Previously, SportSpek argued college athletes shouldn’t get paid, despite clocking in 72.7-hour work weeks. As we start this intricate argument, let’s first define the issue and remember what it means to be a college athlete.
NCAA’s Bylaw 12 hones in on amateurism, explaining the logistics behind granting and restricting collegiate athletes to be able to receive compensation for their sports participation. This ensures students attend universities first and foremost to earn an education, and then hit the gym. The emphasis is on the student in student-athlete.
Paying athletes could potentially threaten NCAA’s mission to maintain a level playing field and in turn blur the differentiating line between collegiate and professional sports. Paid athletes would become taxable employees of a university.
Yet when high schoolers sit down to sign contracts with coaches and commit their devotion to a program, they are knowingly investing their collegiate journey to dedication in the classroom and on the field. In exchange, they may receive a partially or fully-funded education. Although Division III programs and some NAIA colleges and universities don’t award scholarships
In 2015, some players from Northwestern University’s football team tried to unionize. The National Labor Relations Board unanimously declined to classify them as employees.
The NCAA responded to the union proposal:
This union-backed attempt to turn student-athletes into employees undermines the purpose of college: an education. Student-athletes are not employees, and their participation in college sports is voluntary. We stand for all student-athletes, not just those the unions want to professionalize.
Fewer than 2% of college athletes go on to play professionally–leaving 98% of the student body to depend upon their education in order to make a living post-collegiately.
“Member institutions’ athletics programs are designed to be an integral part of the educational program. The student athlete is considered an integral part of the student body, thus maintaining a clear line of demarcation between college athletics and professional sports.”
Enticing athletes with paychecks can reinforce a career-oriented mentality. Athletes would likely tackle the universities with the highest offers and the most prestige, reflecting employees in the marketplace in search of the best job offer.
Searching for a college education on the basis of the highest payouts would likely drive under-funded universities out of business.
On our next blog post, we’ll talk about the financial breakdown and economic impact of paying college athletes could have on universities.