To Pay or Not to Pay: Who Profits From College Basketball?

For decades the topic on whether college athletes should get paid has been debated. If you look at it from a player’s perspective, it doesn’t seem fair that they generate millions upon millions of dollars for their university, and yet may not have enough money to eat.

Now, in a potentially game-changing moment for college athletics, the Chicago district of the National Labor Relations Board ruled in March that Northwestern football players qualify as employees of the university and can unionize.

NLRB regional director Peter Sung Ohr cited the players’ time commitment to their sport and the fact that their scholarships were tied directly to their performance on the field as reasons for granting them union rights.

Former quarterback Kain Colter led the drive to have Northwestern players vote on whether to unionize. One of Colter’s driving points for unionization is that the NCAA does not guarantee that players’ medical bills will be paid if they’re injured.

The unionization has brought about mix in opinions from students, members of the media, and members of collegiate sports.

In fact, SEC commissioner Michael Slive is against unionization.

“The SEC does not believe that full time students participating in intercollegiate athletics are employees of the universities they attend,” Slive said.

In a recent poll done by ESPN with more than 200,000 votes, 57 peercent of the voters were against the Northwestern football team attempt to unionize.

The question on whether college athletes should be paid was brought up again after a statement made by UCONN Men’s Basketball player Shabazz Napier. Napier stated some nights he goes to bed starving because he can’t afford food. The statement got the attention of state lawmakers in Connecticut, who are now exploring legislative ways to allow athletes at UConn, a state institution, to unionize — much like athletes are attempting at Northwestern.

With all that is going on in Northwestern and Connecticut it seems inevitable that one day college athletes will get paid. But the question remains, should they be paid? Let’s look at the pros and cons of paying collegiate athletes.


For one, it seems almost a hypocrisy that college athletes are not paid considering how much money they generate for the schools they play for. In fact, the exposure colleges have due to athletes is indirectly one of the reasons why both student athletes and non-student athletes want to attend the school. Due to more students attending schools, the schools and the cities or towns they reside in are able to build bigger and better buildings. Due to this, the towns and Universities prosper for years to come (while many student athletes leave school without the guarantee of becoming a professional athlete).

Universities that sell jerseys and other memorabilia are exploiting college athletes. You’ll see in stores such as Foot Locker a jersey from a school along with a players’ jersey number for all to see. While the sales pour in, players do not see a dime of that money. This was evident in the early 1990s, with the Michigan Wolverines Basketball Team better known as ‘The Fab Five.” Growing up as a teenager in the early 1990s, I saw how the “Fab Five” popularity transcended the game and the basketball community. It was seldom that you went to a basketball court and did not see someone with Michigan apparel. The sole reason kids wore this was not because of the school, but because of the players who performed on the court.

Another factor to consider is watching collegiate games you’ll see several different sponsors for major corporations such as Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, and KIA. It is clear that someone is getting paid big dollars for this and it’s not the players.

By paying athletes it would insure that they reap some of the benefits that the schools get for their performance on the field. Keep in mind, the athletes are not guaranteed to go pro in their sports, and as stated in the Northwestern unionization, if these players sustain injuries that could affect them years later, the NCAA will more than likely not pay for their medical bills.

Now let’s look at the Cons on paying student athletes.


For one, most college students are not athletes; there is fear of possible inequality between general students and student athletes. There are also concerns about inequalities for different sports. As an example Duke University is primarily known as a basketball school. It seems to get the top high school players and always sells out Cameron Indoor Stadium. In addition, Duke has the all-time NCAA wins leader coach Mike Krzyzewski. So you can see why people would feel that Duke’s basketball team may get significantly paid more and with better benefits than some of the other sports at Duke. In a recent poll 53 percent of students were concerned that they would not be treated equally.

Another reason for opposing athletes getting paid is the financial impact on non-scholarship students. There is concern that if universities paid athletes it could hurt financial aid for non-athletes and could increase tuition. In some cases tuition cost is more than what some households make in a year. The financial strain parents incur to send their kids to college is already great, and if the cost of tuition rises parents will have to send their kids to less desirable schools.

The final reason to oppose paying athletes is that in some aspects they’re already getting paid — since they’re on a scholarship with free room and board. If an athlete stays in school for four years, they would be saving several hundred thousand dollars in tuition. Many see anything in addition to a scholarship as greed.

So you’ve heard both sides of this argument, now tell us what you think. Should college athletes be paid, Yes or No?