Paying student athletes: Show me the money

This is my third year at Tech, and I’ve had the honor of representing this great institute as a student athlete with a scholarship. I figure by this point I’ve become entrenched in the system enough to weigh in on a growing topic: Should student athletes get paid?

How much are we worth at any given university? How much money do schools really make on their athletic programs? A quick Google search will show you a figure in the tens of millions of dollars for most schools. These are sizable chunks of total university revenue. Is there really enough to spend on us? The money is there, but that fails to answer the question “should we get paid?”

The universities don’t need to pay athletes. A scholarship, for those who have received one, is essentially payment. Granted, most of this money comes from donations. However, the school’s athletic department still expects it, and that money is going to a place where it needs to go: education.

My sport is a “non-revenue” sport. I swim, and I can attest to the fact that almost nobody goes to our swim meets. Swimming isn’t the only sport in need of fans. I can recall being asked to go to certain sporting events at this school last year to earn volunteer hours. If athletes end up getting paid by their school, who’s going to get the bulk of that money? Chances are, it won’t be evenly spread.

Now what about the NCAA? This is where the real problem lies. Currently, the NCAA condemns any form of payment to athletes. My coach couldn’t even give me five dollars to treat myself to a candy bar for swimming quickly (or just not as slow as normal).

If I sold my GTSD race suit, I would probably be fined or suspended. But why? Why couldn’t our football players get paid for their likeness being used in NCAA football games, when we all know the NCAA is getting big money for it? Why can players’ jerseys get sold in mass numbers and yet get nothing in return?

The NCAA is technically a non-profit organization, so what are they doing with all this money? They’ve just recently signed a $10.8 billion deal with CBS on a 14-year contract. Who’s getting that money, the executives that make roughly $1 million a year already? We sign away all of our rights the second we sign our NLI, and we’re already forced into that. We make all kinds of money for our schools and the NCAA, and we see almost nothing in return.

Tech doesn’t really owe me any more money. I’m happy with what little I get here, and frankly, I’m blessed, but there is no reason why the NCAA can’t pay back its athletes for all they’ve done. With EA Sports no longer working with the NCAA on games, and with all the controversies that are starting to arise over the legitimacy of this organization, it’ll be interesting to see what changes are coming down the pipeline. Hopefully something worthwhile happens soon.