Elena Cuadros – 2018 Scholarship Essay Contest Winner
Should college athletes be paid to play? Why or why not?
While many college athletes have had experience playing for audiences on high school gymnasium floors, courts and fields, it’s a big leap going from high school to playing at the college and university level. College athletes (especially in sports such as basketball and football) gain unprecedented media coverage, with many sports channels broadcasting their games to audiences all around the country much like is done with professional sports leagues. In this way, college sports are treated almost entirely as professional league sports with one very large difference: college sports players are not paid. Given the importance these colleges hold in American culture as well as the increasing cost of college, it is unreasonable for college athletes to continue to be unpaid.
College sports provide a great deal to the student body’s campus spirit. Sports events are a place for students to get out and socialize with their fellow peers, and distract themselves from pending assignments. When an important game comes up, school colors and school pride can be seen within the students who want to be a part of the campus celebration and cheer for their team. School rivalries are passionate and can be a reason some students choose their college in the first place. For many athletes, participating in a sports team gives them a great sense of duty and pride to win something for their school. Participating in a sport demands discipline and a motivation to do well in both their chosen sport and in academics. They must practice good sportsmanship and teamwork and train themselves to endure prolonged physical activity. Players must keep their bodies fit and in doing so; they pledge to not partake in drugs, which sets themselves as an example to fellow students and young kids. If college athletes were paid, there could be an increased interest in sports, which would only expand and reach out to more individuals and instill in them the values that are gained through participation in athletics.
Another argument to pay college athletes is the fact that colleges regularly profit from their athletes’ talents. College athletics are often broadcast onto sports channels, and garner an avid following from fans of the sport, with many people considering them to be just as intense and fun to watch as professional leagues. Merchandise and tickets for a college sports team are popular to buy, and it is customary for the college athletes to receive none of it. In fact, many athletes have to sign a contract swearing to not financially benefit from their name. In 2009, an Arizona State player, Sam Keller, claimed that his likeness was used for a character in an Electronic Arts sports game that made millions of dollars. The company settled the claim outside of court providing compensation to athletes like Keller, which was seen as controversial given the fact he would be receiving at least some money in compensation (Thomas).
The great disservice of being unable to profit from one’s hard work is devastating, especially when considering the rising price of college. Reports from the College Board claim that the net price of college is rising by 1% each year, but 60% of students had to take out loans due to a lack of coverage in aid (Seltzer). Considering this fact, it seems unreasonable that no consideration for college athletes’ personal lives is taken. As school becomes harder to pay for, what is the incentive to participate in a sport that will likely demand one’s health to be at a physical peak when one cannot even afford food for the week? With so many college students living with food insecurity, this seems almost impossible without financial aid from colleges. It simply isn’t realistic anymore for students to participate in such physically demanding extracurricular activities, when there is a growing pressure to save money and skip meals.
Those who are against college athletes being paid will likely cite the misconception that most athletes gain a full ride scholarship to a school and will not have to pay as much as other students. The fact of the matter is that full ride scholarships are few and far in-between with only 85 being offered by the National Collegiate Athletic Association for one Division 1 Football Level, and while partial scholarships are available to many, there may still be a need for a student to take out a loan (Ziff). Many scholarships of this type are also based on the grade point average of an athlete; therefore there is a pressure to not only preform well in sports, but also preform well academically, something that can be very difficult to manage. When taking into account treating injuries, this only becomes harder. These athletes are injuring themselves for the love of their sport and for an education they desire, and medical bills to treat those injuries should not be an issue that can cause them to drop out of college. It is only natural for them to be paid like students working part-time jobs in their colleges. At the very least, a student should be able to have their own school-approved sponsorships, in much the same style as a junior league sports team being sponsored by local business owners. It is only reasonable to value and reward athletic excellence that has already proven to be of great importance in our American culture.
In conclusion, college athletes should be paid for their hard work. They fill their campus with spirit that creates a fun community for people to participate in. Without funding, athletes cannot reach their true potential, as they will instead be worrying about how they will be paying off their tuition. Rather than judge an athlete by the potential they will have when they enter the pool of professional hopefuls to be scouted for, colleges should be recognizing the importance of the athletes they have right now.
Thomas, Katie. “College Stars Sue Over Likenesses in Video Games.” The New York Times,
The New York Times, 4 July 2009.
Seltzer, Rick. “Tuition and Fees Still Rising Faster than Aid, College Board Report Shows.”
Esports Quickly Expanding in Colleges, Inside Higher Ed, 25 Oct. 2017.
Ziff, Deborah. “4 Myths About Athletic Scholarships.” U.S. News & World Report, U.S. News &
World Report, 4 Oct. 2017.