Monday, March 28, 2011

College Athletes Should be Paid [Mondays with Gus]

If a scholarship student is allowed to be paid a stipend for work in their fields, why then aren't college athletes given the same benefit? I have been lucky enough to have been granted a full scholarship plus stipend to study cultural anthropology and teach at Kent State University. I can't thank them enough. But this also begs the question, why am I worth more to the university than a college athlete would be?

Many people get angry at arguing for paying college athletes, because those kids are getting something that most people can't afford. I'm not arguing that these kids should make six figures (I'm looking at you, Chris Webber), but I am saying we should analyze their value and pay them accordingly. In order to understand their value, we have to look at what benefits they do get. First, tuition. Let's assume they get the benefit of about $12,000 worth of tuition expenses. They also get room, board, and food (if you can call what they make in the cafeterias food). Room and board at Ohio State, where I got my undergraduate degree from was worth about $8,000 a year. Food? I would say about $3,000 a year. That gives these kids $23,000 in benefits for each year. What kind of job would you normally get for that price? According to, telemarketers in Columbus, OH make $32,000 a year.

Now, let's analyse what they're worth to the university. For starters, they sell the tickets to their events. Most sports don't finance themselves, but sports as a whole certainly should. Second, the school gets to sell memorabilia, recruit a wider variety of students, and even start their own television networks to increase revenue. That's an awful lot of benefits for the school. In 2005-2006, Ohio State pulled in $2.9 million in profit from all sports combined. Divide that by all 36 teams at the time, and you get an extra $80,500 per team. The Big Ten Network added an estimated $6.5 million per school in 2010. Divide that by the 36 teams and you get another $180,500. That's a profit of $240,000 per sports team.

Coaches pay is just as significant. Why is it that major college coaches are worth $3-4 million in some cases? The argument is that they generate more revenue than they're paid. I find it more than slightly hypocritical that the coaches are worth millions and the players are worth thousands. Yes, the coaches are important, and my argument here isn't that the players are necessarily worth more than the coaches. But we should be making the same arguments for players and coaches. They're both worth millions of dollars to the universities. The difference is that the coaches can leave to go to the professional level immediately while players are often under restrictions that force them to stay in college rather than becoming a pro. While I could (and will one day) argue that it's smarter to stay in school, I still find it ridiculous that the schools take advantage of this.

I understand they have a great chance to make it to the professional levels and make a fortune, and that's very true. But that mindset punishes those kids that are making their schools a fortune but can't make it to the pros. I think it's time to start rewarding these kids based on how the school benefits from their talents.

-Gus Rafeedie

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