College Athlete Compensation Controversy

In the antiquity, the conception of sports was established on the high and glorious ideals. The stakes were high and required the extreme level of the athlete’s commitment. But the rewards were great as well: the champions were exalted, honored, and submerged in the aura of respect and fame. Since those times, sports didn’t lose its popularity, on the contrary, it obtained the global status and transformed into the industry that produces the immense profit. But what about the main sports participants? Do the athletes always get the rewards they deserve? Let’s look at the position of the college athletes. Big college games are widely broadcasted and attract millions of visitors and contemplators.

The young college athletes are devoted to sports, and they demonstrate their devotion in the excellent skills. Their performance and passionate competitions turn games into the spectacular shows. According to NCAA Finances, the college athletics revenues exceed millions of dollars every year (“College Athletics Revenues and Expenses” par. 1). Nevertheless, the young athletes, who are mostly responsible for the great outcomes in the financial profit, are not paid for their work. Although the officials find excuses for the situation to remain as it is, such an unfair attitude towards the sportsmen should be changed, and the college athletes should be paid for their hard work and great achievements.

The Issues of Payment in the College Athletics

The main reason the college sportsmen are not paid salaries is that the college sports considered amateur. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) claims that the college athletes shouldn’t be paid a regular salary and that the students’ scholarship is enough to cover all the costs that the engagement in sports can bring. The multiple cases of athletes’ images usage for the obtaining of profit and the increased demands from the sides of the coaches make it clear that the reform in the college sports financing is needed, and the absence of the compensations equivalent to the athlete’s degree of commitment has a lot of negative impacts.

The common sources of the college sports financial support are NCAA and the alumni donations. According to the Frank Jozsa’s research, nowadays the colleges’ officials and the coaches often establish the PR and the fund-raising campaigns to “obtain a portion of revenue for their sports programs from local, regional, and national businesses, and from other private donors, groups, and organizations” (1). This method is highly popular in the sports community and allows some schools and colleges to gain a big profit. The budgets cover expenses of the different kinds: coach pay, team travels, marketing, purchase of the sports equipment, and the students’ scholarships. Although, the fund-raising and acceptance of corporative donations go through the regulations and require the legal verification, these adopted programs cannot be completely trusted and can be simply misused by those who are in charge.

The fund-raising programs and the attraction of the sponsorship didn’t prove to be the credible sources of budgets. It can’t provide the fair and equal distribution of funds and also encourages the involvement of the officials in the illegal activities. During the past century, the American society actively addresses the issues of inequality and the rights’ violations. Thus, the fact that the main participants of all the massive and profitable sportive events are underpaid and not treated as they supposed to be is broadly discussed in the mass media and is condemned by the American citizens. The unwillingness of the political institutions and the athletic associations to solve the problem by offering the regular payments to the college athletes can’t have any good impacts on every aspect involved in this issue.

While the officials earn on the athletes’ exploitation, the college sportsmen’s regular scholarship is supposed to provide them with the sportive clothing and equipment, medical care and treatment, and also is “entitled to worker’s compensation for injuries received on the playing field” (Sack and Parseghian 112). The injuries are the part of the everyday life of each sportsman. In case when the insurance can’t cover the medical treatment, the amateur athlete faces the great financial difficulties. Against the background of the severe injuries or disabilities received in the sporting activities and the lack of support from the management, the cases of the corruption look even more outrageous and immoral.

Besides the moral aspects of the issue, the lack of salaries in college sports has many other impractical disadvantages that negatively affect the athletes’ performances. For example, the high pressure that the commercial sponsorship puts on the college sports. The sponsors often have the big expectation regarding the team’s efficiency in the competitions. The success in sports can draw more donations and more profit to the college. It puts pressure both on the coach’s and the team’s performances. The prominent sports researchers, Robert and Amy McCormick, revealed in their work the numerous cases proving that the athletes can be “most obviously exploited” primarily for purposes of profit and college team promotion (640). The exceeded requirements imposed on the amateur college athletes simply demonstrate the rights and the laws violation.

The capitalism involved in the college sports provokes inequality. It was observed by the former sportswriter and ESPN commentator, Michael Wilbon, that the revenues of such popular in the USA kinds of sports as football and men’s basketball are very high, while usually “lacrosse, field hockey, softball, baseball, soccer players get nothing” (2). Thus, the incomes depend not only on the team’s success in its field but also create the competition among the kinds of sports.

This attitude towards rewarding the athletes isn’t adequate, fair or even practical. Moreover, the lack of sufficient compensation, especially in the combination with the exceeded claims from the officials or coaches, can induce the lack of athlete’s motivation, and it most likely can affect the performance. It doesn’t encourage the participation in the sports. A small amount of compensation for the difficulties that the sportsmen face while training deters many of freshmen from the further engagement in sports and prevents them from the chance to reach a professional level.

Recommendations for the Problem Solution

The facts make it clear that the current commercial model implemented in the sports policies and regulations of the American colleges has a number of disadvantages and bad impacts. The officially regulated and governmentally approved payment system would be the best solution. The athletes should be provided with salaries that are equal to their duties and performances. The lawful regulations of the working environment and conditions are necessary to provide athletes with the legal security.


Many journalists and scholars nowadays research the legal side of the college athletes’ exploitation making their contribution to the rise of the public awareness and making steps towards the changes. Nevertheless, the issue remains unsolved. It is important for everyone to claim the change. In January 2014, he college sportsmen filed the petition for the creation of a labor union. The Northwestern Quarterback, Kain Colter, during his speech at a conference in Chicago, called NCAA’s policy “a dictatorship” (“College Athletes File Petition to Create Labor Union” par. 4). Today it is everyone’s responsibility to provide the athletes with the support in their attempts to fight the injustice.

Works Cited

“College Athletes File Petition to Create Labor Union.” RT  2014: n.pag. Web.

College Athletics Revenues and Expenses 2008. Web.

Jozsa, Frank. College Sports Inc.: How Commercialism Influences Intercollegiate Athletics, New York: NY: Springer, 2013. Print.

McCormick, Robert and Amy McCormick. “A Trail of Tears: The Exploitation of the College Athlete.” Florida Coastal Law Review. 11.9/10 (2010): 639-665. Social Science Research Network. Web.

Sack, Allen and Ara Parseghian. Counterfeit Amateurs: An Athlete’s Journey Through the Sixties to the Age of Academic Capitalism, University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2008. Print.

Wilbon, Michael 2011, College Athletes Deserve to Be Paid. Web.

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