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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.

  • PistolPete

    They are already being paid, something like $90,000 over 4 years are what most scholarships are worth.

  • AJ

    I am appalled by Coach Wolff’s dismissive and sardonic comments concerning Liberal Arts education as enunciated in his weekend radio program on WFAN.
    I am not an athlete, but had a “less” GPA and SAT score. However I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to go to college where I maintained the requisite 2.0 college GPA by taking what the Coach calls “meaningless” courses.
    Having a Collegiate experience and a Liberal Arts background has given me broad prospective, enriched me and gave a basis for my numerous life accomplishments.
    Congratulations to Coach Wolff for having the talent, proficiency and aptitude in meriting multiple Ivy League Cum Laude degrees in an exceedingly notable major.
    However, I am also proud of my St. John’s Liberal Arts degree.

  • Mark Patterson

    Outright payments to collegiate athletes would be taxable by the IRS. States with state income taxes would tax the athletes as well. In a short amount of time, the paid athletes would have a basis to unionize. Payments would have to be generated by tuition increases. Equal protection laws would require that all athletes be paid, not just the athletes from the revenue generating sports. Payments would do nothing to thwart incidents of corruption. If athletes were paid, college sports would cease to exist as we know it; it would impact negatively on the general college system of higher learning and would increase court litigation on several fronts and thus would serve the mercenary interests of lawyers.

  • Rick Levine

    I had long been a supporter of paying collegiate athletes until reently. A huge question for Athletic Departments would be Title IX. How do you equitably pay the female athlete. If you don’t compensate them then the money would have to be equalized among other sports thereby forcing colleges to once again cut non revenue mens’ sports. This seems to go totally against the arguement that revenue sports pay for the other sports, as there would likely be no other mens sports to support.

  • David Forman

    I agree that these kids should be paid, if not a salary, a stipend covering other expenses besides room & board & tuition. How many kids with scholarships leave home and their parents can’t afford to see then play in person? Additionally, these kids are not allowed to hold down jobs. How about spending money? Too many times we have seen players and/or universities get in trouble for receiving funds to help their families, etc. Wouldn’t it be better to have it above board and not hidden as it is these days? I am not talking about major six figure salaries, but as you have mentioned, about $15,000 a year. Room and board just doesn’t cut it anymore.

    • As a former college scholarship athlete I must respectfully disagree. Spending money, along with money for other expenses, can be earned in the summer.

      There is much much more to this paying of college athletes than what is superficially apparent on the surface.