Pay for Play


Tyler Davidson

The NCAA is faced with the decision on how to handle paying athletes (Photo courtesy of Tyler Davidson).

College football is the bridge between high school football and the world of professional football in the National Football League, but college football as we know it has started to change. There has been a push to pay players, but the NCAA has remained strong in their belief that players should not be allowed to be paid. On September 30th, California passed a groundbreaking law that changed the discussion. California’s Fair Pay to Play Act allows college athletes in the state of California to receive financial compensation for their name and likeness, which is the rights to use someone’s name and defining features or attributes for commercial purposes. 

“These athletes are abused in terms of the time they’re expected to spend on the sports, and the coaches are making a fortune. And frankly I think we’re taking advantage – particularly in Division I sports, football and basketball, in particular but not exclusively — that we’re taking advantage of these kids with the promise that we’re doing something for them when in fact they’re doing an enormous amount for the institutions and everybody else,” said California Governor Gavin Newsom in an interview with The Athletic reported by Fox Sports.

After the passing of the Fair Pay to Play Act, there was some discussion about how the NCAA would react. Many thought the NCAA could suspend college athletes or make California colleges ineligible for postseason games. The problem was that other states were rushing to pass similar legislation into effect. States such as New York, Florida, Colorado, and even South Carolina have bills in the works. All of this finally led to the NCAA having to make a decision, so on October 29th, the NCAA announced that players would be allowed to profit from their name and likeness.

“We must embrace change to provide the best possible experience for college athletes. Additional flexibility in this area can and must continue to support college sports as a part of higher education. This modernization for the future is a natural extension of the numerous steps NCAA members have taken in recent years to improve support for student-athletes, including full cost of attendance and guaranteed scholarships,” said the chairman of the NCAA’s board of directors, Micheal Drake in an interview reported by CNBC Sports.

The issue is now setting the rules for how college athletes should be allowed to use their name and likeness. Without regulation, booster clubs could pay players to come to certain schools despite the player actually liking the program or campus, creating a conflict of interest. Another problem is the thin line between amateur sports and professional sports. If college athletes are paid then college sports lose the charm they have often had. College athletes often can identify with the college experience of getting all of these new freedoms and having to struggle your way through. However, when you start paying the players, they don’t have a similar experience to another student in the student section. This would be a huge detriment to college athletics as a whole.

“It is important to distinguish between amateur and professional athletes. Since 99% of college athletes do not go professional in their sport, their education is of paramount importance. Schools are paying athletes, on average $150,000 over four years through tuition, free rent, and free meals. This in exchange for fulfilling their athletic obligations and focusing on academics. The focus must remain on academics,” said ESPN radio host Marc Ryan.

When debating whether athletes are allowed to profit from their image and likeness, it is important to remember that these athletes are already receiving benefits. Schools spend huge portions of money on athletics every year giving athletes free education, a place to live, and food to eat. We must remember why these athletes are here in the first place. Education should remain the priority because most of these athletes will not become NFL players.

I think they should be allowed to profit from their name and likeness because they help promote the brand name of their school and their football program. I also think that it could help for their college if they do not have a full scholarship. It would also bring back the possibility for NCAA football games which have not been released since 2013, said sophomore George Cerimele.

One effect that allowing college athletes to profit from their name and likeness would be athletes being featured in commercials. This would allow athletes to make money in college. Another possible effect would be the return of the NCAA sports games. These games are widely popular and have a huge following. By allowing this game to return, more people will be paying attention to college sports. Overall by allowing athletes to profit from their name and likeness, college sports would be better promoted.

“Most of these kids and their families are very poor; therefore, salary pay would be valuable. However, it would take away from the element of college sports being competition based instead of business based. The game would feel more like a professional games, and we all know those are absolute garbage in comparison. But this is not to undermine how these colleges are capitalizing financially on their players without any expense to them in the form of pay. So I believe these players should be able to sign sponsorship deals but they should not be able to receive money from the colleges directly not prevent negative influence in recruiting,” said senior Carson Paris.

We also need to remember that many of these athletes are not wealthy. If they are given the ability to earn money, then this could set them up for a better future since most of them will not become professional athletes anyway. By allowing them to take sponsorship, the players can help support their families and save for the future. This solution also allows the sport to remain an amateur sport. The colleges will not be paying the players in this solution which allows the sport to remain amateur. Allowing athletes to be in commercials will not ruin the dynamic of college sports but it will only increase the status of college football players. If colleges pay players then the focus is off of education. Education is still the most important part of college so this solution helps that stay important.

Whether we like it or not, college football is changing. Players will soon be able to profit from their image and likeness. While this will open new opportunities like a college football or basketball video game, it will also change the way college sports will be viewed as a whole. The NCAA needs to tread the line between college players and professional players carefully to avoid ruining the dynamic between the teams and their fans. But, the rule also provides a way for college athletes who won’t make it to the professional level to make money for themselves while they are still relevant. Overall, we won’t be able to know how the change to the system will impact college sports, so we will have to see how it plays out.