College athletics: to pay or not to pay?

The question of whether college athletes should be paid for playing sports is a topic of fiery debate across all sports media.

One side of the argument says it would help student athletes meet their financial obligations while the other side says paying them will negatively impact the dynamics of college athletics.

Critics claim athletic scholarships count as compensation and cover all traditional student expenses like tuition, housing and food. But this is not the case. The same critics do not take into account that even a full scholarship may not be enough to cover personal expenses like clothes, gas, or even spending money.

Colleges thrive on the profits they make from student athletes, but the athletes never see any of that money.

Case in point: colleges generate revenue from selling a player’s jersey, but the player is not entitled to any of the profits from the sale. The player is easily sidestepped because the jersey does not sport the name of the player; it only carries the player’s number.

Also, athletes do not receive income from TV and video game deals, or from post-season appearances.

In response, colleges emphasize athletes are students first, and ballplayers second. However, that is not how athletes view their own role.

Former Georgia running back Richard Samuel told Time magazine “In the fall, we would spend way more time on sports than academics.”

Essentially, the schools enroll players as full time students, but expect them to be full time athletes.

Consequently, as both full time athletes and students, they do not have the time for a part time job to earn extra money.

Adrian Peterson, a former college athlete and current Minnesota Vikings running back told Time magazine athletes should be able to, at the very least, sell their memorabilia.

“Actors and actresses – these people can sign things and get paid for it.  How come this kid (Johnny Manziel) can’t?” Peterson told Time.

Players could easily capitalize on the sales of their autographs, jerseys, and pictures, but the NCAA forbids them to do so.

Meanwhile, college players are also missing out on income from the video game industry.

EA Sports, a maker of college and professional sports video games, avoids paying college players featured in their games because the players’ names do not appear anywhere, just their numbers.

Four years ago, former college basketball player Ed O’Bannon sued the NCAA for allowing EA Sports to use his likeness in one of their games.

Basketball legends Bill Russell and Oscar Robertson also sued claiming the NCAA and their former colleges made money off of their likenesses, but they did not see a penny of that money.

Robertson told Time, “I think in this day and age as opposed to yesteryear, the concept of what they consider amateur basketball is gone forever.”

Community college athletes, even though it is less than that of their university counterparts, still shoulder a heavy financial burden.

San Jacinto College basketball player Anthony Miles said, “I have my school paid for, but I could always use some extra money for gas, to be able to go out to eat, and hang out with my friends.”