College athletes should be paid like the semi-professionals athletes they are.
Instead of subjecting themselves to unfair treatment by a system hoarding extreme sums — the median college endowment at the end of 2015 was $58.8 million — college athletes should push for the creation of semi-pro leagues as an alternative to the NCAA.
In fact, it seems necessary to create new semi-pro leagues, especially for football and basketball stars who can’t go directly to the pros like baseball players.
The reality is that many athletes will not benefit from getting a college degree, like the 46 percent of graduates who work jobs that don’t require one. Meanwhile athletes have the added disadvantage of jeopardizing their body, the primary source of their financial value, and their long-term health.
Why opt for unpaid danger? Youth leagues competitive to the NCAA would turn a volunteer’s hazard into a career person’s fair wage. It’d allow athletes age 18-25 to just focus on sports and get money. That’s all most athletes really want, as evidenced by those who leave college early for the pros. Obviously $0 — the wage all college athletes earn — isn’t enough to put up with academic work that’s mostly irrelevant to an athlete’s profession. Some have made note that student-athletes are generally given small stipends, though they are only to be used for books, phones and computers, food, and transportation, and aren’t, by definition, payment.
These hypothetical leagues would also benefit college coaches. By coaching in them instead of the NCAA, coaches wouldn’t have to feel guilty for receiving million dollar salaries from taxpayers. The market would voluntarily determine their worth without coercion. And ultimately this would increase the value of their prized stars, some of whom are worth up to $1,025,656. That’s more than the value a college degree adds across an entire lifetime.
Moreover a proposal such as this one also benefits scholars and academics. With a greater emphasis placed on scholarship and learning departments everywhere would flourish as tuition prices decrease. In this scenario athletes won’t be distracted by school, and scholars won’t be distracted by athletics. That’s a beneficial compromise right?
These facts don’t suggest the NCAA is an evil organization trying to do bad things. That’s not the case. However the organization is a monopoly with inefficient management. No other organization can compete for the same labor the NCAA profits from.
With that said, the NCAA should help charitably advance and advocate for other competing leagues. One situation would see them granting competing leagues start-up money.
Another would see them opening markets by arranging TV deals for competitors because creating competition incentivizes the NCAA to offer better service. Helping create new and competitive leagues also benefits the NCAA’s public image. Believe it or not, paid athletes express more satisfaction than ones who are injured and living in poverty.
Likewise it’s hard to argue that the average division I football or basketball player would prefer a 4-year scholarship over the $121,048 and $265,027 sums they’re worth without commercial endorsement deals. While college has its benefits, those benefits don’t necessarily apply to an athlete’s wallet. That’s a shame, one that could be corrected by a more competitive market.