College sports generate billions of dollars in revenues in the United States every year. In 2016, CBS and Turner Broadcasting extended their contact with the NCAA Division 1 basketball tournament with an 8-year, $8.8 billion extension. That placed the value of March Madness at more than $1 billion per year for the first time in history.
The extension in 2016 followed a 2010 contract which offered a 14-year agreement to broadcast the annual tournament for $10.8 billion.
The NCAA states that 90% of the revenues generated through the games played by student athletes go into services, programs, or direct distribution opportunities which directly benefit member conferences and schools. Aside from equipment access, medical care, scholarships, and travel support, student athletes receive zero compensation for their participation in their chosen support.By definition, paying the athlete would make them a professional. On the other hand, it could be argued that scholarships are an alternative form of payment already being provided. Because of the revenues their activities generate, the pros and cons of paying college athletes are closely scrutinized.
1. It encourages healthier student athletes. Paying college athletes for their participation in sports eliminates the need for them to find outside employment to support themselves. Many scholarships may offer tuition, room, and board coverage in return for participating in a sport, but not every student athlete qualifies for a scholarship. Walk-on players have their images used to generate revenues for the NCAA too for zero compensation. Paying all athletes would allow them to focus on academics and athletics without worrying about making ends meet.
2. It provides relief for families. Families are often tasked with providing direct support for their student athletes to abide by current payment rules. Student athletes are not even permitted to autograph items, or sell certain personal memorabilia, as a way to generate revenues. Outside of student loans for partial scholarship or walk-on athletes, it is up to examine the site each family to pay for the student to be at the school. Paying the athlete would provide some financial relief to these families, which may not have the funds to make long-term supports.
3. It provides another incentive to play. Most student athletes who play in college never become professional athletes. In the NCAA, fewer than 2% of college athletes go on to become professional athletes. Most become professionals in their chosen field of study. By offering a stipend for playing, much like a work-study program, students would gain another incentive to become involved in athletics. They could use these funds to pay for costs not covered by a scholarship. Students could save the money for a first apartment outside of college. If a student knows they will not go pro, they may decide to give up sports instead, which would ultimately reduce the income generated by collegiate sporting activities.
4. It would stop corruption. Despite rules preventing such actions, coaches, shoe executives, agents, apparel representatives, and other industry professionals often conspire to pay recruits to join a specific college. It is a practice that stays out of the public eye because everyone involved benefits if no one knows about the payments. Using money to influence a high school student to select a specific program and hire a specific business manager is felony-level conduct. Allowing college athletes to be paid would help to limit this issue, which would reduce investigation costs across the board.
5. It would attract better athletes who stay in programs longer. The goal of attending a college program should be to earn a degree. Academics should be the top priority. For the athletes that do have the ability to play professionally, going to college is a stop on the journey toward a good paycheck. If these athletes could be paid while they are attending a college program, then they would be more likely to stick with the program to eventually earn their degree. They could then be drafted into a professional league once they’ve completed their courses.