As the 2018 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship tournament kicks off this week, the debate of whether student-athletes should be paid for their services continues. The argument has been escalating in recent years as the money these student-athletes bring to their respective schools continues to rise. As the governing body of college athletics, the NCAA has been adamant in its opposition to “pay for play”, but the supporting voice grows louder each year.
Supporters of compensating student-athletes point to a myriad of talking points to bolster their argument. The most common, and obvious, argument is that these athletes should be paid what they deserve for their work for their school. These athletes bring in an incredible amount of revenue to their schools, especially those talented enough to be competing at a Division I university. Both the individual schools and collective conferences profit on gate revenue, lucrative media contracts, merchandise, and more. Offering a stipend will allow for these students to provide for their families financially and encourage them to stay in school longer rather than jumping to the NBA early. Advocates of paying the players also argue that this income will serve to negate the corruption from outside influences often placed on these kids trying to make it in the tough world of college athletics.
There is also a vocal group that believes the status quo should be maintained and student-athletes should not be compensated beyond the parameters of the athletics scholarship. The argument of those on this side of the debate believe paying the players will rob them of the inherent love of the game because the primary motivation will now be money. Married to this argument is the concern that the student-athletes will not be motivated to succeed in school and the education will become secondary to the money. These detractors also argue that policing this pay structure will be impossible. The questions this opens include how much will each student-athlete be paid, how is that pay structure determined and enforced, and how will officials manage the inequity between the top talent and those kids not as heavily recruited.
Nobody knows who will walk away as the champion during this year’s March Madness. But the one thing that is known for certain is that this debate will continue.