The Problem With Paying College Athletes

By: Cedric Tillman

April 18, 2011

University of Mississippi
University of Mississippi

During the past decade, collegiate sports have single-handedly taken over the number one spot as the most important revenue generator within all levels of sports. If college sports stood in a boxing ring one-on-one against professional sports, it would win every single time. Now get this: professional sports are no amateur players when it come to generating dollar signs. However, due to the growing popularity and profit earned off of collegiate sporting events, particularly basketball and football, many people around the country have raised the question, “Should college athletes be paid to play?”


Have you ever noticed that when the media talks about athletes in college that they refer to them as "student-athletes?"


Notice that the word "student" comes before "athlete." There is a reason for that. Collegiate athletes are to be students first, and athletes second while they are in school. Grades come before play--or at least they should.


This, among many other reasons, is why I think college athletes should not be paid for playing.


Is it not true though these college athletes are already paid? College sports are rare amateur sports in which sports are associated with education. Nowadays, student athletes are capable of furthering their education based solely upon their athletic abilities. Every year, college athletes are paid through free education, better known as scholarships.


Scholarships, and their accompanying benefits like housing and meal plans, are the compensation that college athletes currently receive. These scholarships have real value, and the money to pay for them comes from somewhere. Their daily expenses, basic needs, pocket expenses, free boarding and lodging are attended to. Above this, they also receive either a full or partial sports scholarship. Isn’t it amazing? An individual can really save a lot of money if they receive the scholarship and not have to pay heavy tuition fees. The player only needs to play, perform well and give their best.”


While college athletics are creating jobs for the coaching position and his supporting cast, making money off large ticket sales—which fans do not mind paying because it is comparably cheaper than that of professional sports—along with many other benefits that exist because of college sports, universities around the country don’t have that much money to go around. “Alumni and booster donations generate nearly 27% of the money athletics make, while NCAA and conference distribution accounts for 14% of the money.” Looking at college athletics by the number, it seems as if they are the only and main source of income for universities and colleges around the country. But are they?




All students—athletes or not—in compulsory education make money for their schools by simply attending. In a research done seen in Sportsologist, the author claimed that only “12% of college athletics programs are profitable and that the median expense per student athlete in 2009 was $76,000.” The answer is not to pay these college athletes. More than half of the money universities are making is going to improve their wishes anyway and they are barely making any money from their own departments.


If only 12% of college athletics are profitable, that means 88% of profits come elsewhere other than sports. As a college student, this outrages me. Yes, college athletes create many job opportunities and such, but in no way is that any different from what the average student does every day. They, too, create jobs for people such as professors, who come from various different backgrounds in hope of furthering college students’ education. Their role to college plays a bigger role than that of college athletes. 

If we decide to pay college athletes, we are making a bold statement that says: College sports are superior to an education. Is that what we want? College was found upon the basic principles of education, although organized sports have been around just as long, not sports.


There are many different ways to give athletes something back in credit for their participation in popular sports, but paying athletes is not one of them. College athletes are already presented with many privileges that other students do not have. Paying these kids would only add to the list on already ongoing crisis colleges’ face today. It is not as simple as saying, “Here take this money. It is a reward for all of your hard work.” If it was, then why wouldn’t everyone get paid—college students and all!

University of Mississippi
University of Mississippi