College Athletes: To pay or not to pay?


The debate over compensating student-athletes or not is a hot topic in collegiate sports.

The war on the price of college athletics has long been disputed. Not by tuition or ticket costs, but by how much the universities make off athletics, more specifically, the college athlete.

Some view collegiate athletes as working a “job” but receiving no compensation. In fact, it’s against the law for people to work for no compensation. Athletes are asked to maintain a tight schedule including practice, workouts, and road trips all while following very strict university and NCAA academic policies. Why are they asked to do this? Because it’s what they were brought there to do. But is it fair? Should these athletes be paid?

“I don’t believe I’m being compensated for my efforts and I’m not too worried about it now. But, I do think college athletes should be paid and hopefully it happens,” said Eli Apple, junior corner at Ohio State who was voted second team All-Big Ten in 2015.

The top athletic programs in the county bring in millions of dollars in revenue. In 2011-2012, the NCAA revenue was $876.1 million. Millions on tickets sales, merchandise and endorsements. Millions of dollars that are kept and paid out to different areas of the university. But none of which gets shared with the student-athletes themselves.

Naturally, there are two sides to every story, and many people believe the athletes should not be compensated.

“My personal belief is a majority of them are being compensated by free tuition, room, board, books,” said Tony Vittorio, The University of Dayton’s Head Baseball Coach. “If you look at the University of Dayton students, I mean that’s $54,000 a year. I wish I made that when I was 18 years old . So, I don’t personally believe they should get compensated because I feel like they are being compensated.”

Fairmont teacher and former football coach Andrew Aracri agrees similarly. “I get the argument but you know, I don’t think that there’s a need for these athletes to be compensated. I certainly understand the discussion of them being paid though.”

Before coaching and teaching at Fairmont High School, Aracri attended the University of Miami of Ohio. There he played as defensive tackle and was treated with no special privileges just because he played the most popular sport in the United States, football.

“From my experience, we got treated like students and on the athletic side, the perks were playing football on Saturday and being a part of the team,” said Aracri.

One substantial problem affecting this topic is the difference between smaller schools and larger schools, or the difference among divisions.

“I think that college athletes should not be paid across the board because then smaller schools that don’t have the huge budget that other schools do would have to cut sports and opportunities for other student-athletes because they are paying maybe just their top best athletes,” said Norman Dupler, teacher at Fairmont.

Dupler, a father of three sons participating in athletics, has a strong opinion against athletes being paid.

“Them being paid should be an outright answer of no. This also opens up a lot of avenues for corruption. Certain schools can pay more than others and it just opens up kind of a Pandora’s box of people paying that necessarily shouldn’t be,” said Dupler. “So should they be paid across the board? No, but there are instances where I think there should be royalties for the attention that they are bringing to the University.”

Those who possess this opinion view this opportunity as a privilege because these college athletes are truly given a chance that most athletes aspire to receive. The real love for this sport may get lost if these athletes were to be compensated. Playing should be about the commitment, the hard-work, the passionate gratification of winning, the sacrifice and dedication; not a check.

Compensating college athletes could risk the integrity of the game and the players.

“I don’t think it would be lost but I do think they would have a sense of more entitlement than they already do have and that sense of entitlement sometimes takes away from work ethic, passion, and energy from the game and-or- your teammates,” said Vittorio.

Many of these athletes would never get the opportunity for such a great college education if they weren’t good in their sport of choice.  Many believe a solid education is their compensation. Perhaps the education that these athletes could be paid for is equivalent to what the NCAA and the universities are actually making.

Tyvis Powell, Ohio State safety and defensive MVP of the 2014 National Championship game, couldn’t disagree more.

“Absolutely not! The universities make millions of dollars. A big university makes enough money to pay off about ten scholarships a game,” Powell said. 

One of the biggest decisions facing elite college athletes like Apple and Powell is when they should “go pro.” Without question, a lot goes into that decision.

“I accomplished all of my goals that I wanted to accomplish in college,” said Powell. “I’m so thankful for the incredible opportunities I got. I truly got to live out things that people can only dream about doing. From winning a championship game, to getting a degree, to meeting presidents. It was an unbelievable experience.”

“A lot of prayer and talk with my parents went into my decision,” said Apple. “The NFL has been a dream and I feel I’m ready.”

Declaring for the NFL Draft means walking away from a university that they put countless hours of hard work into. A place that awarded them a scholarship and provided them with an education they will need when their football careers come to an end. In fact, shelf life of a pro-athlete is less than 5 years. So why do it then? Why leave early without using all their eligibility? Without that degree?

“I believe that if you put forth the effort and grind really hard then you’ll be compensated by making it to the next level, and if you take your education serious, you are getting a free education,” said Powell.

This year, The Ohio State Buckeyes had many players enter the 2016 NFL Draft. The fact that these athletes aren’t getting paid could potentially contribute to them taking the leap into the NFL early.

“The money aspect kind of affected my decision, just a little bit. My family isn’t doing the best financially so anyway that I could help would be good for me,” said Powell.

Many of the buckeyes that left include 9 underclassmen: Ezekiel Elliott, Joey Bosa, Michael Thomas, Cardale Jones, Darron Lee, Vonn Bell, Jalin Marshall, Tyvis Powell, and Eli Apple.

“I understand why a lot of underclassmen left to enter the draft. Your body can only go through so much, so you need to get paid as much as you can while you can,” said Powell.

Support is an essential factor. You have to have the support of your family, your close friends. It’s not a decision to rush or take lightly. You have to consider all aspects of your choice. Of course, your support from coaches and teammates is imperative.

“They’re following their hearts and deserve the best so I’m happy for them”, said Apple.

Perhaps another reason for taking a chance at turning professional could be that some college athletes feel as if they’re not getting the credit they deserve. A common route taken by draft hopefuls is capitalizing on their success in college and making money while they can. It could all be avoided if the athletes were compensated for their college efforts.

This is a topic that will continue to be discussed in the years to come and is not going away anytime soon.

If these athletes were to be compensated in the future, Vittorio thinks the NCAA alone would be the solution.

“Obviously the school is making the money through all these things so they would probably be the ones to pay these athletes. Then with tournaments and success, the money would also have to come from the NCAA as well,” said Vittorio. “ I just don’t think it’s broken, so why fix it?”