Should College Athletes Get Paid? 9 Weird Solutions


/ March 19, 2013

The idea of paying college athletes is as old as the NCAA itself, the organization essentially designed to prevent college athletes from getting paid. It’s a complex issue, and it’s been thrust to the forefront thanks to former UCLA star Ed O’Bannon, who is suing the NCAA to allow college athletes to seek a portion of live broadcast revenues.

In simple terms, O’Bannon thinks that the people playing the games should get a piece of the money earned from those games, and it’s certainly not a crazy concept. Big Ten – sorry, B1G – commissioner Jim Delany issued the bluff of all bluffs this week, claiming the conference would “de-emphasize” sports and adopt a Div. III/Ivy League model if players were allowed a piece of the pie. That would basically mean no scholarships and no recruiting, just like at Harvard or Yale.

In that case, I assume the Big Ten Network would show live streams of Iowa biology exams or intramural frisbee on the Michigan quad? Maybe a show dedicated to a super intense game of Mario Kart in a dorm room at Ohio State?

Either way, college athletes getting paid is a hot button issue. The argument against it is simple: why pay athletes money when they get an education for free? In a sense, you’re saving a four-year player on the basketball team close to $200,000 total, which is certainly no pittance. Why should student-athletes get treated any differently than regular students?

The argument against is, well, regular students don’t earn the university millions of dollars a year. I wrote a pretty great paper about True Lies in college, but it definitely didn’t earn as much for the school as Indiana’s Victor Oladipo taking the Hoosiers to the NCAA Tournament. It was a really good paper, but you can’t sell thousands of tickets to it, or put it on a t-shirt.

It’s not as simple as just paying athletes and having this all go away. There’s a need to think outside the box – so here are some weirder ideas that just might solve the issue. Emphasis on weird: these ideas would almost never be agreed to by any governing body, but they are certainly steps to rectify a real inequity.