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OPINION: All I see is dollar signs — but not going to student-athletes

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"Money" by Got Credit is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Every year, thousands of athletes from across the United States draw crowds into college stadiums and arenas to witness greatness. Whether it is enjoying the football team crush an opponent by 35 points or the heart-racing thrill of watching a gymnast attempt to stick her final vault try, there is never a dull moment in college sports. 

If that was not enough, the money generated from college sports is astronomically high. Between ticket, concession, apparel and program sales, those paychecks for the athletes must be huge, right? Wrong. 

Not only are the paychecks not huge, but they also do not exist. That is because student-athletes are not paid. Some universities have said that they do not need to pay athletes because being on the team is enough of an opportunity for an athlete to showcase their skills and get drafted. 

While this is true, have the universities forgotten about how many other athletes are out there? Let us use the NBA draft as an example. Every year, 60 players are drafted by NBA teams. There are 15 players on a college roster. To put that in perspective, only four college rosters worth of players are drafted into the NBA. If I want to get even more technical, that number does not even consider players from overseas who get drafted. Then the number of players drafted could shrink to 52 or even less. 

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What baffles me is that if universities do not want to give athletes a paycheck, why do so many of them cheat every year by offering them illegal bribes? We have all heard countless stories of universities offering money, houses, cars and strippers to athletes so that they come play for their program. Am I the only one who sees the irony in this? If paying an athlete legally is wrong, what makes paying them in bribes right?

If you are overwhelmed by this display of blatant hypocrisy, you are not alone. What is even more frustrating is that if the university gets caught, the athletes suffer more than the university. 

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The worst that happens to a university is that they get fined and receive bad press coverage for a week. For an athlete, the punishments reach a whole other level. They can be suspended, lose their scholarship, get cut from their team and even get kicked out of school. 

Now they have no money, no education and no chance of reaching a professional sports league. 

Folks over at the NCAA might say, “Well it is their fault. They should not have taken the bribe. They should have just said no.” Really? So, you are telling me that an eighteen-year-old kid who lives in a one-bedroom apartment with their parents and three siblings is supposed to have the maturity to say no to a free house, car and $25,000? How dare these universities prey on these kids and use their unfortunate circumstances against them? They should be ashamed of themselves. 

Imagine all of the good that would come out of student-athletes being paid. For starters, much of the cheating that goes on right now would be eliminated. This would lift an immense burden off the students' shoulders now that they could send money to their families without fear. They could move them to a better place to live, buy groceries and pay bills. 

Another benefit would be players who did not get drafted would walk away with something. Would there still be pain because they missed out on their dream? Of course, but it will be eased now that those players would leave the school with a few extra thousand dollars in their hands. 

This is doable and a system could be put in place to manage everything. You could set a cap space, fine players for rough fouls or disciplinary action, terminate contracts, offer bonuses based on GPA, etc. 

I am not saying that paying players would eliminate cheating all together or that my proposed ideas would create a perfect system. I am saying that no athlete should go to sleep at night afraid that they will lose everything because they wanted to give their mom a house and a better life. 


Follow Sean Fagan on Twitter



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Sean (he/him) is a Business Administration major from California. He enjoys playing video games and watching Disney+ in his free time.


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UA COVID-19 Test Tracker

Daily (9/17)
1,335 23 1.7%
Total (8/2)
22,564 434 1.9%
Includes tests since August 2, 2021
Data from https://covid19.arizona.edu/updates
Updated September 18, 2021