Why should college athletes get paid?

       Over the past 15 years, the topic of collegiate athletes’ paychecks, or lack thereof, has come to the forefront as a topic of major discussion. We have seen college superstars like Cam Newton and Chase Young get accused of and even suspended for allegedly accepting outside money to help fund harmless tasks. For almost a century, the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) strongly prohibited any sort of income for college athletes. The archaic rule officially stated that, “you are not eligible for participation in a sport if you have ever: taken pay, or the promise of pay, for competing in that sport” (NCAA). 


       In 2018, Ohio State star Chase Young accepted money to fly his girlfriend to the Rose Bowl. Young was suspended for two games for accepting the loan, which was completely against the intentions of the original rule. However, Young was still punished by the NCAA. I, as well as many others, believe that college athletes should be able to profit from their skill, platform, and image while still receiving tuition, funding, and eligibility to play. 


       Many people have reacted to this solution with opposition. According to John Thelin of the MONEY Magazine, student athletes should not be paid because of the taxation that would get put on incomes. He explains how colleges have offered an alternative to a salary, which causes a student to be responsible for covering tuition costs. Thelin writes, “Since it’s a salary, and not a scholarship, it is subject to federal and state income taxes. Tuition and college expenses would be not deductible because the income level surpasses the IRS eligibility limit” (MONEY Magazine). The writer claims that college athletes should not be paid because they would get taxed, lose money, and struggle to pay tuition. Furthermore, critics have pointed out the fact that most NCAA Division I athletes are on “full rides,” or scholarships which completely cover their tuition. These critics will say that the athletes are essentially getting a free education. Missouri Football player Ian Simon, however, thinks differently. Simon said in an interview with the Kansas City Star, “I know we’re getting an education, but it’s not really free when you’re putting 40 to 50 hours a week on your sport.” Simon raises a valid point, as playing a college sport is essentially a full-time job. A player like Simon loses time to football that he could be devoting to academics, and he could potentially injure himself, which could have even larger implications. 


       Since most college athletes cannot make money, the athletes cannot pay for simple things such as non-college provided food, school supplies, books, and leisurely activities like going to the movies. In Young’s case that I mentioned earlier, he could not buy a plane ticket to bring his girlfriend to the Rose Bowl, one of the biggest sporting events of the year. According to John Daniel Davidson, “If Young had to borrow money from a family friend for a $350 plane ticket, it’s safe to say he didn’t have $350 to spare or couldn’t get it from a family member” (The Federalist). While Young’s borrowing was not a small chunk of cash, it is clearly nothing compared to what the colleges are bringing in. It is nothing compared to what Young himself would make just a year later when he signed a 4-year, $34 million contract with the Washington Football Team. Why is it that an athlete can get suspended and potentially lose draft stock and money down the line over a plane ticket? 


       While players don’t make any income, their coaches on the other hand bring in figures that even some professional athletes could only dream of. In 2019, Chase Young played for Ohio State University (OSU) under head coach Ryan Day. Over the course of the 2019 season, Day was set to receive over six and a half million dollars while Young, the star defensive end who would go on to win the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year just a year later, received not a penny. Day is not the only college coach that is getting such a hefty salary. In fact, Day trails nine other coaches in terms of salary, including Alabama’s Nick Saban, whose salary approaches eight figures. In November of 2019, Florida State University (FSU), fired head coach Willie Taggart. However, since Taggart had signed a contract that guaranteed a certain amount of money, FSU was forced to pay him $20 million over the next four years—to simply not coach the school’s football team. Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel said, “If FSU is going to pay Willie Taggart, a fired football coach, $20 million to sit on the bench and do nothing, then the Seminoles should have to pay Cam Akers, a really good football player, a decent salary for literally putting his neck on the line – not to mention his knees, shoulders, and brain.” This is a valid argument. Why should universities pay massive contracts to the coaches, yet do not give anything to the players who bring in most of the revenue and team success.? Once again referencing Bianchi: “It’s time to pay all the amazing players who are actually doing their jobs instead of the failed, fired coaches who aren’t” (Orlando Sentinel). 


       The final issue that comes up when discussing this topic is the comparison between sports and other fields. College athletes are the only section of the student body that is prohibited from making any money, even athletes without scholarships. Michael Rosenberg of Sports Illustrated writes, “If a student at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts is offered $2 million to direct a major-studio movie, that student would still be allowed to take his film classes.” So, if a cinematography student can make millions of dollars off their skill while still being enrolled in the school, why can’t a college football player like AJ Green make money off selling his own memorabilia without sacrificing his athletic participation? Colleges make massive amounts of money off their athletic programs and most of this money is created by the very players that represent that school. They deserve some sort of reward for their efforts.  


       Even if it is not the school directly paying the salary, they should not be preventing a player from making that salary. Thankfully, in the summer of 2021, the NCAA officially abandoned this rule as they passed the NIL (Name, Image, Likeness) rules, which allow college athletes to profit from their fame. However, this change is still in its infancy, as college players signing endorsement deals is still not mainstream. Hopefully, we can get to a point in society where college athletes are being properly paid for the sacrifices they make and the money they bring to their schools. 


  1. Bianchi, Mike. FSU’s Obscenely Wasteful Willie Taggart Buyout Is the Final Straw: College Athletes Should Be Paid! Orlando Sentinel, 2019. 
  2. Davidson, John Daniel. The Suspension Of Ohio State’s Chase Young Is Everything That’s Wrong With The NCAA. The Federalist, 2019. 
  3. Kerkhoff, Blair, and Tod Palmer. They’re Not Paychecks, but Major College Athletes Got Extra Scholarship Stipends for First Time This School Year. Kansas City Star, 2016. 
  4. NCAA. Summary of NCAA Regulations – NCAA Division I. 2011. 
  5. Rosenberg, Michael. A Simple Solution to NCAA Corruption: Let Stars Get Paid. Sports Illustrated, 2011. 
  6. Thelin, Josh. Here’s Why We Shouldn’t Pay College Athletes. MONEY Magazine, 2016. 
  7. Wells, Adam. Report: OSU Star Chase Young Suspended vs. Maryland, Could Be Out Indefinitely. Bleacher Report, 2019.