College athletes deserve payday

College football is back and everyone knows what that means: more scandals and stories that undermine its integrity. Every few weeks, ESPN and the other major sports media break a story about how some major college sports program allegedly violated numerous NCAA sanctions, usually involving providing players with money, benefits, and recruiting violations. Basically what happens is School “A” gives Player “B” some extra money in order to sway them into attending their university. Some coaches have even provided prospective recruits with strippers and parties in order to entice them. This year both Ohio State University and the University of Miami landed in hot water over providing benefits to players through boosters, or in the case of Ohio State, the coaches themselves.

The fully story behind the mess at Ohio State and Miami is long enough to fill a series of books, so they won’t be delved into here. The big issue here is one that has divided players and fans alike: should college athletes be paid?

This issue is a polarizing one. Those who oppose paying college players will say they are already being paid with scholarships, and that they are provided an education they would not be able to receive otherwise. Something could be lost if players are playing for money and not just school pride.

But those who say college players should be paid will point out the elephant in the room: college sports at major universities can bring in millions of dollars, and the players who actually play the games do not receive any sort of monetary compensation. Schools are exploiting student-athletes for obscene amounts of money and then get high and mighty whenever anyone brings up the possibility of paying players.

There are just too many reasons why they should be paid and too many examples of how college athletes are being exploited to ignore. This problem is especially prevalent in college football. Teams that win at least six games are invited to play in bowl games, which can bring in millions of dollars, especially if teams make it to one of the five Bowl Championship Series (BCS) games.

Bowl games aren’t the only way revenue is brought in; merchandising is pretty big too. Earlier this year, ESPN aired a documentary as part of their “30 for 30” series about the Fab Five, a group of basketball players for the University of Michigan who became very popular. So popular that Nike made a deal with the university to sell merchandise based on the “Fab Five.” There was a story in the documentary that Chris Webber, one of the five players, noticed his Michigan jersey hanging in a store. He had barely any money to his name, but Webber and the other players were furious that their school was making money off of merchandise they inspired.

Video games do the same thing. Every year, EA Sports releases their NCAA football and basketball games. The players in these games have the numbers, physical characteristics and skill sets of real-life players. Nobody makes a big deal over this because the actual names of each athlete are not in video games, so each player is not based on an actual person. That argument does not hold much water. It’s like putting a man in a chicken suit and saying it is no longer actually a man.

When current Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow played at the University of Florida, the UF quarterback in that year’s iteration of NCAA Football game wore number 15, had player ratings in the 90’s, threw left-handed and was the size of a Range Rover. Anybody who knows about football would agree that that was a spot-on description of Tebow when he was in college. Sounds like a guy in a chicken suit to me.

It is the same with just about any other college athlete in those games. If someone polled America asking them if they would want compensation if their likeness was used somehow to sell a product, I have a hunch that a lot of people would say yes. The NCAA expects college students to comply with having their likenesses being used to sell products? That is grossly unfair.

College officials and especially coaches get paid millions, based on the hard work of athletes who should be reaping most of the rewards. I work for a college newspaper that does not bring in nearly as much as college sports do at major schools, but I still get paid. Even if I was on a full-ride scholarship, I still would receive a paycheck. Is it fair if you are on a full-ride scholarship and work at a dining hall and you are told one day you cannot get paid anymore because of this scholarship? In no way is it fair. Students who provide services for their school, especially if millions of dollars and the risk of serious injury are involved, should be compensated in some way. No one should be exploited for their hard work in any walk of life. Being fair is not asking for much.