Nay to pay for play

Paying student athletes is far from a solution.

By Henry Guembes, Staff Writer

Being an athlete in college is an honor; it can also be considered an internship in a field one feels they can excel in. Should some internships be paid? Sure. Should athletes at the Division I level be paid on top of all the benefits obtained at their institutions? No.

Rather than creating a sob story for student-athletes, I can attest that representing your school’s colors on the field or on the court is something to be proud of. Most of the top collegiate athletes obtain entrance into institutions because of their athletic ability and not their test scores. NCAA Divisions I and II schools provide more than $2.7 billion in athletics scholarships annually to more than 150,000 student-athletes according to the NCAA. Division I athletes are only required to obtain a 400 on their SAT’s—the lowest score possible. Essentially, these athletes can take the exam and choose their favorite of the first five letters of the alphabet, then proceed to mark it all the way down. They will still get major offers regardless.

Ben Simmons, 19, is an Australian basketball player for LSU who is the hottest name on many hoop lovers’ tongues. As great of an athlete that he is, throughout his stint at Louisiana State, many have questioned his dedication to his studies. The minimum GPA for an athlete to play on the LSU Men’s basketball team is a 2.0. According to Yahoo Sports, the highly lauded prospect from “down under” had failed to meet such requirements. This is a story that is all too common in the realm of college athletics and to think paying athletes would help the cause is down right absurd. According to a CNN investigation, most schools have between 7% and 18% of revenue sport athletes who are reading at an elementary school level. Scary.

It’s problematic when scholars who work extremely hard—polishing up their personal statements and scrambling for the best references—to get into their universities of choice get denied. And on the other hand, we have athletes with full rides, room and board and access to top-notch facilities complaining about not being paid—in a system that enables them to become better at their craft where they can chase those fat paychecks.

Many people would die to have such an open opportunity to gain experience in their desired fields. I’m not sure how many folks would have the nerve to ask for lump sums on top of that.

Anybody who thinks the NCAA is just an organization set out to better people’s lives is kidding themselves. Yes, the NCAA is a business and like any industry, it will try to maximize profit at all costs. In 2015, the NCAA raked in nearly $1 billion in revenue, according to USA Today. The bulk of this money comes from a TV deal with CBS Sports. The executives from these institutions cash in on mad profit as well, and this is where most sports aficionados have an issue with not paying student-athletes. It is true, they are making insane amounts of money off the backs of these players. I agree with most of my counterparts; student-athletes deserve more and executives less. Cold hard cash isn’t the answer here, though.

If colleges were to pay athletes, how would they decide which athletes get paid more? Would only the “big market” schools have access to the best talent? Would this offer opportunities for billionaire tycoons to monopolize the NCAA and further their profits?

“It would ruin the sense of college sports,” said President Barack Obama, according to ESPN.

Keeping this in mind, handing contracts out to teenagers could go south in many ways. As a young person, one can easily make rash decisions and even more so on a financial front. Spending money haphazardly has led even major NBA stars like Antoine Walker into the deep, dark abyss of bankruptcy. Who is to say this wouldn’t be a cause concerning seventeen and eighteen year olds?

The solution to the most debated topic concerning nonprofessional sports is not as clear-cut as one would hope.

I believe there should be mandates set in place for school presidents to incorporate some percentage of their profits into bettering sports facilities and equipment at schools, giving students athletes better meal plans that can even benefit their performances, and spreading scout programs farther out and into the inner cities.

The NCAA decides how much money is distributed back to these institutions. Division I schools obtain the bulk of all revenue, which amounts to 60 percent, according to the NCAA’s website. Once these funds reach the colleges, it is solely up the presidents and treasurers of these schools to decide how funds are split. This leaves very vague conceptions of how the money is managed. The issue isn’t solely about the NCAA; it concerns many of the higher-ups in the front offices as well.

“The bottom line is athletes are regular students, but they do have skills that people pay to see,” Valley’s Athletic Director Jim Fenwick said. “They’re there to get an education and when you give a young person a full scholarship, room and board—thats a big advantage. They receive many benefits compared to the others (students) and they have the massive advantage of not worrying about where their tuition is coming from, their loans and all those things.”

Your thoughts?