Student Athletes: “Amateurs” in a Professional Business
Brian Bestgen is a student at the University of Central Missouri majoring in Digital Media Production. He is guest blogging for the Show Me Justice Film Festival as a part of a project for his Media Promotions course.
The debate over whether or not to pay college athletes has been long been in the public discourse. Officials in the NCAA and supporters of the idea that student athletes are amateurs say that college athletes are getting paid with an education. Others say that the college athletes are not being compensated enough while the NCAA and the universities and the coaches make more and more money.
New Revenue Streams
It is strange that college athletes do not receive more compensation considering the increase in money being brought into the NCAA. March Madness, the NCAA college basketball tournament, brings in over 1 billion dollars a year from advertisements. Also the ESPN deal to broadcast the NCAA college football playoffs is worth 5.64 billion dollars for 12 years (roughly 470 million dollars annually). On top of these tournaments, individual schools have deals with brands like Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour. These contracts are worth millions of dollars. With all these new revenue streams entering college sports, why do college athletes receive the same compensation as before these lucrative revenue streams brought billions of dollars to the NCAA?
Ed O’bannon Lawsuit
Another crazy part about the NCAA is that the students cannot make any money off their
likeness or celebrity. It wasn’t until 2014 when former UCLA basketball player Ed O’bannon sued the NCAA for using his likeness in a video game in which they were making money while the students didn’t make any money. It is pretty weird that some college athletes may not make enough money to play a game that their likeness is being used.
Like I said earlier, a common defense of the current system is that the college athletes are getting paid with a scholarship and an education. However, considering how much time college athletes spend practicing, staying in shape and getting stronger, and studying film, they don’t have a lot of time to spend on their classes. The priorities of these college athletes seem to stay more towards the athletic side rather than the educational side. This can be seen from the scandal from North Carolina when it was discovered that some of the football players were taking fake classes and given A’s and B’s but were not really doing any work. Part of the educational experience is doing an internship. This gives college students practical experience in their field and looks good on a resume. College athletes are forbidden from doing internships.
With former college athletes continuing to speak out against the current NCAA system, along with voices from the media and current coaches, it does seem possible that there could eventually be a change in college sports. This will be especially true if the NCAA and the universities continue to make more and more money. Until then, we will continue to watch these “amateur” athletes competing in a professional business.