For quite some time now, there has always been an ongoing debate on whether collegiate athletes should be paid. After being a four year scholarship athlete at a high level university, I say, with confidence, YES, college athletes should be paid. The people who debate that notion, usually have no idea what it takes to be a student athlete. Let me break it down for you and explain why student athletes should be paid. Before I get started, I can’t stress enough how GRATEFUL I am to have been able to go to college on scholarship!
Going into college I had high hopes of getting my college degree, donning the UNC jersey, hitting the college parties that I had heard so much about, and just enjoying the college life like every other student there. No one told me how much hard work I actually had to put in, on and off the court, nor did they tell me that I wasn’t going to be able to be a “regular student”.
My days were filled with constant duties. I usually had to be up by 6:50AM, that gave me enough time to shower, eat and make it to my 8AM class. I was usually done with class by 1PM. By the way, I went to class everyday, but I will save that story for later. After class I had enough time to grab a quick lunch and head to the Smith Center to lift weights and for individual workouts. Practice was usually around 4PM and lasted till about 6PM. Following practice, I would grab dinner and be back in the Smith Center in time for Study Hall by 7/7:15PM. Depending on my workload, study hall was usually an hour to an hour and a half long. Now it’s about 8:30PM. I usually returned to the gym to get extra shots up around 11PM. After that, eat a late night snack and call it a day. Rest up and do it all again tomorrow.
Seems like a full day of work, right? I gave you that schedule to let you know that for a full time athlete, free time is limited. There is not much social time to go out and meet new people. I didn’t get to attend many parties. My life revolved around books and basketball, not complaining about either because it was the life I chose, and I’m grateful for it, but what people don’t understand is that student athletes are not viewed as “regular students” in the eyes of the rule makers.
Did you know that as a student athlete, you are not allowed to work a job? Granted with our schedules, it would have been pretty tough, but not being allowed to is even worse. For a college student any little bit of money helps, believe me. For example, there was this one instance where that extra money could have really helped me. Christmas break was approaching and I really wanted to go home to visit my family, but my parents couldn’t afford to buy me a plane ticket at the last second. I didn’t have a car, and my parents had other obligations to my other siblings so they couldn’t make the nine hour drive to come get me, and bring me back. So I did what I had to do and slept in my empty dorm and ate Timeout for my Christmas dinner.
College athletics is almost a billion dollar business. Where everyone makes money except the athlete. Coaches get paid millions from multiple endorsements as well as from the university. The university gets a great deal of money as well from ticket sells, concessions, TV contracts, and so on. The athletes get a free scholarship to go to school and get an education. Don’t get me wrong, I AM 100% GRATEFUL that I was able to go to school for free, but I do see a flaw in the system about how the funds are split. It never failed, every year a debate in class would come up about if athletes should get paid. Of course, we athletes said yes. Then there was that one person who said, “you should be happy you get to get an education for free”. Then we would have to break down our daily schedules, our obligations and explain to them what we can and cannot do as student athletes. For example, if a friend lets a “regular student” borrow their car, that’s ok. If I, as a student athlete borrows a car from a friend, I may have to face the NCAA compliance office and explain to them who, what, when, where, and why. A simple borrowing of a car could lead to losing a full scholarship to school. Then we bring up how much money the university, the shoe companies, and even the coaches make. When I was in school the tuition for an out of state student was around $30,000. Now if the athletic program makes millions of dollars annually, something doesn’t add up. In a perfect world, I say pay the athlete and let him or her make the decision on if they want to stay in school, if they choose to stay, pay the tuition with the money you’ve been paid. Especially now being that kids almost have to go to college for at least one year to be NBA draft eligible. There are ways around this rule, but they’re rare and nonconventional, but have paid off for some athletes. Another option would be to pay the student athlete per years of service at the end of each year. The payment doesn’t need to be life changing money but something to compensate for the athletes lack of a “normal” college life.
Don’t misinterpret what I am saying here! My college years were great and I wouldn’t trade them for the world, but as I have matured and become more business minded I have noticed things. Like any system there are flaws, I feel like not paying student athletes, and not allowing them to make money is one of them. Kind of weird that everyone gets paid, except the workers. Don’t you agree?
Till next time… WAD