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Has the Time Come to Pay College Athletes a Salary?

For years, it’s been debated as to whether college student-athletes should be paid a small salary in addition to the tuition, room, and board they receive for being on an athletic scholarship. After all, it’s pretty clear that the university benefits greatly from having these talented athletes wear the school colors on the fields of competition.

As noted on the show, when a college has a successful athletic program, usually student enrollment goes up as do alumni donations. This explains why that even at non-scholarship schools (such as in Div-III), kids with less GPAs and SAT/ACT scores can gain admission. Why? Because the university knows that having winning teams translates into more money coming in — money that the school keeps but does not share with the student-athlete.

Bear in mind that a kid on an athletic scholarship is told that their top priority to be at all practices and games. Studies come second. In effect, the kid has become an employee of the school. Furthermore, as one caller pointed out, lots of college athletes pretend to go to class. They have private tutors or are enrolled in meaningless courses, just so they can maintain a GPA so they can play.

So, why not pay the student-athlete a salary of $15,000 a year, and he or she can decide whether they want to pursue liberal arts, OR learn a technical skill that will prepare them for a real job in the real world when their four years of athletic eligibility are over OR they can choose not to go to class at all. Let the young athlete make some important decisions. Let them be accountable for their actions. But most of all, let’s get away from the sham of having the NCAA serve as watchdogs over which student-athletes are really going to class.

I know this all sounds perhaps like fantasyland, but trust me, this conversation ought to be had by top college presidents sooner rather than later.