The Forgotten Word in “Student-Athlete”

It seems that over the past few years, the debate on whether NCAA Student-Athletes should receive compensation for their work in their respective sport. All of them have a strong argument. If you get the chance, take the time to see how much money is made off of these student-athletes. The amount of apparel and merchandise that is sold because of them is truly unprecedented, so why should these athletes not be compensated?

I had the opportunity to take a collegiate sports class during my junior year at UCCS where this debate happened almost every week during the semester. Our professor brought up a piece that was written by Gordon Hayward while he attended Butler University that addressed this very topic. According to our professor, Hayward broke down all of the money he saved from tuition, room and board, books, among other things (all of which fell into the rules and regulations of the NCAA). He estimated his total savings/earnings from his basketball scholarship to be over $300,000.

The student-athletes in the class with me seemed to agree, the full-ride scholarship was more than enough compensation for what they do. They are getting a free education for playing a sport they love (or hopefully love). This is where I believe the argument is truly made, but for some reason seems to be overshadowed.

The term for a collegiate athlete is “student-athlete” where the word student comes first. The point of a scholarship is to have the opportunity to receive an education from a higher institution. Now for some of these athletes, it is ludicrous to expect them to turn down tens of millions of dollars to stay all four years in college, but at least it gives them a head start on their future education.

I was never a student-athlete in college so I cannot attempt to say that I know what everyone of them is going through. I know that the hours are extremely demanding and the athletes may not have the time to have a part-time job, attend school full-time, and then also go to practice each and every day. Could there be someway that the NCAA and student-athletes compromise to help with basic necessities? Wouldn’t it make sense to help provide these athletes with stipends that go directly to food and gas? I don’t think that’s out of reason.

The debate has grown stronger since Northwestern quarterback, Kain Colter, announced on January 28th that NCAA athletes are fighting to form their own labor union in order to provide money to student-athletes everywhere. Colter’s main argument was surrounded on the premises that student-athletes are not protected medically for what they do. For example, if Colter blew out his knee during the regular season and then needed multiple surgeries after he graduated, that the NCAA currently does not fund this and he would be punished for something he was doing in order to benefit the university. I 100% agree with Colter in this area. Schools should provide their athletes medical help with anything that may arise because of their athletic doings during their time at said institution. However, I do not believe that they should be compensated financially for this. A scholarship is more than enough and will pay far more dividends in the future than a silly paycheck would during their time at college.

It almost seems ridiculous that this discussion is even happening. We have strayed far away from the term “student-athlete” and have completely forgotten about its true definition. This said person is a student receiving a free education to perform as an athlete at their academic institution. This may be something that has to be stressed more by recruiters. Again, Gordan Hayward said he saved over $300,000 from his scholarship, which is far and above the average compensation from a typical college student. If the student-athletes are going to receive some form of compensation, it is time to do away with the scholarships for them. It is not fair for other students who are attending school full time and working over 50 hours a week to not receive compensation even though they are raising the school’s test scores. Everyone must be treated in the same regards. Whatever your viewpoint, this debate isn’t going away anytime soon and the ultimate resolution is truly going to change the world of collegiate athletics.

What are your thoughts on the issue?

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