While I was writing my review of NCAA Football ’12, (shameless plug) I got to thinking on an issue that is being talked about more and more it seems. It is that of whether college athletes who give up time and effort to play a sport that their university potentially makes millions of dollars off of, should be financially compensated. Before I start, let’s define the scope of what is meant by ‘college athlete’ and how I’ll refer to it in this article. What talking heads mean when they talk about college athletes getting paid, are those who play football or men’s basketball, because those are the big money sports and bring in the revenue to support smaller ones, such as rowing or swimming. I’ll admit straight out that I am against this idea, as there too many possible pitfalls to the idea. There are other solutions, but for now I’m focusing on ‘pay to play’.

Firstly, college athletics has that mystique about it, the one where you’re competing for the pride of your school and nothing more. Some athletes might have ulterior motives of playing well so they get drafted, but a vast majority of athletes play for their school. Paying athletes to play football or basketball cheapens that whole experience, especially for those watching the game. Whose’s to say that the shooting guard isn’t scoring basket after basket in order to improve his stock for more money? Putting money over school is a big mistake that can only cheapen the expereince for the player, the fans and most importantly, the school as a whole. Paying athletes to play college sports ceases to make them college sports, turning them semipro sports. The teams might as well cease affiliation with the university.

Next, we have this whole perception that all college athletes are being exploited, some exaggerating to the point where sweatshop comparisons are being made. Let’s be honest, a vast majority of these players will not make a living playing their respective sport. It’s the examples of the few and sometimes scandalous that grab headlines. Take Chris Webber for example. He was pretty vocal about not having enough money, even when he was getting money from a booster. You couldn’t write a better definition of hypocrisy. This and countless other examples show that the exploitation myth is blatantly untrue. Professional atheletes are already whiny about money, college is just for them to practice such skills for their pro careers. Granted coaches and others are reaping in serious dough from them, but that’s an issue for another article.

Athletes don’t need to get paid because those who have scholarships already have the tens of thousands of dollars for school paid for by the university. They don’t have to worry about applying for financial aid, loan payments or buying basic neccessities. There are also a slew of other perks, too numerous to name, that come with playing a high profile sport in collegeMany college students graduate with enormous amounts of debt and take a long time to dig themselves out. So I wonder what Terrelle Pryor would say if he was in that situation, without his scholarship. 

The slippery slope that could be paying college athletes is a dangerous one that strikes at the very foundation of the college experience. College is awesome and  I enjoyed all of it. It’s that singularly unique event in your life that cannot be replicated elsewhere. College sports are about rooting for your team and heckling your rivals like crazy. The first game of the season, the pre-season anticipation, that last minute comeback mean so much more in a college setting. In these sports, most players are playing not for themselves, but for proverbial name on the front of their jersey.