As college sports continue to grow and prosper, there has been more traction on whether or not athletes should be paid.
Can there be real benefits or will it dampen the excitement of college sports? There have been issues with athletes being “slaves” for schools as a result of programs micromanaging their time with no reward other than apparel and a full scholarship.
The problem with this reality is that for elite college athletes like Josh Rosen and DeAndre Ayton, a scholarship can seemingly mean nothing. Aware of their talent, they will go through college because it is what is necessary for draft eligibility. Their goal is to exhibit their skill set. With college fields as their platform, they aim to generate revenue for the school.
However, with their elite level performance, they not only bring in a great amount of revenue but also create a certain culture for that school. A culture that goes beyond a football or volleyball program and becomes a key characteristic of the student body. If we opt into paying young athletes we are not only rewarding them but also creating an opportunity to teach them financial tactics that can help them in the future when potentially signing real contracts. This large contract when received is the realization of a dream that began 10-15 years prior. If colleges began to pay athletes small sums throughout the course of a season, it could ease the necessity to go directly to the draft without a degree, help athletes and their families financially and give a gradual transition into the pros. If athletes are already playing at a level which we see at the professional or, for some, the Olympic stage, why not pay them?
If college athletes were to be paid, money might be valued more than pure tradition. Universities with large endowments and wealthy boosters are able to recruit top prospects through salary offers. This will then cause a shift in valued characteristics by minimizing the importance of a coaching staff and increasing the significance of endorsement deals and salary cap. Money will play a crucial role in the dominance of schools according to each sport. If money is offered, the problem of the value of each sport and players will rise.
There is also a misconception as to how much money each school generates. Although certain programs produce millions, it would require more than just one dominant program to sustain their elite facilities and provide salaries to each player. Is it fair to pay all athletes the same regardless of their minimal or immense contribution to the team? If so, how are we only paying athletes and not musicians, artists, actors, researchers and all the other parts of the student body who also contribute to the school? This will continue to be an ongoing debate and it will be up to schools and the NCAA to evaluate all the factors.