Reflections on Time magazine’s cover article this week “ It’s time to pay college athletes”
Originally this week’s entry was going to be a continuation of last week’s series on “what does it take to win,” however, I stumbled upon this week’s Time magazine. I figured it was more pertinent to address the bubbling issue within sports on paying college athletes, and will continue my series on winning early on next week.
So, if you haven’t been keeping up with sports news, allow me to briefly fill you in. Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel was recently charged with a NCAA violation of selling his autograph and this re-ignited the debate over whether collegiate student-athletes should receive compensation. In addition, this week’s Time magazine features a cover story of this topic. The article presents both sides of the debate, but is heavily weighted towards the side of allowing collegiate student-athletes to be paid.
The NCAA was originally created to provide protection for athletes. According to the NCAA Division 1 manual, student-athletes may not market their name or anything of the like, and they may not receive any type of payment unless authorized by the NCAA. This is to ensure their amateur status, protection, and in order to maintain their primary purpose of involvement in collegiate athletics that being, a student. Many of those who are in favor of paying student-athletes may argue that by giving student-athletes compensation for their work in sport that this is indeed protecting student-athletes by giving them more monetary means. That by giving student-athletes compensation it would give them the ability to provide for themselves and meet their basic needs such as food, clothing, and housing which may not be covered through scholarships.
The NCAA is currently protecting student-athletes by not allowing them compensation but by allowing them the time to learn life skills within a protected and resourceful environment, and get an education in order to be marketable in the future. Professional athletic careers are notoriously short, unpredictable, and sparse. While in college, student-athletes have access to resources that are not readily available or free of charge (included in tuition or scholarship) outside of the university system, such as teachers, doctors, trainers, career counselors, mentors, tutors, counselors etc. In my professional opinion, student-athletes are more in need of life-skills education than any other college population (more on that later). These resources, while rarely accessed and utilized, are available to student-athletes. This is protection that the NCAA has in place for their student-athletes, protection from people trying to exploit them, because they are young, vulnerable student-athletes.
By not compensating student-athletes, the NCAA also enables the primary purpose of a student-athlete to remain intact. For many student-athletes, their college education is achieved solely because of their athletic abilities. If money becomes involved in a student-athlete’s college career, they may then be motivated to ensure that their athletic performance remains at peak at any cost. This may have unforeseen consequences such as: independently training more hours than required and spending less time on education; increase in injury because of increased stress caused by a monetary value placed on their athletic performance; family members, friends etc. asking them for money because of their new monetary value; decreased academic performance and possible ineligibility, increased maladaptive behaviors such as drinking, or drugs, as well as many more. In addition, because professional athletic careers are usually short-lived, having a bachelors education and degree, will ensure that student-athletes can obtain a quality job when their professional career is finished.
Yes, collegiate student-athletes bring in an enormous amount of funding for not only the university or college they attend but also for the surrounding community. But, in the proposed payment mentioned in the Time magazine article, of a payment cap of $1.5 million, for all student-athletes, who would pay this? The school, or the NCAA? If it is the school, I do not think they are going to want to forfeit $1.5 million of their own funds to pay athletes. Taking $1.5 million out of the athletic budget has the potential for serious repercussions. Repercussions such as: other sports may be cut, salaries may be decreased or capped, scholarships may be limited, and many other things may be altered if the money comes from the university athletic funds. Also, think back to professional sports teams that have had shut outs and freezes because athletes demanded more payment, who is to say this may not happen within athletics? Even though there is a cap, historically, those payment caps eventually get raised, and it is usually a messy process. Collegiate student-athletes will need agents, to help them get the most compensation allowed, or will they not be allowed agents, and then who will provide the checks and balances to ensure that monetary compensation is given fairly? Also, what about the student-athletes in non-revenue generating sports, they will be alienated because they will not receive compensation, and may feel as if their self-worth is compromised, or a myriad of other emotional reactions and beliefs. Also, there would be an even greater divide between sports and schools that are allowed to compensate their athletes and those who cannot.
There are many questions that can be raised as a result of this debate. There are also many variables to take into account, including the largest and most unseen of them, being that student-athletes are people and need to be treated as such. So, while you are deciding which side to take on this debate, I urge you to broaden your mind and absorb the facts and research regarding student-athletes. My side is towards not compensating, and I respect whatever side of the debate you choose to take.
I could talk about this topic for hours, but I know time is valuable, so I have kept it brief. I hope this helps you readers at least think about this topic a little differently. Whatever happens doesn’t matter much to me as long as the athletes are ultimately protected and successful in the long-run. Next week I will return to the series on “what it takes to win.”