The Other Side: College Athletes Shouldn't Be Paid
A month later, J.J. Redick curled off a screen and broke the NCAA record for most career three-pointers, showing Coach Mike Krzyzewski why Duke pays Redick nearly $31,000 per year in scholarships.
More and more college athletes are becoming household names without shoe deals, video game endorsements or a weekly paycheck. And more and more often, people are asking if colleges and universities should pay student athletes. The answer is no. But should companies like Nike have to give student athletes a piece of their jersey sales? Absolutely.
The NCAA throws the word amateurism around far too often. When Tiger Woods was in college, he got heat from NCAA officials because Arnold Palmer took him out to lunch. There is a fine line between remaining an amateur and becoming a professional in the eyes of the NCAA. Turning pro does not guarantee endorsements and royalties; it simply means that an athlete will be paid to play for his organization. Payment for actual gameplay is the fundamental difference between professional and amateur status, so, college athletes should not receive anything more than scholarships.
If educational institutions pay their players, the gap between major division one schools and mid-major teams will only widen. Big name schools like Duke, Texas, North Carolina and USC would be able to pay exorbitant amounts of money to get the best athletes to play. This is the very definition of a professional athlete: one who earns a wage in his specific field.
The line gets blurry in the world of endorsements and outside contracts. A shoe deal in and of itself does not determine professional athleticism. These types of endorsements, although related to sports, do not necessarily mean that Nike, Adidas or Reebok are paying athletes to play a sport. What they are paying for is the name to put on a shoe, jersey or t-shirt.
It is obvious that big companies benefit from unpaid athletes. The video game business is a multi-billion dollar industry that uses college athletes in games without giving them names or credits. Companies profit from a player’s image with no financial benefit to the athlete, and that is unfair. If a contract was granted, players would receive at least some payment for their images and names.
One might ask if this means that companies are paying athletes with the expectation that they will play well. In many instances, yes, but the NCAA is more concerned with players receiving money as a direct payment for what they do on the court or on the field. Being paid to sell a shoe is different.
Fans’ greatest concern is whether the level of play would be hurt by outside endorsements. If anything, it would give them more of a passion to play just like scholarship money still motivates college athletes today. Nothing in the collegiate sporting world is guaranteed, and many players thrive on that uncertainty. Scholarship money can be taken away with a career ending injury, poor play or off-field misconduct. Endorsements and royalties are the same way. Nike isn’t going to sell the jersey of a player who robbed a liquor store, allegedly raped a stripper or was arrested for drug possession. The motivation for players would be to boost their draft status and financial value for when their college days are over.
A line needs to be drawn between amateurism and professionalism, and the line stops at direct payment from universities. But royalties from jersey sales or naming rights is perfectly fine. Right now, Nike can sell a Duke number four jersey for $80 and Redick doesn’t see one dime. That is unfair. If Redick received royalties from Nike, it wouldn’t be to play basketball; it would be because the company sold a jersey with his number on the back. The two are related, but there is a difference, and Redick would not be a paid player under that condition. Unfortunately, the NCAA has yet to waver on this point.