Paying NCAA Student-Athletes: A Simple Answer Amidst Complicated Rules


          The NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) helps student-athletes across America compete in sports while earning four-year college degrees.  It unifies more than 450,000 young men and women whom are dispersed throughout more than 1,200 institutions, divided into 3 different divisions.[1]  Through the use of athletic scholarships, academic standards, drug testing, and many other components, the NCAA keeps a level playing field for competition.  When rules are broken, penalties are incurred.  When titles are won, rewards are received.  Since its formation in 1910, the NCAA has been an important and respected association across the country.  The one component of the NCAA that needs to be changed, however, is paying its student-athletes.  I will argue why they deserve to be paid, how to go about paying them, and the ethical philosophies that support it.

     Each year, a 68-team NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament begins in mid-March and culminates with the Final Four in one of the country’s biggest cities, leaving heartbreak and Cinderella stories at each of its smaller, regional sites along the way.  I was fortunate to experience the madness of this year’s Final Four in Atlanta firsthand, and if there’s one thing I learned from my experience, it’s that the NCAA makes a lot of money.  The ticket I received for the games was in Section 349 (as you can see below, in orange) of the Georgia Dome, and its face value was $95.  One of the people with me sold his unused ticket after the first game for $100.  Walking away, a man in a Michigan jacket sighed as he said, “I would have given you $200 for that!” A few hundred steps later, we both sold our ticket stubs for $20.  But the money doesn’t stop at ticket sales.  Two years ago, the NCAA agreed to a 13-year, $10.8 billion deal with CBS/Turner Sports for coverage of the NCAA Tournament.[2]  March Madness lives up to its name.

My view

My view

rainuh

^ I was right here

     So, where does all this money go?  Administrators, staff, event coordinators and the like all get paid.  Perhaps the biggest sources of payment, however, are the coaches.  University of Louisville’s Head Coach Rick Pitino’s bonus for winning the National Championship is $425,000; that’s roughly 70 percent of what Louisville’s university President James Ramsey is getting this year.[3]  Not to mention Pitino’s measly base salary of $5.7 million on top of that bonus.  Mark Yost, author of Var$ity Green, a behind the scenes look at culture and corruption in college athletics, further describes the massive amounts of money some college coaches are earning.  “Duke’s Coach K has a fifteen-year, $6 million sponsorship contract with Nike, (74)” he writes.  These types of deals aren’t uncommon in the big-time coaching world, either.  On average, only about 25 percent of their full compensation comes in the form of a salary.  “The rest comes from television and apparel contracts, endorsements, and other side deals,” says Yost. (115)

     How can one justify paying these coaches such large amounts of money and not the players?  The one place the money does not go, after all, is to the student-athletes that played a large part in creating it.  The easy explanation as to why this doesn’t happen would be because it’s not fair.  As ESPN writer and TV personality Michael Wilbon describes, “because so many athletic departments run at a deficit, it’s difficult to make the case that schools should pay regular salaries to athletes.”  With that being said, Wilbon doesn’t believe in paying college athletes evenly.  “I’m interested in seeing the people who produce the revenue share a teeny, tiny slice of it,” he says.  In most cases, this would include players on men’s basketball and football teams.  However, if other teams such as UCONN women’s basketball or Bucknell lacrosse are profitable, they deserve to be paid.  The teams that aren’t profitable don’t.  “You know what that’s called?” Wilbon asks.  “Capitalism.  Not everything is equal, not everything is fair.”

     Yost describes in his book, “The whole operation…[is] designed to hide the real business that the NCAA and their participating schools are engaged in: extortion” (159-160).  The simple truth is that these student-athletes provide their minds and bodies for the generation of billions of dollars.  “According to the most recent studies,” Yost points out, “the MRP (Marginal Revenue Product) of a draft-quality player ranges from about $263,000 for women’s basketball to $495,000 for college football and $1.4 million for men’s college basketball” (166).  Basically, that’s how much money a school makes off of these young men and women.  And they don’t get paid anything in return.

     Non-athlete college students aren’t restricted from earning money by an organization like the NCAA.  “If a music student goes out in the summer and earns 50 grand, who objects?” Wilbon asks.  “The student-musician is no less a college student because he struck a lucrative deal.”  As long as these deals are done with proper morals and intentions – which I will discuss later – what separates them?  Both required hard work and deserved to be rewarded.  However, the NCAA strictly prohibits student-athletes from being paid.  Below is an excerpt from its Summary of Regulations for Division I:

You are not eligible for participation in a sport if you have ever:

(1)       Taken pay, or the promise of pay, for competing in that sport.

            [Bylaw 12.1.2]

(4)    Used your athletics skill for pay in any form in that sport.

            [Bylaws 12.1.2 and 12.1.2.4]

These rules need to be changed; here is how it can be done.

     Roughly two years ago, the NCAA and its new president, Mark Emmert, agreed on a new rule which allowed Division I schools to pay their student-athletes $2,000 stipends.  The purpose of these stipends were to increase the value of the scholarships, which some studies estimate falls on average about $3,500 short of the full cost of attending college annually.[4]  Essentially, the stipend was a form of payment to the players, but Emmert viewed it differently.  “If we move toward a pay-for-play model — if we were to convert our student athletes to employees of the university — that would be the death of college athletics,” he said.  Below I will propose how to make paying NCAA student-athletes work, hopefully without killing college athletics.

NCAA President Mark Emmert

     Firstly, the NCAA will have to stand firm when schools with little to no money complain that they can’t pay their players.  Those newly approved $2,000 stipends lasted less than a month back in late 2011, when more than 125 college athletic directors protested because they simply couldn’t afford them.  Weeks later, the NCAA decided to suspend the stipends all together, which only made the matter worse because some high school players had already signed papers to receive the money.  As Michael Wilbon mentioned earlier, the process won’t be fair for everyone.

     Secondly, players must be allowed to sell whatever they have earned while playing.  The NCAA currently forbids this type of action, and several cases of players selling jerseys in exchange for tattoos, for example, have resulted in multi-game suspensions.  Not only have they rightfully earned the right to sell these things that were given to them, but the selling process will also be a learning experience.  “If somebody is willing to give A.J. Green $750 or $1,000 or even $2,500 for his Georgia Bulldogs jersey, fine, good,” Wilbon argues.  “If one of his teammates, a tackle, can fetch only $50 for his jersey, then it’ll be a good marketing lesson for both of them.”

     Finally, players must only be paid for the work they put in at their respective sport.  Paying student-athletes money to sit around and skip practice is wrong.  In fact, once schools begin to pay players, I believe they will hold them to a higher standard than ever before.  Emmert, the President of the NCAA, argues that paying student-athletes will corrupt college sports.  “Why would you even want them to be students?” he asks.  “Why would you care about their graduation rates?”  I compare the situation to an NBA team that fines one of its players for missing practice.  Although the player missing that practice may hurt the team in the long run, a $25,000 fine means a less expense on that player’s salary in the short run.  Basically what I’m trying to say is that the NBA team would waste no time fining the player.  I believe that as a result, schools will hold their student-athletes to even higher standards because they are essentially taking money from the school.

     There are obviously many other components that would need to be added to my simplistic plan to make it work.  I do think, though, that through these three main components, a framework could begin to develop.  There would be nothing wrong with a high school recruit basing his/her college decision on which school paid them the most money.  It’s no different than basing your decision on which school has the nicer arena or business school.

     From a popular ethical philosopher’s point of view, paying revenue-generating student-athletes would be right and just because it means they did something worth being paid.  Robert Nozick, author of Anarchy, State and Utopia, conveniently uses Wilt Chamberlain as an example to explain his theory.  He describes a scenario in which, due to a clause in Chamberlain’s contract, fans that attend his games each drop a quarter in a jar on top of the normal cost of admission.  These fans enjoy watching his games and are happy to pay.  Nozick then asks, if Chamberlain receives $250,000 from one million fans putting a quarter into his jar over the course of the season, is this distribution just?  “Each of these persons chose to give the twenty-five cents of their money to Chamberlain,” he states (207). It’s no different for college student-athletes: if people pay to watch them play, they deserve some of the money.

Wilt the Stilt saying, “GIVE ME YOUR QUARTERS!” And also, “I just scored 100 points.”

     At a more organizational level, Peter French, author of Ethics and College Sports, utilizes the viewpoints of several different ethical theorists to assess the meaning of “amateurism” according to the NCAA.  For instance, citing authors Robert Butcher and Angela Schneider of Doping in Sport: Global Ethical Issues, “amateurism should be thought of as a motivation and not in terms of the absence or presence of monetary element” (22).  In other words, you can still be an amateur and get paid for what you do – contrary to what the NCAA states.  This is where the philosophy gets difficult, though, because now we are analyzing the motivation that these people have within themselves.  French agrees that these matters are complicated.  “How is a coach or an athletic director or the NCAA or anyone to determine with any degree of certitude that any particular college athletes is motivated to participate in a sport for the love of the game rather than for the external goods that participation may offer him or her?” (23)

     The complicated questions that not only French asks, but also countless others involved in the NCAA, don’t need complicated answers.  I’m not arguing on behalf of student-athletes that have stolen equipment from the locker room to sell, nor am I for the ones that excel in their sport but don’t go to class.  I’m arguing for the student-athletes that work hard in the classroom and at their sport to generate revenue for their school.  The NCAA doesn’t need any more complicated rules on top of what it already has.  The answer is simple: pay them.  They deserve it.


[1] Ncaa.org. “NCAA student-athlete participation hits 450,000”

[2] Michael Wilbon, ESPN. “College athletes deserve to be paid”

[3] Curtis Eichelberger, Bloomberg News.

[4] Joe Nocera, The New York Times. “Let’s Start Paying College Athletes”

Additional Works Cited

French, Peter.   Ethics and College Sports.  Roman and Littlefield, 2004.

Nozick, Robert.  Anarchy, State and Utopia.  Basic Books, 1974.

Summary of NCAA Regulations – NCAA Division I

<http://fs.ncaa.org/Docs/AMA/compliance_forms/DI/DI%20Summary%20of%20NCAA%20Regulations.pdf>

Yost, Mark.  Var$ity Green.  Stanford University Press, 2010.

Educate yourself


This week I attended the sustainability seminar that spoke about the new curriculum.  I think sustainability is actually a very interesting topic and wish I had attended a different seminar that spoke more about sustainability rather than the curriculum.  I mean yeah, I guess it was somewhat interesting to learn about the new curriculum but to be honest I don’t really care about a curriculum that wasn’t offered to me.

Don’t get me wrong, I do think that sustainability is an extremely important topic but I’m not sure its something that can be taught in the classroom.  I really think it is something that you kind of have to go out and learn on your own.  Its similar to what we were talking about in class with taking an entrepreneurial class.  There is no reason to do this, it’s more of something you just have to go out and learn on your own.

I hate to be so distraught towards I school I love but to be honest I kind of feel like this whole sustainability notion is more of a facade than something that is actually real.  I feel like Bucknell is doing it in order to look better in the eyes of a number of different people and so that they can make the claim that Bucknell is a highly “sustainable” campus.  Like I saw in some other posts, it is important to highlight that sustainability doesn’t just mean saving the environment.  I do support the parts of engineering curriculum that are being changed but I am by no means a huge fan of what is going on in the management school.

3rd Times the Charm


This past weekend was my 3rd House Party experience on this campus. I was unable to attend my sophomore year due to athletics. Each year has been a relatively different experience. My freshman year seemed the more common House Party in that I visited the fraternity houses, watched some bands, obtained the free food given out by faculty, and in general had a great time. I did not overdo it, and many of my friends and fellow students seemed to follow that. Last year’s House Party was different, there was a lot more “uptightness”; it was nearly impossible to get into the fraternities after 8pm, and I mostly just walked around with friends and hung out. No hardcore partying seemed to occur for me. It was not necessarily less fun, but the nature of the weekend had changed. It seemed, to me at least, less about having a fun,carefree time and more like someone watching over your shoulder to make sure you didn’t overdo things. There seemed less trust. I expected little to change for this year’s celebrations and therefore decided to forgo the buying the the wristwrap that would allow me access to fraternities and their activities. I stayed downhill the entire weekend. I hung out with friends, mostly in my gateway. I didn’t go nuts as some might have, but neither was I abstaining from the celebrations. I was a lot less stressed this year and the trust issue became moot. This seemed the best way for me personally to enjoy House Party. It is a weekend of great excitement and energy. I especially enjoyed the mini carnival held with the games and free food.

I would admit that some cannot contain their excitement and wish to celebrate and release their stresses and tend to over-do it a little. But overall I believe the number of these cases might be a little over-exaggerated. Yes there are the select few who take things to a physically dangerous level, and they are held accountable. Personally, I think that with more restrictions on how persons can access the fraternities the more of these extreme cases there are. Most of them I would bet come from persons imbibing in their own dorm rooms. At a fraternity the ability for a person to reach such dangerous levels of intoxication is limited due to others being able to simply stop serving them. So perhaps the best way to eradicate such dangerous behavior is actually to persuade everyone to go out to the fraternities instead of staying in. Perhaps my thinking is flawed, but students will still find a way to drink even if House Party is eradicated, just channel that to safer places.

As to the rest of the 2011 report, I have noticed a definite increase in the amount of non-Greek activities and intellectual talks in the last two years. Diversity is still a problem on campus but I believe it can be overcome. Making persons feel comfortable on campus is a task I feel the students themselves need to uptake. Such activities such as the canoe battleship need to occur more often. Activities that are fun, open to non-Greeks, and incorporate the entire campus are sorely needed. Everyone I know loves BU After Dark. It might have lost its luster over the years, but I still go. maybe it’s time to revamp it, have it more often. Again the mini-carnival was a blast, have that again. Things like this could occur more often and many people attend. I saw dozens of non-Greeks at the Kenan Thompson show. There was smores and soup, and it was a fun time. It would be interesting to see that data about when are the weekends with the most hospitalizations, and what activities the campus has that weekend. Perhaps to cut down on the alcohol abuse we simply need more wholesome distractions.

NCAA Tournament: Life of a Student-Athlete


Hey guys!  I’m sitting in my hotel room in Lexington, KY right now anxiously awaiting our game tomorrow vs. Butler.  The game is at 12:40 on TruTV if you want to check it out!

Anyway, I’ve found it very difficult to focus on schoolwork the past couple days due to the practice, travel, and just overall hoopla surrounding the NCAA Tournament.  I’ve been reading all of your blogs, thinking of cases, and researching guys like Bernie Madoff and Pete Rose.  This blog and class is a great example of why I love Bucknell so much – I’ve learned and experienced so many valuable things in my 4 years here.  I love the fact that student-athletes are expected to get ‘it’ 🙂 done in the classroom just as much as in their respective sport.  A lot of people in the media criticize the NCAA or specific universities for using the term ‘student-athletes’ too loosely (read this story about about Steven Kaspar on our team: http://www.cbssports.com/general/blog/gregg-doyel/21918004/bucknell-problems-are-nerd-stuff), but at Bucknell, the term shines bright in my opinion.  And I love that!

Where am I trying to with this… Well, after not being able to find a topic/case for my paper after thinking about it the past couple days, I think I am going to write about the issue surrounding NCAA athletes and how they cannot be paid by their universities.  Today I was asked by a reporter if the academic rigor at Bucknell helps us as players on the court.  It was an interesting question and one that not too many people have asked me in the past.  It made me think, and I ultimately said that yes, it does help us on the court, but our experiences on the court help us as students, too!  I’ve gone through a lot of ups and downs throughout my four years here at Bucknell — in the classroom, on the court, and MANY places in-between.

I get frustrated when people write off athletics as non-stimulating and not a ‘learning experience.’  I get equally as frustrated when I read of players at universities not going to class or not valuing their education.  I get even MORE frustrated when I hear of people who just do their homework all day or just play their sport all day.  There are many, many things to enjoy in life and while being dedicated in driven is important, so is balance! 

So in regards to my paper, I’m going to argue that student-athletes should be paid.  Not because they are ‘special’ or ‘privileged’.  Rather, because their job is just as important, and just as much as meaningful as a summer internship or working as a tutor.  If you don’t agree with me, that’s fine, that’s your opinion.  But I’ve learned so much from being an athlete and I think my career has helped me mature and develop to be the person I am today.

Alright, I’m off to bed.  ‘Ray Bucknell!!!

Would You Buy a Paper?


Here is an older post (below) I wrote about a year ago about my interaction with a paper mill, Samedayessay.com. Well, hell, at least the URL is clear marketing.

Also, a recent article about a former ghost writer…  I need to read.

Text of older post:

As you know, we have been doing short vignettes-“What Would You Do?”-all semester.  A survey sent to BU faulty about “dishonesty among students” got me thinking about the ability to buy papers on the Internet.  I surfed to samedayessay.com .  The following transcript is verbatim.  I only changed the name of the customer service rep a I worried she would potentially face some retribution. Continue reading