Should Student Athletes Get Paid?

I graduated from college in March 2011 with zero debt.

I don’t have rich parents. I wasn’t exceptionally smart. Lastly, I didn’t win the lottery. The reason? I played golf for the university. To say I had it good is an understatement. It’s not to say that I didn’t work hard in college. I spent at least thirty hours a week on the golf course. During season, in the fall and spring, I missed an average of two days of class every other week and had the pleasure of taking exams on the road.

Each month I received a check from the university for a $1,000 for living expenses. In Seattle, that doesn’t go very far. After paying rent, a cell phone, groceries, and gas I had no money left for much of anything. So, I started babysitting on the side.

While playing golf for the university I never thought of myself as unlucky. My college tuition was paid for and I basically got paid by the university to play golf. Now, golf does not make the school any money. In fact, I cost the school money. Lots of it. After doing some calculation (not including all the golf trips that I took with my team) with tuition, books, sports therapy, golf equipment, and my monthly check, I cost the university more than $320,000.

Recently there has been controversy surrounding if student-athletes should get paid. The focus was on football and basketball players because they generate millions of dollars for the university from tickets sales. Not only that, the universities makes more money off of jerseys and t-shirts sold that have their all-stars’ names embroidered on the back.

Taylor Branch wrote an informative piece in the The Atlantic under the headline “The Shame of College Sports.” Highlighting the major problems with the NCAA and the universities with large sports programs, Branch compares student-athletes as slaves. Joe Nocera of New York Times Magazines makes the same argument that student-athletes are treated unfairly by not getting paid.

I mean, sheesh, the university already make tons of money for the university but the student-athletes can’t even get a little bit of it? What a sham! Except for you know, the fact that student-athletes who do make money for the university get a free education, room and board, and all other benefits that comes along with being athlete.

One of the benefits? Student-athletes have a greater opportunity of finding a job once they graduate. Universities have job placement programs in place for student-athletes and many employers value student-athletes. Another benefit? We can get weekly massages. May sound like no big deal, but it’s pretty sweet to walk into the training room whenever you want and be able to get the knots in your shoulders and back worked on. My favorite? My golf team and I went on all expense-paid trip to New Zealand for two weeks for no reason. No reason at all, except to play some of the finest golf courses in the world. In fact, the men’s golf team went to Ireland the year before for two weeks. Not bad if you ask me.

I don’t say these things to brag. However, the main value student-athletes receive is an education, even if they don’t have a full scholarship. Student-athletes have access to free tutoring and academic advisors whenever needed. In fact, tutors often travel on the road to help athletes struggling in classes.

Student-athletes don’t realize the value of their education, especially in these rough economic times. While the average student graduates from college $25,250 in debt, the fact that I have no debt from school is a blessing.

Only 1 in 1,000 student-athletes will turn pro. Perhaps having an education isn’t such a bad thing. In fact, having the time of the one’s life while playing sports and receiving an education is a a pretty decent way to spend one’s college years.

I hope one day a university exploits my children and gives them an education to play sports.  


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  • .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Thu, 05.01.12 at 08:20AM

    All of the benefits you list of being a student athlete are, I think, payment enough.  Free education, a monthly check for living expenses, free trips, free massages, a free pass to miss classes, free tutoring—those are all things the average student can only dream of getting.  Student athletes don’t deserve a salary, too.

    I was in the top ten of my high school class and had a 3.9 average when I graduated and that STILL wasn’t enough to get an academic scholarship.  I was a champion tennis player and that STILL wasn’t enough to get an athletic scholarship.  I am from a moderate middle class family so I couldn’t get a financial hardship scholarship even though my parents were paying for two children to go to college at the same time. 

    I’m not bellyaching.  I had a great college career at Pitt and value my education immensely. 

    You are, my dear, very, very fortunate to be debt free.  And you do acknowledge that which I applaud! 

    But no student athlete deserves a salary on top of every other perk they get for playing sports for a college.

  • erikdolnack

    Sun, 08.01.12 at 05:07PM

    Why do we act surprised when today’s celebrity-athletes act like criminals who can do whatever they want in society, such as when Pittsburgh Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger cornered a young woman inside a womans public restroom in Atlanta, GA?

    Our society is making monsters of these young athletes: paying them anything and supporting their delinquent behavior for profitable sporting event sales. How do you teach responsibility to young athletes that get rewarded with brand new sports cars for accepting enrollment in University sports teams?

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