Why the NCAA needs to pay (some of) their student-athletes

Since the College of New Jersey played Rutgers in 1869 in the first ever college football game (Rutgers won 6-4), college athletics have brought in fans by the hundreds of thousands every week while NCAA matchups regularly find themselves on primetime television, often pulling far more viewers than their counterparts in the NFL and NBA.

In fact, in 2016 the average FBS football game brought in 43,106 fans per game. That’s the average across over 130 schools nationwide, which means some are pulling in crowds that well exceed that number on a weekly basis. University’s athletic departments are often some of the primary sources of funding and remain a recruiting factor for potential students contemplating on which school to attend. Not to mention, we’ve all seen that map that goes around Facebook that shows the highest paid public employee in every state is either a college football or basketball coach. 

comic 3

It’s no secret that the NCAA has a profitable fanbase; die-hard fans pay hundreds of dollars for tickets, make trips across the country to see their team play and in some instances donate massive sums of money to school’s athletic departments or facilities.

Considering the media exposure combined with the brand that some of these student-athletes build for themselves, it only makes sense that these players get paid. So why aren’t they?

Why NCAA athletes aren’t being paid

The NCAA keeps and handful of excuses in their back pocket as to why they don’t compensate their athletes, the primary reason being the fact that the nCAA is a non-profit organization so theres no legal requirement for them to pay their players. Another popular excuse historically has been the fact that many of these top tier athletes are getting a free education, but are they really?

Anyone who’s been to a big University knows that the football and basketball players are assigned tutors who do their homework and help them take their tests. People who’ve had class with student athletes will tell you that very little is expected of them and they rarely are required to even show up.

Cardale Jones shows frustration with his academic obligations

If the payment for playing football is a free education, why are student athletes given a pass on the education part? Because the NCAA’s reasoning to not pay athletes is complete crap and they know it.


Athletes are given a pass in the classroom because these universities know that having a good football or basketball team is far more profitable than having a good science or business program. Using education as an excuse allows these schools to keep millions of dollars in their pockets that would otherwise be paid to the players who bring all this money to campus. In addition, having top notch athletic programs also gives schools boatloads of free TV exposure. 

Another reason for not compensating student athletes for their participation is the logic that, “If we pay one team, we have to pay them all”, when in reality, you don’t.

I’m not making an argument that swimmers, gymnasts and track runners should be getting paid thousands of dollars by their schools; only teams that generate large profits should pay their athletes, that’s just how capitalism works. But lord knows if Alabama starts paying their football players the money they deserve (they probably already do), some chicks on their soccer team will demand money because they’re student athletes too. Let me make this clear, if you’re a student athlete playing a sport that doesn’t drive a profit, you should be more than thankful to the University because you’re playing a sport that nobody cares about while traveling the country all on their dollar (aka your classmates’ tuition).

If NCAA athletes are to be paid what they deserve, not a single cross country runner, soccer player, track athlete or gymnast will ever get their share, that’s just reality. Those sports don’t bring in crowds of thousands or make millions of advertising dollars on TV.

Another reason student-athletes aren’t paid by the NCAA is because it “wouldn’t be fair to other students”. This logic can be easily blown apart by a tweet from Ohio State Quarterback Joey Burrow.

joey burrow tweet

I know it’s 2017 and we don’t wanna say anything that hurts anyone’s feelings (even if it’s true), but this tweet hits the nail on the head. Ohio State’s football team is worth 1.5 BILLION DOLLARS, that’s more than some NFL teams and probably every team in the NHL. These players make hundreds of millions of dollars for their schools but if they receive any sort of compensation on campus, the NCAA brings the hammer down and the FBI gets involved.

Even if the NCAA implemented a policy that let schools pay their players, it’s inevitable that some snowflake will start a student protest on how regular students aren’t treated fairly. If you’re part of an organization that’s worth over a billion dollars, you deserve your piece of the pie, end of story.

Another argument that can be made against paying student athletes is that if the NCAA allows payment of student athletes, unfair competition would be created due to some schools ability to pay more than others. It’s no secret that if college football players got paid, schools like Florida State, Clemson and Georgia would have a little more money to throw around than a Kansas State or Purdue.

A salary cap would have to be set up relative to the amount of money each school’s football team is worth combined with the amount of scholarships these teams would regularly be allowed to give. That way you wouldn’t have schools willing to spend $100 million on a good recruiting class. The contracts would also likely have to be performance based, where players are paid at the end of the season. This way the schools aren’t just throwing money at 17 year olds on their college visits.

It’s not my place to be talking about how much money each athlete should be pad, I’m in no position to determine an athlete’s monetary value to their school. If policy changes someday and student athletes get paid their due, there will be experts who are paid to make the decision, so I’m gonna leave it to them. To use Johnny Manziel as a measuring stick, TIME Magazine estimated he would have made $225,000 the year he won the Heisman trophy at Texas A&M. He was featured on TIME’s cover, with the text, “It’s time to pay college athletes”. 

time cover.jpg

Final reason: The NCAA is corrupt. Simple as that.

For decades, NCAA employees and officials have been caught up in scandals that range from child abuse to hiring escorts for recruits. In fact just this morning, four assistant basketball coaches we’re arrested by the FBI in part of a fraud and corruption investigation. The NCAA is no beacon of light with a moral compass that can’t be swayed. It’s is a greasy organization that makes its money at the expense of athletes who are given nothing.

So why should student athletes get paid?

  1. Student athletes bring in boatloads of money to their schools with no reimbursement

If I didn’t mention this before, college sports bring in a TON OF MONEY to their schools. The NCAA has a fan base so large that of the ten largest stadiums in the world, eight exclusively house college football teams. 

kyle field
Texas A&M’s Kyle Field, the world’s 5th largest stadium. Capacity 102,512.

College athletics are bringing in huge crowds which come with massive profit margins. If you’re a star athlete on a team who plays in front of 90,000 fans regularly, you deserve to be paid for your contributions to your school, end of story.

Don’t believe me? Let’s look at the numbers (via Forbes).

Top 5 NCAA Football Teams by Net Worth

Ohio State University

$1.5 Billion

University of Texas

$1.24 Billion

University of Oklahoma

$1 Billion

University of Alabama

$930 Million

Louisiana State University

$911 Million

Football isn’t the only college sport seeing programs made of gold. NCAA basketball programs nationwide are worth millions despite having just a fraction of the players football has. Despite the smaller overall numbers, each basketball player at these schools are highly valuable. Forbes calculated the average Duke Basketball player to be worth $1.3 million per season.

Top 5 NCAA Basketball Teams by Net Worth


$36.1 Million

North Carolina

$29.6 Million


$28.2 Million


$25 Million

$24.4 Million

Some schools generate revenue in sports that take a back seat to the big two. Although these profit margins are minuscule in comparison, many of these athletes deserve to be paid for their contributions to their school’s athletic departments. (This data comes from collegeraptor.com)

2017 Top Earner in Other NCAA Sports

University of North Dakota (Hockey)


Marquette University (Lacrosse)

Vanderbilt University (Baseball)


West Virginia University (Soccer)


Are these programs pulling in the amount that football and basketball teams are pulling? Not by any means. That doesn’t change the fact that the schools are profiting off student-athletes and the players should be paid accordingly.

Multimillion dollar companies that profit from free, dangerous labor? Sounds a lot like what Apple and Nike do in southeast Asia.

     2.) Athletes are put at risk while their schools benefit

Injuries happen, especially in football. It seems almost every week a big name bound for the pros goes down with an ACL or some other injury. Some of these players take out insurance policies to protect their bodies in case of injury, but for most student-athletes, a torn knee can be a life-altering injury.

For example, in week one of the college football season, FSU quarterback and Heisman frontrunner Deondre Francois went down against Alabama with a knee injury and won’t return for the rest of the season. This is a student whose football career is now in jeopardy and unless he recovers and goes to the NFL, will never have a payday to show for it. If premiere NCAA athletes were paid, Francois could at least be reimbursed for his contributions to the school.

The looming reality of a potential career-ending injury weighs heavily on these players, and some have chosen to actually take out policies in case their path to the pros sees some turbulence. Prior to the 2016 NCAA football season, then LSU running back Leonard Fournette took out a policy in case he faced injury in his final season.

According to CBS Sports, “The policies bought by his parents cover him for $10 million in total disability in the event of a career-ending injury and $10 million for circumstances that would lead to him falling from his projected NFL draft spot.”

Luckily the policy was never used as Fournette was taken 4th in the NFL draft by Jacksonville.

If these athletes have enough at stake that they need to take out multimillion dollar insurance policies, it’s a no brainer that these athletes are doing work worthy of heavy monetary compensation.

      3.) Athletes don’t have the time to make money on their own.

The NCAA claims their student-athletes do all their own work (Which we know is a lie), but if they did, how are they expected to provide for themselves? College students often have part time jobs to make money to get themselves through the semester. If you’re a student athlete who has practice twice a day, games every Saturday, travel often and take 12 or more credits, where will you find time to make money? You won’t.

ncaa comic

Yes, many for your meals will be provided for you and some living expense will be paid depending on your situation but there’s no way to make extra spending money. You want to buy a new TV so you can watch highlights of the game you played in on SportsCenter? Too bad, because the NCAA says you can’t get paid and your football coach and professors don’t give you enough free time to earn money.

      4.) Being a student athlete can deprive kids of their college experience.

Lets not forget the intense scrutiny the NCAA puts these athletes under just because they play games on TV. Stupid things college kids often do can wind up on the news if done by an athlete. These headlines often cause draft stock to fall. We all remember the way the internet treated Jameis Winston after he stole those crab legs from grocery store. That was just a 19 year old kid making a dumb decision and instead of being punished like any other student would, it became a national headline that luckily didn’t hurt his draft stock. Now, if FSU paid him the money he deserved for winning the Heisman and bringing a national title to Tallahassee, he probably wouldn’t have had to steal the crab legs to begin with.

When these kids go out for the night, they can’t let loose and do the usual stupid shit that drunk college guys wanna do after dark. They can’t take funny snapchats of their friends passed out, they can’t use a fake ID to get into a bar for the night, they can’t be seen at an large event without having 50 phone cameras pointed at them and they can’t fire off a dumb tweet that anyone else would say without it ending up on ESPN. These athletes are forced to walk the straight and narrow and are criticized mercilessly when they step out of that line.

      5.) College sports are (often) a better product than the pros

The debate of whether NFL or NCAA football is better is as old as time itself. NCAA games on average have more scoring, big plays, over time games and turnovers. Not to mention, every college football game leaves everything at stake. The second you lose one, maybe two games in a season, that’s it, you’re not winning the championship. These kids play with their whole season on the line week in and week out while NFL players can lose five games and still make the playoffs while making millions of dollars. College football players deserve payment for their commitment to their programs.

Don’t even get me started on college basketball. NCAA basketball is far more competitive than the NBA. They call the tournament ‘March Madness’ for a reason. In College ball, anything can happen any week. If you’re one of 64 teams invited to play in March, you have a shot at the crown just like the big dogs. On the other hand, with the NBA, we are given a very predictable regular season and even more predictable postseason. 2018 SPOILER: the Cavs and Warriors will play in the finals and Warriors will win in 6 games. Tell me that won’t be the case.

     6.) Athletic Department recruit non-athletes to attend school there

My final point is one that’s often overlooked; being a big sports school betters your campus altogether. Think about how many students have chosen Alabama over UAB, Northwestern over Illinois or Ohio State over Ohio. Schools with massive athletic departments recruit tons of students simply on the basis they they have pride in those teams either as lifelong fans, or they simply want to join the frenzy of college sports. These schools often have bigger greek programs, more extracurriculars (parties) and more reasons for students to get together and rally. Attending a school with one of these mega teams allows for their students to bond and unite with one another in ways that students at others schools simply can’t. Almost all college alumni with a great sense of pride show their support exclusively through athletic competition, you’ll see way more alumni at a tailgate than at a debate. This pull of students accounts for hundreds of thousands of dollars in tuition costs and other expenses annually at each of these schools.

NCAA student-athletes bring publicity and money to schools in ways that otherwise aren’t achievable. As long as student-athletes aren’t paid by the NCAA for the sacrifices they make, they’re being ripped off and jeopardizing their careers while the university board members profit week in and week out.  


Texans QB Deshaun Watson gave his first NFL game check to NRG Stadium workers because he was paid under the table when he played at Clemson. Whatever they paid him must’ve been worth it, can’t put a price on a national title.

RELATED: NFL Picks – Week 8

1 Comment

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