There has been an ongoing debate on whether or not the NCAA exploits the abilities of all of the student athletes in college sports. A big name that really sparked the heated debate is Johnny Manziel. Johnny “Football” was investigated in 2013 after accusations came out that he received improper benefits (money) in return for signing autographs. After months of investigating, he ended up only being suspended for the first half of Texas A&M’s 2013 season opener against Rice.
The argument on the affirmative side spawns from the sheer amount of money the NCAA brings in off of these players while the players themselves cannot profit on anything related to themselves.
Another issue that leads to this argument is the outrageous salaries that head coaches make coupled with the ridiculous amount of ads that are packed into every televised NCAA event.
These student athletes are not able to receive any money from the NCAA or from anyone else. NCAA president Mark Emmert has been quoted many times saying that the athletes do not need to be paid because “they are not employees, they are students.” They compensate them by giving them academic scholarships that are supposed to give them an education to fall back on if their sports career doesn’t work out. The problem here is that not every college athlete is on a scholarship and even some that are, as John Oliver mentions, are forced to enroll in paper classes to boost their grades and keep them eligible. These paper classes don’t teach them anything that would be valuable later in life, so at that point are the scholarships really even fair compensation? These scholarships are usually not all that they are cracked up to be in terms of making tuition free. Stats from Ohio State and the U.S. Department of Education show that full scholarships don’t actually cover all of their expenses.
Planet Money has a podcast on NPR that compares the NCAA to an illegal cartel. They claim that they are very similar in terms that if another industry had their top companies come together to collude on prices or a pay cap, it would be illegal. They claim that it’s legal in sports because it is good for consumers to have the pro sports and the college sports to differentiate between.
There are a couple ways I think the NCAA could allow players to be compensated without causing problems for the universities involved. The first one is a free-market system. This would allow the athletes to make whatever the market allows for them to make.
The second way is to use the Olympic model. This would allow players to make money from endorsements, autographs, jobs, and control of their image and likeness. I think this would be the best way because It doesn’t hinder the universities’ budgets.
The last way is a salary cap system. Each school would have a cap and a minimum salary to offer to players. The minimum salary would only take up half the cap and leave the rest of the money to be used as a recruiting tool to bring players in.