A Fair Day's Pay for a Fair Day's Work
College athletes should be compensated for the revenue they generate
April 2, 2013
The NCAA argues that college athletes are paid with a free education. The reality is that players' opportunities are not free, and half of the revenue-producing athletes don't graduate. College athletes spend 40 hours per week of labor in their sport alone (according to an NCAA study), generate billions of dollars per year, and can lose their scholarship if they're injured.
A joint study between the National College Players Association and Drexel University shows that the NCAA will strip football and men's basketball players of $6 billion of their fair market value between 2011-2015. In contrast, the NCAA admits that its scholarship limit leaves "full" scholarship athletes with $3,000 to $5,000 in out-of-pocket-expenses each year.
Meanwhile, recent television deals pay the NCAA and its colleges over $1 billion per year in brand new revenue. Most would expect that this tax-free revenue would be spent primarily on their educational missions, but historical spending patterns show it will be spent exclusively on mega-stadiums and salary increases for coaches and administrators.
Colleges should fully support their players' education by increasing full scholarships equal to the cost of attendance. It would cost an affordable $95 million per year to increase scholarships for revenue athletes and pay matching funds to female athletes for Title IX compliance. They should also direct a percentage of new TV revenues into a trust fund where former FBS football players and Division I men's basketball players who abide by NCAA rules would receive an equal portion upon graduation, or to complete an undergraduate degree. Furthermore, all athletes should be allowed to earn money from commercial endorsements (like their schools), which could be put in the trust fund. These reforms would increase graduation rates and decrease violations, which should be prioritized.
The NCAA claims that increasing compensation for revenue athletes would force colleges to eliminate nonrevenue sports. However, robust participation in NCAA Division II non-revenue sports must be inconvenient for those that make this argument. Over 300 Division II colleges manage just fine without reliance on millions of dollars from football and men's basketball programs. Similar to Division III, NAIA, and high school sports, Division II programs field teams because they value sports participation, not because they wish to pay multimillion-dollar salaries and build luxury boxes with massive revenue.
At the end of the day, college athletes are just like all other hard working Americans who should receive a fair day's pay for a fair day's work.