Paying College Athletes: Should College Athletes Be Paid

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There are many controversies surrounding the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the most discussed one being about athletes getting paid. This dispute has been going on for decades, but only recently has it made the news that current and former players strongly disagree with the rule and are attempting to challenge it. The National Collegiate Athletic Association should make changes to their rule of not paying athletes because the players make money for the NCAA and the school whom they are playing for, and the risk of injuries athletes face that could potentially end their careers. One reason collegiate athletes should be paid is that of the amount of money they bring in for the school they are playing for. If it is large school and is well-known for a certain sport, such as The University of Alabama and its football team, the school can millions of dollars per sports season just off of ticket sales and merchandising. On top of that, colleges can also make profits off of deals with nationwide television broadcasters and video game producers who want the players as the cover or in the actual game itself. 

A school can also benefit off of one of its sports teams if they go far into playoffs, win or championship, or even if they happen to have a big upset game. This happened to Auburn’s football team when they defeated Alabama in………… This game alone brought in thirty seven million dollars for Auburn. To compare, the Green Bay Packers only made forty three million dollars that same year. This goes to show the incredible amount of money a college can make off of one game alone. Another reason these athletes should receive compensation is that of the amount of money the National Collegiate Athletic Association receives because of the players. This started in 1979 when the March Madness championship was aired live on NBC. This Michigan State versus Indiana State basketball game featured Earvin Johnson and Larry Bird, who later became known as “Magic” Johnson and “Larry Legend.” Twenty million people in eighteen million separate homes watched. This was twenty percent more viewers(source) than the previous year’s game when Kentucky and Duke played each other. Even though the population and number of ways to watch the game have increased, no NCAA March Madness championship game has come close to the rating and views than this game did. 

Over the next decade, the number of teams competing in this tournament went from forty to sixty-four. This allowed the NCAA to increase the rights fees to broadcast the games from five million and two hundred thousand dollars to ninety-six million dollars. After 1996, the association moved Final Four games from basketball areas to football stadiums, so more people could attend. This doubled and then tripled the number of tickets sold, which meant more profit for the NCAA. In time, the athletes competing in the tournaments began to question why the NCAA wouldn’t share their immense earnings with them. After all, they were the draw to view the games in the first place. One of the first times the rule was publicly challenged was in 2009 when former UCLA player Ed O’Bannon filed a lawsuit against the NCAA and the Collegiate Licensing Company. He said that they were participating in restraint-of-trade ploys in which the Sherman Antitrust Act was violated. O'Bannon also concluded that players, both past and present, were stripped of their power of individual publicly. 

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He felt compelled to file the suit after his friend’s son showed him a video game in which a UCLA player had the same jersey number and exact appearance, down to his shaved head and dominant hand, as O’Bannon had. In March of 2010, the Northern District of California combined O’Bannon’s case with Sam Keller, one of University of Nebraska's former quarterbacks. Before O’Bannon’s case, Keller filed a lawsuit against Electric Arts for invading the individual rights of publicity of all of the student-athletes featured in EA video games. These two cases are early examples of collegiate athletes questioning their rights of individual publicity. A great example of an athlete making more money for the Athletic Association and the school he played for than the amount he received is Tim Tebow. The former University of Florida quarterback was the first ever sophomore football player to win the Heisman Trophy(Cox 212). Tebow was also the cover athlete of EA Sports’ NCAA Football ’11(Cox 212). It was never doubted that the then twenty-three-year-old was bringing in large amounts of money for both his school and the NCAA. But because of certain rules the NCAA holds, Tebow never saw a dime of it. Some may argue that the young star was given some money because of the thirteen thousand dollar scholarship he received per year. 

Although this a lot of money, it did not even come close to amounting to the estimated one million and three hundred thousand to two million and five hundred thousand dollars(Cox 213) that the NCAA and University of Florida made per season when Tebow played. Throughout his four college football seasons, two million, four hundred and one thousand, five hundred and thirty-two (Cox 213) tickets were sold to watch Tebow play in his home stadium. This does not even include the hundreds of thousands or even millions of other tickets sold to see him play on the road. But the NCAA and the University of Florida were not the only ones who prospered because of Tebow. “[D]uring the Tebow Years, the salaries of the [University of Florida’s] head football coach and the athletic director [each] doubled,”(Cox 213), the Southeastern Conference signed signed a two billion, two hundred and fifty thousand dollar contract with ESPN so his games could be broadcasted nationally, the “sales of Tebow’s blue and orange number fifteen football jersey to adoring fans nationwide helped transform the University of Florida into the third-highest seller of merchandise among U.S. colleges and universities”(Cox 213), and Tebow was able to earn his college between seventy-eight thousand and one-hundred and forty thousand dollars(Cox 214) because he was on the cover of the video game NCAA Football ‘11. 

Even former NBA player Michael Jordan’s agent, David Falk, took notice of Tebow’s importance to the NCAA and UF by stating “You’d have to ascertain the incremental revenues that a school like Florida is getting.... In the five previous years before Tebow, say their average record was 7-5. And when he is there, it is 10-1. They’re winning national championships, conference championships. Before, they went to minor bowls, and now they’re in big bowls. [Look at] bowl revenues and sponsorships. I’d try to say he is, or was, a major factor in the increase in revenues.” Unfortunately, the NCAA can argue that the athletes they are using as advertisements did, in fact, give consent to “the NCAA [or a third party acting on behalf of the NCAA] to use [an] [athlete’s] name or picture to generally promote NCAA championships or other NCAA events, activities, or programs(Griffin 211). This statement is apart of Form 08-3a, which is a document that every NCAA athlete must sign and give to the school’s athletic director before the start of his or her season. If an athlete fails to do so, he or she will be unable to compete in their season. 

By refusing to sign the agreement, an athlete can throw away their collegiate athletic career. So, if a college athlete wishes to play their sport professionally, he or she must sign the form, whether they like it or not. Another reason collegiate athletes should be paid is that of the risk of injuries they face. Whether an athlete is in high school, college, or playing a professional sport, if their injury is bad enough, it could potentially end their career playing sports. This has happened numerous times over the past decade and many times, the injured athlete now has to change their life completely and find a new job in order to make money. Many serious athletes prioritize the sport they play and know that once they make it to a certain point, they will be able to play professionally. So, if they happen to suffer a career-ending injury, they need to rethink and change their whole future. Even if an injury is not career-ending, it can inhibit a player to play the way they used to, which can decrease their value to teams whom they may potentially want to sign with. An example of an athlete suffering from a career-ending injury is Paul Appleby, a former boxer who was the youngest person ever to become a British featherweight champion. In 2012, the then twenty-four-year-old was said to have collapsed during a match. He was rushed to a hospital and had bleeding in his brain. From this hospital, he was transferred to Edinburgh’s West General Hospital, which specializes in brain injuries. 

After being examined by a doctor, Appleby could barely stand and looked rather pale. After diagnosis, it was determined that he would fuller recover from the injury, but he would not be able to fight again because of how serious the injury was(Black 13). After this happened, Appleby had to change his life. Since his job was boxing and that is the way he made money, he had to change his career and get a different job. This shows how a single injury can ruin your athletic career. Fortunately, many athletes have been fighting against the National Collegiate Athletic Association over whether or not the student-athletes should receive compensation. This has made almost every college sports fan aware of the situation, which has been gaining more support over the past few years. Until there is an agreement between the athletes and the NCAA, more lawsuits will be filed and more information will be brought to light on how much money colleges and the NCAA make off of the players. Athletes do so much to help the school, and sometimes even become injured because the sport they are playing. This is not fair to them, since they had put in so much work to become great at their sport, and now it may seem like it was all for nothing. 

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