By Kalen Ingram
Artwork by Lily Beasley
In recent news, the California legislature passed a law that allows college athletes to hire an agent and be compensated for the use of their image. In fact, any state in the nation can create laws such as this and undermine the authority of the NCAA. As such, the NCAA Board of Governors released a statement allowing student-athletes to earn payment.
This question has led to debate and controversy around the country. Chances are, you’ve probably been to a college sports game. It could be any sport: football, basketball, soccer — all of these sports have athletes who practice tirelessly to perfect their play. These athletes all choose to dedicate a large portion of their time to play sports, sometimes in exchange for an athletic scholarship.
Over 160,000 students participated in Division I and Division II athletics in 2018. Division I colleges spent more than 2.7 billion dollars on student athletes. The average athletic scholarship in Division I schools was $17,670 for men and $18,517 for women. While these numbers seem large, the average out of state tuition and fees for public universities is $21,629 and $35,676 for private schools, leaving at least $3,000 for a student athlete to provide.
Athletic scholarships don’t cover the full cost of college for most student-athletes. Student-athletes often do not have the opportunity to participate in a work-study program or find a part-time job to offset the cost of college. With school being their first priority and sports their second, most of these students do not have time to get a part-time job. “[A] NCAA survey found that a typical NCAA athlete in-season spends 39 hours a week on academics—and 33 hours a week on sports.” With their busy schedules, student-athletes are not afforded the same opportunity to earn money as other college students.
For some, the obvious answer to this question is that student-athletes should be paid. According to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, “College sports is a billion-dollar enterprise built off of athletes who receive no compensation. Whatever the solution is, the status quo must change ... It was frustrating to win championship after championship every year, hear thousands chant my name, and then go to my bedroom to count my change so I could buy a burger.”
After four years of being a collegiate athlete and even more years working in high school athletics, Coach Casey has developed a professional opinion based on her own experiences. Coach Casey, assistant athletic director, played three sports in college and dedicated up to seven hours a day to athletics. When asked if student athletes should get paid outside of their scholarship, she explained, “many D1 students do get paid outside of their scholarship. It is called a cost of attendance (COA) check. This check is meant to cover living expenses that would normally be covered by a part-time job a student can get. This check varies pending the school, but it typically ranges anywhere from $400 to $1000 a month. This check gets paid out to the student when they are participating in their sport. For many D1 programs, that is 10-11 months a year. Remembering that all rent, food and school supplies are covered by scholarship, this check is designed to cover household supplies, travel home and any extra food the kids need. However, there is no monitoring how this money is spent.”
In addition Coach Casey was asked if she thinks student-athletes should be paid. She explained that “On an individual basis, I do believe that certain athletes bring more money into the program, and should receive some sort of compensation. Understanding that big-time schools make millions off of certain students, I think a sort of trust should be set up for that student. And only when the student graduates from the school [should] he or she receive the money. All too often students drop-out of school once their playing careers are complete. If the student chooses to withdraw from that school, for any reason, they do not receive any money. This can be used as an incentive for students to graduate while also giving the students the pay they deserve for the school and the NCAA using their likeness.”
Taylor Gallik (12) is committed to play soccer at Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia. She is not receiving any athletic scholarships because she is attending a D3 school, but she will receive an academic scholarship. She explained her views on paying athletes, saying “I do not think that collegiate athletes should be paid. Paying the athletes would eliminate the line between college level and pro-level sports and would create an environment in which athleticism is prioritized over academics.”
The discussion over paying athletes continues as St. Mary’s faculty and students experience the event first-hand. Support for paying student-athletes has grown in recent years, yet the NCAA seems reluctant to accept the changes. But one thing is for sure, college athletics will continue to generate billions in revenue as athletes fill its ranks year after year.
As Coach Casey emphasizes, “Schools and the NCAA make a ridiculous amount of income using the image and likeness of certain student-athletes.”
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