A Look into the Finances of Major College Sports Programs Essay

Student-athletes at major Division I-A colleges and universities do more than attend classes, practices, and compete against other teams. They generate revenue. Intercollegiate sports have developed into a highly specialized, multi-million dollar entertainment industry that rides on the shoulders of student-athletes. This industry has in turn resulted in substantial rewards for big time athletic programs and the NCAA. According to an NCAA survey conducted in 1998, sixty-seven percent of Division I-A football programs showed an average profit of $3. illion with many of the largest programs far exceeding that figure (Netzley).

Add in revenue from other sports and the NCAA took in $267 million in 1997-1998 (NCAA). Universities do not hide the importance they place on successful sports programs. In 1997, Steve Spurrier, head football coach at the University of Florida, signed a six-year contract that averaged $2 million per year. In addition to his $2 million annual salary, Spurrier was given two new cars, a generous clothing allowance and 24 prime tickets for each Gators home game.

The deal also included incentives that would take effect when specific goals set forth in the contract are achieved (Martinez). He can earn $99,000 for winning another national championship. He can earn the equivalent of one month of his base salary for getting to the SEC championship game, two months equivalent for any bowl game, two-and-a-half months for an Alliance bowl game, and lastly, $50,000 for winning a third national championship (Martinez). Jeremy Foley, University of Florida Athletic Director, said after the signing,

Obviously, people are going to talk about the amount of money he s making, but he adds tremendous value to this university (Martinez). While universities are eager to compensate coaches for the exploits of their players they are steadfast in their abidance of the NCAA Manual. Article 12 of the NCAA bylaws provides that a student-athlete loses amateur status along with the right to participate in intercollegiate athletics when he is found to have received funds, awards, or other impermissible benefits established under NCAA legislation (NCAA).

These prohibitions on payment include direct compensation for athletic participation and receipt of financial aid above the cost of tuition, fees, room, board, and books (NCAA). While student-athletes directly contribute millions of dollars in revenue to institutions they receive nothing but the bare minimum cost to keep them in school. Most of these young men and women come from lower-middle class and lower-class families that are unable to send them spending money during the year or pay for a plane ticket home for the holidays (Martinez).

The NCAA forbids student-athletes from working for wages during the school year (NCAA). If parents are unable to send their son or daughter money for anything not covered by their scholarship they are penniless. The solution to the money problem is simple: pay them. I am not talking about millions or even thousands of dollars. Give each student-athlete the same amount of pay based on the total revenue dollars their respective sport generates nationwide. The wage would be the same for every athlete based on division within the same sport.

For example, Division I-A, the largest and most competitive division in college athletics, might pay each football player $2500 per season. Every football player in that division would receive the same amount regardless of on field contribution. Having every school abide by equal pay would eliminate larger, more profitable schools from offering bigger paydays to recruits as incentive to attend their institution over another. This would keep recruiting fair across the country for every school.

Student-athletes endure countless hours of practice and athletic competition to earn pride, respect, and most importantly, money for their respective schools. Unfortunately, these athletes are taken out of the equation when it comes time to distribute the revenue generated by their athletic programs. Of the $267 million in revenue made by the NCAA in 1998, over 85 percent, or $228 million, were returned in dollars to the athletic programs yet none of this money goes to the athletes themselves (NCAA). The time has come for these students to be compensated.

Paying players would do more than allow the underprivileged students to participate in basic college activities like dating or ordering a pizza with friends. It would alleviate many other problems as well. Gambling and corruption on campuses is threatening the integrity of college athletics. Illegal dealings with agents, as in the highly publicized case of South Carolina based agent William Tank Black, charged with fraud, money laundering, and providing illegal inducements to college athletes, has increased as well (Blum).

Marcus Camby, now of the Toronto Raptors, admits to accepting thousands of dollars in gifts while playing college basketball at Massachusetts from sport agents hoping to win him as a client (Tarver). Paying a stipend to athletes will lessen the control bookies and agents can place on players by reducing their need for money. Opponents of the pay for play concept site college tuition as payment enough and repeat the clich you can t put a price tag on a college education. I think you can.

At most major colleges the average for a resident student is between $12,000 to $14,000 per year (Tarver). When university athletic departments are benefiting from these players, to the tune of millions of dollars, and the student-athletes are receiving only an education that they may or may not want, it just isn t enough. A scholarship is nice, but it doesn t pay the bills for many of these players. If colleges and universities made money solely from ticket sales as a means of perpetuating sports programs, there would be no argument over whether college athletes should be paid.

The thievery occurs when colleges negotiate billion dollar television and multi-million dollar endorsement contracts annually. Those contracts and endorsements are the acts of businesses looking to make money, not non-profit institutions. Colleges and universities are in the business of making money whether they admit to it or not, and they use student-athletes to do it. Paying them would not only be fair, but beneficial to both the student-athletes and the schools they represent.