Friday, August 30, 2013

College Athletes: Pay-for-Play or Already Well-Paid?

The argument about whether college athletes should be paid is once again raging. Twitter feeds across the country have been bombarded by ESPN basketball commentator Jay Bilas arguing that the only people not being cut in on the profits of the NCAA are the athletes earning the money. Bilas exposed the NCAA’s most noticeable flaw in their online store, which paired athletes’ names to their school’s jersey with their number. This is an example of using a student’s image for profit that was long argued to occur in NCAA football games.  While I agree with Bilas on the hypocrisy of the NCAA, I am going to take a different look at the problem.

I have as many problems with the NCAA as anyone else, but it seems like the compensation for a scholarship athlete is becoming increasingly reasonable when most students walk out of school with tens of thousands of dollars of student loans (I am up to about $20,000 myself).  The simple fact is that a college scholarship to a high priced school can run $250,000 these days. Is it pro money? No, but they are not supposed to be pro athletes. It would be hard to tell the way the NCAA has treated them like commodities, but the money for postseason tournaments, international trips, travel, scholarships, and such do not grow on trees.

I also know that in revenue sports (football and basketball), more than half the team is given a significant, if not full ride, scholarship to the university. At the University of Texas for example, the average total cost of attendance will run a student about $45,790 this year. So for a five year, fully funded college education, an athletic scholarship is worth $228,950. This is more than the majority of minor league baseball players, NBA D-League players, Arena League football players and AHL players make, all of whom were the either the best player or a starter at their college. Include travel expenses, the exclusive tutoring during road trips and athletics-based opportunities offered to students and that college expense is much higher.

Is the current NCAA system perfect? Absolutely not, but it is not completely broke either. While many will argue for payment of athletes, I would argue that the athletes are already being paid very well. And if these athletes do not think so, well then they can help pay my student loans.