Opinion: College athletes should be paid

Ian Flickinger

Should college athletes get paid” is the Macklemore of conversational debates—incredibly annoying, entirely insignificant in the grand scheme of it all, yet so frequent in day-to-day conversation it’s now impossible to ignore.

Unlike the pompadour-styled rapper, there are real world implications when it comes to the issue of paying student athletes.

According to a 2011 article from CBS News, the average Division I football player devoted 43.3 hours of practice each week, baseball dedicated 42.1 hours and basketball landed just below the 40-hour mark at 39.2.

Women’s sports differed only slightly from their male counterparts. Basketball at 37.6 hours, and all other sports averaged 33.3. That’s in addition to the rigors of everyday college life like attending class and having the time to actually study for exams.

The National Survey of Student Engagement reported the average college student studies roughly 17 hours a week per class. Assuming the typical student athlete sleeps just six hours a night, dedicates an additional six hours of practice and tacks on two more hours studying—14 hours of their day is already accounted for — before they even go to class.

That’s not to say it’s time to pity the plight of the student-athlete, but it is worth recognizing their efforts.

Figures from a 2015 study from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 35 percent of full time college students work in some capacity while in college. While discrepancies certainly exist, it’s safe to say the average student athlete commits to as rigorous a schedule, if not more, than the typical student, without the additional time available to work a job for cash like the rest of the student body.

Yes, it’s their decision to play a sport and are receiving more of a free education unlike most students. However, it doesn’t lessen their workload. It’s not a question of whether college athletes deserve to get rich, but it is about providing them enough resources to do more than just get by during their time in college.

The NCAA itself reported that college athletic programs made an estimated $6 billion dollar revenue “from ticket sales, radio and television receipts, alumni contributions, guarantees, royalties and NCAA distributions,” in 2012-2013. Is there another instance in which a business makes that much money off a product without giving their employees some cut of the revenue?

Not every student athlete intends on pursuing a professional career. In fact, the large majority live normal lives. Yet even a middle tier athletics department like Kent State brings in revenue for the school.

Maybe a weekly check isn’t plausible, but sharing a small percentage of the tickets and merchandise would go a long way in helping student athletes.

While faculty members of the athletic department continue to bring in six-figure salaries off the performance of their sports teams, the average student-athlete struggles to balance two different lives — the student and the athlete—on one small budget.

Contact Ian Flickinger at [email protected].