Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Why College Athletes Shouldn't Be Paid.

Quite often, I see fans of college sports commenting about student-athletes and the need to provide compensation to them. Essentially, they believe that college athletes should be paid like professional athletes. By all accounts, this seems to be the most popular sentiment among the college sports viewing audience. A continuous yearly survey from Harris Interactive shows that 45% of all Americans watch college sports, chiefly men's basketball and football. The NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) pulls in nearly $800,000,000 in revenue annually.

I say they're dead wrong. College athletes don't deserve a penny.

But whoa, Jared! These kids play their hearts out. They take bumps and bruises. Plus, they earn the NCAA millions upon millions of dollars. Why shouldn't they get a little piece of the action?

I'll tell you why...


When you go to college, the goal is to broaden your mind, take in knowledge and become a smarter, more mature human being. You're not going to college to bounce a ball or throw a piece of leather. Sure, you might participate in a collegiate sport while in attendance at an institution of higher learning; I've got no problem with that. Sports are fun! Personally, I really enjoy baseball and hockey. But, that's not the reason why you're in college. Sports are merely an extracurricular activity, like playing on a chess team or participating in a book club. You don't go to college to become a professional athlete -- there's no class or degree for that.

Here's the other, and perhaps much larger, dilemma. If you decide to pay one set of college athletes, then you legally have to pay all of them. No matter what sport they play or their gender, all student athletes would be required to receive compensation. Whether the men's basketball team or the women's volleyball team, if you pay one, then you have to pay them all -- no exceptions. How does that work? It's simple. If the NCAA and colleges decided to pay their athletes, then those athletes would have to be classified as employees under the institutions they play for. By law, that places them under the jurisdiction of the Equal Pay Act of 1963. This requires that all employed persons be treated equally and fairly by their employers, no matter their gender or position in life. Title IX also enters in the picture, declaring that...
"No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance."
Essentially, if you have a collegiate sports program, both men and women (and, by proxy, all people whom fall at various points on the gender spectrum) must have equal access and be invited to participate. Even if it's a private college or university that doesn't receive federal assistance, they're still bound to the law under the Equal Pay Act. Though, the reach of Title IX could even be argued in court if a student uses federal aid to attend a private institution... but that's a whole other discussion.

There's just no way around this issue -- Equal Play, Equal Pay.

To put it simply -- all college students get to participate in sports programs. If those students are to be paid, then all sports programs and their players shall receive remuneration.

Therein exists the problem for the NCAA and colleges -- they're fully aware of this issue that I've just described. As much as they might want to pay their college football and men's basketball players, they also know that they'd be forced to pay the men's golf team, the women's lacrosse team, the fencing team, equestrian team, and so on. College football and basketball teams earn the NCAA and colleges millions. On the other hand, college water polo teams (one of many examples) don't earn squat.

But I'm not done yet...

If student athletes were to be classified as employees and receive compensation, there's another law that would drastically change the realm of college sports -- the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. By law, no employer may discriminate in employment against a qualified individual with a disability. Thereby, all students with a disability would have just as much right to play a sport as anyone else and receive the same pay. If a paraplegic wanted to play men's basketball in a wheelchair (and I've seen some awesome guys and gals who play basketball in a wheelchair), the NCAA would have no choice to but to accept that individual and accommodate their disability. What if a blind girl wanted to be on the women's field hockey team? Sign her up! How about a guy with Down's syndrome who wanted to be on the football team? By golly, get that man a helmet and let him play! Personally, I believe there's no reason why any student, no matter their gender or disability, shouldn't already be playing any college sport they choose!

In the end, all of this highlights a much deeper cultural problem with college (and professional) sports. Sports are taken way too seriously. The NCAA rakes in endless piles of cash as a titanic profit machine, fully leveraged on the backs of students -- many whom wouldn't even make it to college based upon their poor scholastic ability.

These are just games being played, folks. One team wins, another loses. Numbers go on a board. Balls are hit. Pucks are slapped. Weights are lifted. That's it. Nothing of real importance is born from a game being played. It's just for fun... but it seems everyone has forgotten that part of the game.

Full disclosure -- I do not watch college sports of any kind, so I have no dog in this fight.

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