordan Shoes, swiping up and down on their iPhones to select a song and play it through their $200 Beats Headphones. Maybe the NCAA should be offering financial priority classes, rather than cash.

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