Should Colleges Pay Their Players?

Young Rae Kim |

Oklahoma State stirred up more controversy surrounding college football as reports broke out that Oklahoma State players got paid during the Les Miles era of 1995-97. Sports Illustrated initiated the five-part investigative series on the university and reported that the program was involved in several illicit activites to lure players in, and then keep them happy.

This SI report comes just after the NCAA handed down a half-game suspension to Texas A&M’s star quarterback, Johnny Manziel on August 28, after ESPN reported that the student took $7500 in exchange for signing autographs.

As more reports begin to surface about players accepting money for playing football and participating in football-related activities, it ultimately points back to the subtext of the issue:

Should college players be paid?

The NCAA certainly has no shortage of money. The NCAA reported that it made $871.6 million in revenue for 2011-2012 the majority of which, 81 percent, came from television broadcasting rights from Turner/CBS sports. In addition, USA Today says that the NCAA raked in $71 million surplus in 2012, which has been its highest surplus ever.

Separate from the NCAA, each individual school also makes money a large amount of money off their athletic teams. Consider the Top 10 colleges, ranked by their revenue in 2012 (according to USA Today): 

1.       Texas- $163,295,115

2.       Ohio State - $142,043,057

3.       Michigan - $140,131,187

4.       Alabama - $124,899,945

5.       Florida - $120,772,106

6.       Texas A&M - $119,702,222

7.       LSU - $114,787,786

8.       Penn State - $108,252,281

9.       Oklahoma - $106,456,616

10.     Auburn - $105,951,251

Not surprisingly, all of these schools have strong football programs. These numbers reveal that the NCAA and schools are making millions of dollars off of their athletes, while the students are prohibited from receiving even a small slice of the money pie.

However, while student athletes may not receive money in the form of a paycheck, they are getting paid through other means, such as scholarships and benefits. Scholarships alone can be quite substatial. The annual tuition at USC is $45,602. If a student athlete receives a full 4-year scholarship to USC, they would be receiving $182,408 in tuition. That certainly is not chump change and additionally the school can provide books, housing, and meal plans.

Despite payment in the form of tuition, many former athletes themselves still believe that this is not an adequate compensation for the players, as evidenced by an on-going lawsuit against the NCAA led by former UCLA athlete, Ed O’Bannan, who are seeking recompense for their playing days.

If the O'Bannon's antitrust suit is successful, and NCAA players start getting paid for their playing, it will forever change the landscape of the NCAA.

(image courtesy of Flickr)

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