Is it time to pay college athletes? YES

Arguably the most debated topic the NCAA has to deal with these days is the matter of whether college student-athletes should be paid.

The specifics of the debate are very wide-ranging, and determining whether the specifics of amateurism need to be changed is the primary task at hand. People who want college athletes to be paid want the following question answered: if athletic departments, conferences, executives, coaches and the NCAA itself can earn money from collegiate athletics, why can’t the athletes themselves earn money in the process?

College athletes should be paid, so I want that question answered, too.

I cannot simply understand how the lucrative nature surrounding the intrigue of college athletics does not compensate the source of the intrigue itself.

As a society, we are intrigued by college athletics, first, because of our passion for sports. Beyond that starting point, the intrigue about the athletes themselves comes from the athletes’ family and friends who support them and then from the staff, students and alumni of the colleges and universities that the athletes attend.

So why does all of the money which is spent by family, friends and fans on supporting college athletes end up in the hands of everyone involved except for the athletes?

It makes no sense.

The premise of amateurism in this debate, to me, is meaningless. All I know is that if I were spending time and effort into a craft and others were profiting at my expense, I would be furious.

Who cares about the definition of amateurism? We all know various facets of college sports are corrupt to begin with, so why pretend like amateurism is a perfect concept maintained since its inception? It isn’t. Not even close.

Who cares about others’ insistence saying ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it?’ Change is a good thing. A lot of people don’t like it, but that doesn’t mean it won’t improve their lives.

The matter of not compensating college athletes is something which needs to be changed.

According to Forbes, the following pair of truths exist in college athletics:

• In 40 of the 50 U.S. states, the highest-paid public employee is either the head football coach of that state’s university football or men’s basketball team

• The average salary for a BCS-eligible football coach was $2.05 million Plus, a record 40 postseason bowl games are in place for NCAA Division I football

If the NCAA receives $10.8 billion from CBS and Turner Sports to broadcast March Madness, a three-week basketball tournament, I’m pretty sure somehow college athletes can be paid.

If the athletic director at Ohio State can make an $18,000 bonus for a wrestler on the Ohio State team winning a national championship, I’m pretty sure somehow college athletes can be paid.

I’m not saying college sports exist so entities such as the NCAA and athletics department make money. Clearly, they have recognized the opportunity to capitalize and have done so. But the foundation of college sports, the athletes, need to be able to capitalize, too.

I have routinely heard national media members label college football head coaches as “CEOs” of their respective teams. If that is the label they choose, so be it. I can’t stop them. But I do know this: in all other American companies led by CEOs which generate revenue, their employees receive compensation for putting in the time and effort to produce that revenue. So why can’t college athletes?

I should clarify my stance on one of the most polarizing developments on the issue of amateurism in college athletics.

Student-athletes on the University of Northwestern football team recently attempted successfully to make progress toward forming a union so that they could be considered employees in order to receive benefits often associated with other labor unions our society is familiar with. Although more steps in the process need to fall their way, these student-athletes at Northwestern are prodding the foundation of the NCAA.

Even though I enjoy when the NCAA is put on its heels, I would rather see the end result of college athletes being paid come from a change of heart by the NCAA, not via a successful attempt to pour all college athletes into a union.

I would prefer not to see college athletes have rights to negotiate health benefits, apply for medical compensation and receive post-career compensation.

Even though I don’t believe unionizing college athletes is best, they still deserve to be compensated.

Brad Frank, Sports Editor