On paying college athletes: They don’t need a paycheck to get paid

Laura Shrake Assistant News Editor

Laura Shrake
Assistant News Editor

Judging by the spectacle that is and presumably always will be Big Blue Madness, the massive posters of volleyball players’ faces that hang from Memorial Coliseum, and the life-size schedules of UK Hockey in various locations throughout campus, UK athletes are well-marketed and well-known.

The “Big Blue Nation” and its athletes are an entity known ‘round the country, branded with the hashtags “BBN,” “WEAREUK,” and “BBNunited.”

Yet an argument can be made that NCAA student-athletes should be paid for the revenue they aid in bringing to the university.

Yes, they are a part of a multibillion dollar industry, from which they see little immediate monetary payback.

But it is ludicrous to suggest that athletes don’t get paid in other ways. Athletes see their rewards in many manners other than a paper check.

On campus, athletes are easily spotted in a crowd, and not just because many of the basketball players approach 7 feet. Students see them every day dressed in UK-branded clothing that only athletes have. We see them carry backpacks that only athletes carry. They have a distinct athletic “look” that only a collegiate athlete can garner.

But the biggest “payment” these players receive as UK athletes is in their education. Scholarship money.

Many college athletes are having their educations partially, if not entirely, paid for — a luxury that many other non-athletes do not receive.

It forces a feeling of inferiority on students who busted their tails to get into college, and who bust their tails once they’ve arrived, but see little to nothing in scholarship funds per semester.

NCAA schools shell out more than $2.4 billion in scholarships to more than 150,000 athletes.

While yes, not all receive an athletic scholarship, the money allotted to these 150,000 athletes is enough to cover the majority of Division I athletes.

As NCAA athletes, these students have their choice of education, health and safety financing options.

According to the NCAA website, these options help student-athletes with “unmet financial needs.” Not to mention the notoriety of being a collegiate athlete.

On the front page of the NCAA website, the organization displays “Faces of the NCAA,” promoting athletes’ photo and talents to anyone who visits the web page.

If the NCAA is helping finance student-athletes’ education, and the act of being an athlete is working to get their names in the public sphere to potentially be drafted, athletes see payment enough.

Many of these athletes are drafted directly from college into the professional league of sports, where their names become even more recognized. And more importantly, where they can go to be paid as a professional athlete.

Now, they are paying their dues forward toward a future career. It’s like saying that a journalism student shouldn’t accept an internship unless it’s paid. This would be ridiculous because without an internship, the journalist has no experience, no notoriety and essentially goes nowhere.

The same logic can be applied to college athletes.

Without the preliminary levels that serve as a springboard to the rest of their athletic careers, they can’t get to the big leagues — where they can get paid. Athletics are highly valued — and rightfully so.

College athletes work diligently to perfect their craft. They are some of the busiest students on campus.

Athletics teach a sense of camaraderie and teamwork, not only to the teammates but also to the rest of the college and surrounding community who join together to cheer for a common goal. Without college athletics, much of the college experience and spirit would be lost.

But combine apparel, notoriety and scholarship money set aside specifically for them, and college athletes already see more benefits than the average college student working to foot the bill themselves for their college education.

Paying college athletes in addition to the various other forms of payment they receive is over the top.

Do they work hard? Yes, without a doubt in my mind. Are students star-struck when they have classes with a 7-foot basketball player? You bet.

But they don’t need a paycheck at the end of the month to prove that.

Email opinions@kykernel.com.

Click here to see David Schuh’s opposing argument.