Discussion: Should College Athletes be Paid?

A college athlete wakes up every morning to gruel workouts, game competitions and school work throughout the semester. Yet all they get is a tuition scholarship without any compensation for their hard work. Most athletes come from poor backgrounds and cannot afford to pay fully for their education. It can be said that the scholarships help significantly in ensuring quality education, but what about those students who are not poor? If scholarships are granted to students who excel in sports regardless of their backgrounds, should they be paid an equal stipend to ensure all athletes’ benefit? The College sports industry is a multi-million-dollar enterprise making millions and millions of dollars from college athletes. Primary beneficiaries include the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which produces over one billion dollars from annual matches in basketball and football (Zema 200). Other beneficiaries include T.V. networks that air sports, colleges and universities, coaches, and shops selling sports materials from the players.

NCAA argues that athletes are too young to get a stipend which is considered unprofessional in employment ethics. But other forms of rewards could be put in place instead of a salary. This paper list argument that supports college athletes’ rights to benefit from their hard work, explaining in detail and examples why an athlete is entitled to payment. The paper will also try to view NCAA arguments on why it is not legal to pay college athletes on basis of age and professionalism, which aims to counter the majority opinion of the public that the athletes should be paid.

College sports generate billions of cash annually from outdoor games to indoor games. For instance, Texas A&M receives over $180 million from football and basketball. Football is the most competitive game and generates more revenue for the university than any other sport. From the income, the NCAA makes up to $1 billion in benefits from a single season (Knoester, and Ridpath 12). Sharing the profits with athletes should not be a major problem considering the huge amounts of revenue they generate for both the school and NCAA. Corporations that use athletics for advertising their brands also have a share in the profits made. In the last season, most jerseys that sold had Zion Williamson’s name on them, but he did not receive a single dollar from the benefits. The vast amounts of revenue generated are reason enough to demand payment to athletes for working hard and raising the school’s financial status.

College athletes who are passionate about games do often take sports as a full-time career or profession. From morning to evening, their schedule is busy with either practice, workouts, competitions, or schoolwork. While other students may get free time for part-time jobs which can sustain their upkeep, college athletes are busy practicing to ensure winnings in all competitions. Basic maintenance in colleges can be challenging if one does not have a source of income. Studies by National College Players Association indicate that a majority of college athletes live beyond the poverty index (Zema 202). Sports departments and NCAA should consider this as reason enough to provide extra support to these athletes by providing salaries. Apart from not being able to do part-time jobs, college athletes do not have time to go through internship programs which may present challenges in getting career jobs after graduation. Salaries or rewards in cash could help the athletes in starting life after college as they find internships to grow their careers.

Sports can be physically exhausting and lead to injuries at times, during practice or competitions. Profitable games like football and basketball have high risks of injuries because they are too involving. Some of the damages athletes incur could be fatal or cause permanent disabilities. For example, Zion Williamson’s knee injury almost threatened his career he was out of several matches. Many other athletes get wounds that mark the end of their careers in sports, which goes hand in hand with the scholarships. To compensate these athletes, a salary should be provided to cover medical bills and a way of survival for athletes who may be forced to quit playing due to fatal injuries.

The arguments supporting paying college athletes may be valid, but every action has a procedure and consequences. Suppose the arguments are supporting athletes’ pay wins, which will determine the amount of cash each athlete receives. Sports include many games, each contributing particular amounts of revenue according to the success, and popularity of the game. Providing equal payments as the stipend is unfair for athletes who contribute more, while varying figures will only lead to inequality and corruption in distributing funds. Besides individual contributions, colleges vary in financial status and sports ability, making it impossible to have equal salaries among athletes (McCarthy 4). Small colleges will strain to get funds to pay their athletes, which could lead to players being poached with promises of higher salaries.

NCAA president argues against compensating college athletes claiming it will create an unfair treatment of athletes from different colleges. If the NCAAs argument on amateurism is considered, college athletes are quite young to handle cash which may lead to mismanagement or living carelessly because of a lot of money (Zema 204). According to NCAA, professional sportsmen retire early due to indulging in unhealthy lifestyles that erode their health physically and mentally.

Considering all factors, College athletes deserve to be paid in one way or another as appreciation for their hard work and revenue generated. The challenge of amateurism can be solved by having managers who can control and manage the student’s funds. In general, paying college athletes will serve as motivation, bring more revenue and also uplift the lives of many families who look up to some of these athletes for daily survival.


Knoester, Chris, and B. David Ridpath. Should college athletes be allowed to be paid? A Public opinion analysis. Sociology of Sport Journal, 2020, pp. 1-13. Human Kinetics.

McCarthy, Claudine. Prepare student-athletes for life after college athletics. College Athletics and the Law, vol 14, no. 9, 2017, pp. 1-5. Wiley.

Zema, Phillip. Should student-athletes be paid?. Sport, Ethics and Philosophy, vol 13, no. 2, 2018, pp. 198-212. Informa UK Limited.

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