So last week, HBO's REAL Sports With Bryant Gumbel did a special on the state of college sports in America, basically continuing the debate on whether or not college athletes should be paid for playing; the focus was on football and basketball, because let's face it-those are the money makers for nearly every university. The NCAA says that amateur (aka: college) athletes cannot be paid to play (duh-that's the whole point of professional status, getting paid to play). But one of the big arguments is that the players are the ones who make the money for the school, and so they should be getting their "fair share" of the money. Here are my thoughts on it (insert angry voice).
First of all, I am a professional athlete; I get paid to go play racquetball (not much, but I do get paid by my sponsors, and I win money at the tournaments). I also played racquetball for The University of Alabama, helped them win two national championships, and those wins brought another level of recognition to the school. Not on the same level as the football, basketball, and gymnastics programs (the big moneymakers at UA), but in a "Look how awesome Alabama is, we win at literally everything" kind of way. I did not get any money to go play racquetball for UA, just to make that clear. I also didn't get any special recognition or help as a student at UA because of my "national champion" status. Let's just get all those facts out of the way, and build a little background for what I'm about to say: The NCAA student-athletes DO get compensation for playing a sport for a school. They get a FREE college education, FREE living expenses, FREE food on campus, FREE books, FREE class materials, FREE tutoring, and the absolute first crack at scheduling. As an out-of-state student at Alabama, my total costs for a year of school were probably $20,000 (including tuition, books, materials, living expenses, etc.); over 4.5 years in school, that's easily $90,000 or more...I'd say that's a pretty hefty compensation, wouldn't you?!
So, a refresher: I believe that student-athletes do get a fair amount of compensation for playing a sport for a school-they get lots of free stuff (don't forget about the clothes and shoes!!) that the rest of us struggle to pay for. Another point brought up in the REAL Sports special was that there should be an incentive for the athletes to stay in school and finish their educations, and that many of them aren't really getting an education while they are at school. WHO'S FAULT IS THAT?!?! It bugs the crap out of me that student-athletes complain that they "don't really get an education at school", and that they just "aren't prepared" for dealing with the pressures of college and playing sports at the same time; I say, cry me a river and DEAL WITH IT! I'm pretty sure no one was really fully prepared for what college would be like, and to add the pressures of athletics on top of that...I struggled a bit, but eventually figured it out and found a nice happy medium (without free tutoring and a cupcake class schedule, I might add) and did well in both school and racquetball throughout college. If you're not taking advantage of the free education you're getting, then that's your own fault; I know I did, because I'm not an IDIOT thinking that my sport is going to be my ticket to the rest of my life-I'm probably going to need a back up plan! As Charlie Sheen would say, "Duh!"
Anyway, here is my final point: I absolutely draw the line at royalties earned by the school and/or the NCAA from an athlete's image. The school and the NCAA absolutely should NOT be able to sell a student's image and make money from that; if they do, then the student should get a cut of that money. It is illegal (I think) to use another person's image without getting their permission or paying them for it, and the same should apply to student-athletes at a school. The special did make a point that the NCAA requires the students to sign a clause saying that their image can be used "forever and throughout the universe", and that's crap.
Let's face it, the whole system of the NCAA and college sports is messed up, and I think it all needs to be revamped because it's obviously not working. But to say that the students are not compensated at all is RIDICULOUS and INSANE-if you don't take advantage of the considerable compensation that you get, it's your own fault.