Paying “Play”-ers


The NCAA is getting pressure to begin to pay student athletes.

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”.

4 thoughts on “Paying “Play”-ers

  1. Aroswell2014,

    First, let me say that I find this first hand account of a student athlete, especially one who holds your opinion on the matter of “pay for play”, to be an extremely valuable asset to the quality of this argument. After all, how can we decide on things that greatly affect players without first consulting them on the matter. However, while I value your opinion, and even understand the logic behind your argument; that extra-hours, overtime if you will, deserve compensation, I feel that this new system would be problematic and economically unfeasible on a large scale.

    When taking into account the new system that would need to be implemented in order to properly handle collegiate player compensation, we must acknowledge the scale of this endeavor. Now I will list a few tedious tasks that would be required to properly run this financial system, as well as the problems it would create:

    1. Extra-hours and overtime logging.
    – problems: hour-logging fraud, personnel requirement.
    2. Monetary dispension.
    – problems: how do athletes receive this income? Is it taxed? What can they spend it on? What’s to prevent them from using university money for illicit items?
    3. Economies of scale.
    – Increase in tuition. Increase in ticket prices/concessions. Budgetary Issues.
    4. Collateral Damage.
    – Scholarship revaluation. Athletes bias on which school pays better.
    5. Interaction with Professional Athletics.
    – Amateur Eligibility issues. Athletes stay in college longer to receive guarenteed income.

    Unfortunately Aroswell2014, as you can see, it is not as simple as giving a few bucks to the athlete that goes above and beyond in the weight room.

    I look forward to your rebuttal…


  2. Thanks for the comment,

    However I do think it could be as simple as giving the players a stipend of a thousand or so dollars a semester as walking around money. I don’t think that athletes would be paid on an hourly basis or the cash would need to be regulated heavily. It is the same as working a job for a student. I do understand your concerns with student athletes choosing schools that can afford to pay players. I think most big time schools that get top recruits would be able to do so anyways. Along with that schools would be regulated by the NCAA and I am sure the pay would be a flat rate across universities choosing to compensate players. As far as your last comment I think anything that keeps athletes in school is a positive thing. We wouldn’t see as many people looking to go pro right out of high school and these athletes will be equipped with tools to be successful without sports. Lastly I don’t believe the right thing should not be done just because it is complicated.


  3. Although it is certainly an interesting idea to pay athletes for overtime, I think there are too many flaws in the system for it to be effective. One of the first problems that comes to mind, as jmofclou already pointed out, is how to keep track of hours logged and the possibility of fraud. If compensation is solely based on the time an athlete spends training, then the process becomes more complex. What is stopping an athlete from “going through the motions” for a couple hours in the gym to get some extra money? In order to resolve this problem, there must be a minimum level of workout intensity that athletes must reach to be paid, or they must show an improvement in their workout results. However, one benefit of this system is it could be an incentive for less talented athletes to stay in school for an extra year instead of trying to become professionals. This system won’t persuade top athletes in major sports, like football and basketball, to continue going to school because the money is relatively small when compared to the millions of dollars they could eventually make as professional athletes.


  4. You bring up a variety of really good points and I never really thought about the hundreds of extra hours that athletes put in off the field just to be great on the field. Among all of the things that these athletes may face, injuries affect a player in so many more ways than just a time commitment. They may cause student athletes to be unable to work well in class and force them to take time away from the game. I do not believe student athletes should be upright paid, however, merchandise sales and use of an athletes name should be compensated in some way or another. Regardless or not, if a jersey has the players name stitched onto the back. People are buying that specific jersey to represent their favorite student athlete. It would only be fair for the students to be compensated for their popularity which comes from their performance on the field.


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