How Much Should Universities Care for Their Student Athletes?

The US is enamored with college sports. For 13 Saturdays a year, millions of college football fans file into stadiums to cheer on their favorite schools. Large programs like Alabama or Notre Dame can easily expect over 100,000 seats to be sold each weekend. These attendance figures dwarf even the largest NFL stadiums, creating massive amounts of money for the university. While the coaches and much of the support staff earn massive incomes, oftentimes with them being the highest-paid state employees, the athletes exchange their would-be earnings with a scholarship. Many argue that this arrangement is unfair.

To Pay or Not to Pay Student Athletes

In the past few years, we’ve seen an uptick in people clamoring for student athletes to be paid for their performance. With recent figures stating that college athletes generate more than twelve billion dollars in revenue, proponents of paying players cite that the injury is reasoning enough.

Of course, they also state that splitting the pie is just the fair thing to do. On the other side of the coin, detractors say that education is enough. After all, they already signed the contract. What’s more, is that many of these students would find it difficult to obtain a degree from a prestigious school through traditional means.

Protecting Injured Athletes

College football, just like its professional counterpart, is inherently dangerous. It’s not uncommon for athletes to break arms, legs, and suffer a variety of concussions throughout their three or four years of service. The risk of injury is not only apparent but also sometimes under-reported by the universities. The governing body, the NCAA, tries its best to sanction its member universities from hiding certain injuries, though some argue that it’s not enough. In an effort to compensate athletes and mitigate a student’s financial issues due to injury, universities offer insurance incentives. The aim is to protect athletes from incurring out of pocket expenses in the event of substantial injuries.

Who Gets What?

One of the glaring issues with paying players lies in deciding who would get what. Universities offer athletic scholarships of all types, though only some operate in the black. A highly-coveted football star will obviously command more money than a swimmer of comparable talent. It’s not super common to see a swim meet in the prime-time slot on ESPN or CBS.

College football is a huge part of American culture. It generates a lot of fans that are often significantly older than typical college age. However, making employees out of student athletes consists of many moving parts, and it’s bound to hurt not only the universities but also athletes of non-revenue generating sports.

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