On paying college athletes: NCAA benefits from powerless students

David Schuh Managing Editor

David Schuh
Managing Editor

College athletes are privileged.

They have what many of their peers have long desired from a young age: athleticism, respect and notoriety.

This isn’t necessarily the case with all amateur athletes. Football and basketball generate so much more money than smaller sports that they almost entirely fund them.

The problem in college athletics lies in the source of that money, and who is generating it.

The answer is the student-athletes.

College athletics is a multi-billion dollar business, run by a corporation that doesn’t fairly allocate its revenue.

The NCAA website states that they are “privileged to work with these outstanding corporate citizens that provide their commitment of dollars, personnel and expertise to benefit intercollegiate athletics.”

The key focus here is those dollars.

Major college athletes are being systematically exploited, and they have been for a long time. Walk into the UK Bookstore and look at their basketball jersey selection. You may see, for example, a white No. 22 jersey with “Kentucky” across the chest.

Now, theoretically, one could buy this jersey and simply be proud of the fact that they have a UK jersey on, regardless of its namesake.

But in fact, that $75 jersey is Alex Poythress’, simply without any overt identifier.

This is an exploitation of the athlete.

Sure, almost all of UK’s basketball and football players are attending this university for free, on the basis of their skill. And some argue that that fact alone is enough to take away their right to profit off of their own name and talents.

Yet when you think about how much money these students make for their university and the community, it’s criminal that they aren’t reimbursed for their contributions.

ESPN reported that in 2008, UK made $71,727,243 in athletic revenue.

That was 23rd in the country, and more than $50 million less than the top school, Alabama.

Let’s say you took 5 percent of that number and divide it across every sport at UK. That would be just under $180,000 per team, more than enough for every student-athlete to live quite comfortably. You could distribute the money based on how much revenue each sports brings in.

It’s a simple philosophy and would shave off a small percentage of the revenue.

Another aspect is the financial standing of the students.

Many major college basketball and football players come from humble means. Basketball players, especially at UK, are treated very well. But a decent percentage of athletes live off of handouts from friends, family and even the school.

Technically, receiving money from the school, or anyone for that matter, is forbidden by NCAA rule. But I think we’re naïve to believe that it doesn’t happen.

The frequency that schools, coaches and players are sanctioned or suspended for illegal benefits paints a pretty clear picture of what quietly happens across the country.

Just this fall, a series in Sports Illustrated went in-depth into the football program at Oklahoma State University, profiling years of payment plans and academic fraud among its players.

So why would the NCAA tolerate widespread illegal activity instead of evening the playing field? Why allow yourselves to be used as an example of an unjust conglomerate, rather than creating a plan to honestly and responsibly give student-athletes what they have wholeheartedly earned?

It’s because money talks. And when the talking heads are being paid handsomely, they aren’t going to willingly cut down the six-figure salary.

The NCAA is a corrupt corporation.

They benefit off of powerless athletes who are forced, in basketball and football, to attend college for the financial benefit of everyone but themselves.

Will the system change? I doubt it. Will players continue to get paid under the table? Yes because there is enough money to do it without getting caught.

And the NCAA will continue to bring in billions of dollars, while those that generate that money are handcuffed by an inequitable system.

Email opinions@kykernel.com

Click here to see Laura Shrake’s opposing argument.