A massive debate is raging in the college athletics community. To pay players or not to pay players. The Big Ten and other conferences recently gained extra autonomy that includes the ability to give additional benefits. Excerpts from the Big Ten’s statement can be found in this Sports Illustrated article. In class we also read an article from Grantland about using athletes likenesses in video games. Athletes, former and current, believe that the NCAA, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, should begin compensating them for the twenty- hour work weeks that they put in throughout the course of a season. The debate over college athletics and paying players also begs the question what is play for these athletes. Bartlett Giamatti, a former commissioner of Major League Baseball, has an interesting opinion on what play is. How would paying players change play in the NCAA?
Giamatti believes that play is both for the spectator and the athlete. In his book Take Time for Paradise, he makes a case for his belief that the athlete acts as a surrogate for the spectator. The spectator in the NCAA pays fees to watch the athletes represent Universities in major sports such as football and basketball. It only seems fair that since spectators are there to enjoy play, as partaken by the student athlete, that these athletes should receive some of the compensation from the university that collects from these fans that enjoy play. However that would seem to take away from the aspect of play in those student athletes, most of which already enjoy compensation in scholarship that allows them to attend prestigious schools such as the University of Michigan and enjoy playing games that they love. However how much of the student-athlete’s time can be considered play?
As a member of the lacrosse team at the University I have a good idea of how much of the college athletic experience is play. In the 20-hour work week, only about two and a half of those hours are committed to playing the game. The rest involve tedious film sessions, lifting, running and long practices. The NCAA licensed 20 hours do not include the time spent in the training room rehabbing injuries, travel, voluntary extra work to better yourself as an athlete and the time spent working to remain academically eligible. The spectator sees nothing but the two and a half hours that student athletes enjoy playing. I do not consider any of these additional aspects play.
College athletes should not be paid to enjoy playing, because that takes away from the point of sport in general. Every Saturday in the spring I love every second of walking out of the tunnel, competing against another opponent along with watching my teammates compete and succeed. I don’t think that money should be involved with this ritual. However all of those extra hours should be compensated. This applies more to sports with huge revenues such as the football and basketball teams, which I will assume work just as many, if not more, hours than we do. The fan pays for the play to be at a high level, which relies on the extra hours that I have referred to. Athletes should be compensated for these grinding hours beyond a scholarship. There is no time for the college athlete to work another job to have walking around money for the few days that they have off. The NCAA and the Big Ten have moved closer to this and I believe that these players will begin to receive benefits for all those extra hours they spend not “playing”.