College Athletes Should Not Be Paid to Play


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The other day I made a simple but obviously provocative statement regarding college athletics. I like to stir things up from time to time but this one seemed to piss people off LOL!

So what was said?

“BTW… I am NOT one of those that believes college players should be paid for playing sports. Scholarships yes. Salaries NO”

After 300+ tweets both in support and opposition I thought it would be best to clarify my position on this issue. I respect that you may feel otherwise & I hope you will respect that I feel you are wrong LOL!

So lets get right into it…


a. NCAA Division II Financial Aid Presentation (NCAA / PDF)
b. Myth of exploited, impoverished athletes (ESPN / PDF)
c. Odds That Your Kid Becomes A Professional Athlete ( Business Insider / PDF)
d. Athletic Scholarships and Financial Aid Issues ( Informed Athlete / PDF )
e. The Economic Case for College ( Washington Post / PDF )


1. College is for Education

Even if a young man is good at sports in high school, gets a scholarship, and excels in college, there’s almost no way they are going to go pro. That is a fact and it is not disputed. Scott Soshnick of Bloomberg tweeted a link today to the NCAA’s official estimated probabilities that athletes in six major sports become professionals.

Only one sport (baseball) had more than 2% of NCAA players go pro.

For college football, the sport I am so passionate about the numbers are:

1.7% of college players play professionally while only 0.08% of high school players do

High school players: 1,108,441

College players: 67,887

Draftees: 255

The point?

You go to college for the education and economic advantage it offers you over a lifetime. You do not go to college to go pro in sports. It really is that simple.

The economic case for college is simple: college graduates make more money. In fact, they make over $500,000 more over the course of their lifetimes, on average. That works out, as we’ve noted before, to among the best returns-on-investment around. It works out to an annual return of around 15 percent a year. The stock market, by contrast, averages 6.8 percent annual returns, and housing averages 0.4 percent a year.

But there’s a catch. This is the return to graduating from college and not everyone graduates.


2. College Kids Should Live Modestly

Frugality is all the rage. And a good thing too. With the economic situation as it is, we had better learn to take pleasure from the simple things if we want to keep our sense of balance and be able to sleep at night. This is especially true in college.

Everyone I know who is my age & went to college remembers existing on ramen noodles, mac & cheese & tuna. We remember sofa diving for spare change just so we could get that next case of beer. We remember being dirt poor in college and yet…

We remember this fondly.

As the matter of fact most of us would say that our college days , a time when were were at our poorest were some of the best times of our life.

You may disagree but I believe there are GREAT lessons in living like this through these years. I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything and trust me .. my kids will have to figure out their way as well. Could I make it easy and just pay for everything?


Will I?

Not a fucking chance.


3. Collegiate Athletes Should Have The Same Financial Aid Opportunities As Other But NOT More:

I am not going to get into a debate over semantics because no matter what you call it ( grants, scholarships, loans etc ) it’s all financial aid.

I paid for college through the following:

1. A small scholarship
2. Some grants
3. Student Loans (45k worth)
4. Worked in the student athletic center year 1 & 2 (10 hrs / wk @ $7.95 / hr)
5. Worked as a bartender in year 3 & 4. ( 3 nights a week averaged $175 / wk )

My parents came up with care packages from time to time but they did not pay for my education. They made me do it and I’m extremely thankful.

I think this should be the same for collegiate athletes.

While some people believe that college athletes who receive athletic scholarships receive “full-ride” scholarships, the truth is that no athletic scholarship covers ALL of the costs of attending college, and that athletes in the majority of sports programs receive “partial” athletic scholarships. A “full” athletic scholarship covers the following costs of college: tuition, certain course-related fees, room and board, and the value or provision of books. An athletic scholarship may not cover all student fees, and also may not cover things like parking fines, a single room in the dorm, library fines or late fees, etc.

In NCAA Division I, the following sports are “head-count” sports: men’s and women’s basketball, football, women’s gymnastics, women’s tennis, and women’s volleyball. All other Division I sports, as well as all Division II sports, are “equivalency” sports. In equivalency sports, coaches can divide their scholarships up as they desire, as they long as they do not exceed the total allowable scholarship value available in their sport. A few examples in Division I are baseball with 11.7, softball with 12, and wrestling with 9.9 scholarships. One athlete on the team may be provided with the cost of tuition, a second athlete on the team may be provided with room and board, and a third athlete on the team may only be provided the value or use of books.

Any student-athlete who receives any amount of athletic financial aid is considered a “counter” per NCAA rules. Once a student-athlete is considered a “counter” there are situations in which other types of financial aid may be required to be “counted” as athletic financial aid.

So what does all of the above mean in short?

Follow me on this because this is important …

There are to important financial aid limits for athletes. The first is the value of a full athletic scholarship – tuition, required fees, room, board, and books.

The second important limit is the institution’s Cost of Attendance. At many institutions across the country, the Cost of Attendance is roughly $2000 more than a full scholarship, but that can certainly vary widely between schools. Athletes that receive financial aid having no relationship to their athletic participation can keep financial aid above the cost of a full athletic scholarship, but most of the time cannot keep financial aid above the Cost of Attendance.

This $2000 represents the difference between a “full ride” and a “Full ride” + fun & beer money.

And THIS is why the NCAA rule reads:

A new NCAA rule permits a Division I student-athlete to earn legitimate on- and off-campus employment income during semester or term time, provided such income in combination with other financial aid included in the student-athleteís individual limit does not exceed the value of a full grant plus $2,000.

Bottom Line:

You want to go to college and play sports .. awesome! You have the same opportunity for financial aid ( actually more opportunity because of the sports scholarships ) as everyone else.

You need the extra $2000 per semester .. great. Either get it through other financial aid or work for it.

Can’t work because of the sports & scholastic schedule … I understand.

Get a student loan…

Actually here are the options for additional monies above the Cost of Attendance

a. Summer aid b. Employment c. Exempted government and state grants (e.g., Pell Grants). d. Exempted academic awards. e. Legitimate loans (repayment schedule, available to all students)

My Biggest Pet Peeve:

If I hear one more person say ” The schools / NCAA is making millions off of these kids, they should get paid” I think I’ll scream. These people should never be allowed to run businesses.

What would you do if you are offered a job that does not fairly compensate you for your work? ……..You don’t accept that job.

Yet, athletes do accept a scholarship in exchange for playing sports. This means they are fairly compensated.

You really need to ask yourself How much is a free education worth? Remember that’s really why they are in college. I’d encourage everyone to read; The Myth of exploited, impoverished athletes.

I’m not going to even get into the issue of what is invested / has been invested and risked by the Universities / NCAA to make collegiate sports what they are today.

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