NCAA: Why and How College Athletes Should Get Paid

Published on 5-Sep-2013 by Joe Burgett

Football - NCAA    NCAA Football Daily Opinion

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NCAA: Why and How College Athletes Should Get Paid

While I'm not an economist, I can at least state the obvious.

Sure, when obvious seems obvious, it should be obvious. But obviously, it's not obvious enough to happen ... obviously.

Time magazine recently put Johnny Manziel on the cover of their latest issue of the mag. It mentioned on the cover that college athletes should get paid. This is not the first time a major publishing group has broached this topic, but recent events have clearly put it on the front burner again.

(Yes, I realize that some major programs, like Maryland, are in deep financial trouble. I also realize that football and basketball -- and in some schools, baseball and hockey -- provide the lifeblood for the universities' non-revenue sports and that some conferences don't have crazy-money media contracts. And I know that means the likes of Wyoming and Southern Mississippi aren't in the same financial conversations as Florida State and Tennessee but are subject to the same NCAA rulings. Something must be done in that respect, too, but this article's focus is on the student-athelete's personal situation and the fact that the time has come to address it.)

What I want you to think about is the number 1000.

It doesn't seem too small or too large. I know many of us would enjoy seeing this much added to our paychecks. However, in a given year, this is only $12,000. It is barely enough to get by and considered poverty by the federal government.

Student athletes, however, get less than this for food and expenses per month at major universities. Now, why is this? The argument is made that when a student-athlete is on scholarship, he or she does not deserve money paid to them because he or she is given room and board on top of having school paid for them, 100%.

Now understand, plenty of athletes qualify for loans and even grants. But keep in mind, Pell grants, for example, are only available for the school to use. Any amount not awarded after the fall, spring, and summer terms just goes away. The student does not get to keep this. If he or she is on scholarship completely, it must be declared in federal documents. The school even rejects the grant if there is no need for the student to have it to cover class expenses. However, those not under scholarship who play a sport are able to get the grant for school expenses.

We also cannot know exactly how much one can get for a grant, either. While the max for grants is a little over $5000, this for an entire calendar year. It starts from fall and ends in summer. So this is not something that athletes can count on, especially with the new rules. Plus, since recipients must declare themselves as a dependent until at least age 18 -- and can do so for a few years afterward -- the issue then comes down to how much the parents make. If the students file independently, then they would have to be considered as an having an income all their own, which would enable grant awards to go up.

But again, new rules have made grants much harder to obtain and utilize for expenses other than classes and books. So a student-athlete cannot rely on them for extra income in a given year. Most universities actually incorporate these funds into student costs and then add in scholarship money to pay for the balance, which takes away any ability for a student-athlete to keep the grant money. So anyone who claims this as a way for athletes to get paid should delve into it in more detail.

Now we get down to what money the typical university does give to its scholarship athletes, since they cannot really work a job during the bulk of the season. They provide an average of $2000-$3000 per school year (2010-2011 figures show that $3,222 was the national average). That equals out to -- outside expenses -- around $250 per month. This may or may not include food vouchers given. But if it does not, how does $250 work for the students? How do they pay for gas, insurance, or a car payment? How about being able to simply get off campus? 

Oh, and we're just talking about those under scholarship. Those not under scholarship still have to follow the same guidelines made by the NCAA. So how do those people manage? The simple answer is that they would have to rely on student loans to get by. Or, they could do "improper" things that the NCAA dislikes, such as sign autographs for cash, take pictures for cash, etc. These actions, of course, are not illegal under federal law, just by the NCAA.

I'm sorry, but knowing all this and seeing that kids do not have the access to more income per month makes my decision simple.

Here it is.

Athletic departments at major universities generate millions per year. Even after paying the coaches and administrative staff, there are millions on the table. Some universities with marquée programs like Alabama, Duke, and Texas make $50million to $100million in football ticket sales per year for just football or basketball, respectively. This does not include TV deals. So how hard would it be to pay $1000 to each player on a team per month?

This equals out to $12,000 a year. That is part-time revenue, considered still in poverty. But you combine this with what the scholarship offers, and you then have no more issues. Nutrition beyond the training table is addressed even more so. Athletes have money to pay for other item they need or would like. And this could also prepare them economically to handle the next level if they were to get that far.

When you see an average of 70 players for a football team and multiply that by $12,000, the university would pay the athletes $840,000. This does not include other teams, but football is the sport with the most athletes.

So $840,000 a year for those athletes?

This NCAA and schools could partner to pay it. But think about this. Under $1million for football when you make millions into the billions of it alone annually? I don't think this is asking much, to be honest. It gives the players a sense of economic freedom. But not only that, they can learn responsibility with money, as well. They cannot afford to blow the money, but they can afford to do what they need with it.

And the NCAA and universities still pocket a ton of revenue.