Paying student athletes

Student athletes form a specific part of a college’s atmosphere and often have a different college experience than other students.

Athletic departments of some colleges can actually be the main draw as the revenue schools generate from sports make them quite lucrative, especially if the team is successful. Should student athletes see a portion of those proceeds?

Some colleges go to great lengths to recruit a winning team often offering signing bonuses along with scholarships. These examples are typical of schools participating in Division 1 sports, usually basketball and football. Not every college is pulling in six or seven figures from their athletic department, especially at the community college level, but for the big name universities the revenue can reach tens of millions of which the athletes themselves receive none.

The sports division of video game publisher Electronic Arts (EA sports) recently lost a lawsuit over the use of team logos and player likenesses without proper financial compensation. EA sports has lost a contract with the NCAA but can still negotiate individually with colleges.

In another relevant matter, The National Labor Relations Board recently ruled that Northwestern University football players are considered employees of the school and therefore free to form a union and receive payment for their talents. Some even call for a collective bargaining system of negotiations similar to what is used in professional sports.

The reason for this is due to the nature in which colleges manage athletes from recruitment to game day. For those schools with an emphasis on sports, the players are courted specifically for their athletic ability. Athletic scholarships awarded to students depend on their talent to play a sport. The primary reason they are given money is to play for their school, not for their academic skills.

Colleges may end up with a greater amount of control over an athlete’s lifestyle, more so than any employer would have over an employee. A great deal of a student athlete’s time is devoted to the body conditioning and practice that is required, often outweighing the amount of time spent on actual school work.

And what about injuries sustained while playing? Some schools offer plans insuring players for injuries sustained during games and practices. Some do not. Kyle Hardwick, a sophomore basketball player for the University of Oklahoma, suffered a knee injury that his mother said cost the family $10,000 in medical bills with their personal insurance paying another $20,000. There is no standard when it comes to schools providing medical insurance. This leaves schools open for cases to be filed by a personal injury firm if there is ample evidence for liability.

Not every college is as sports driven as others. In fact, most schools struggle in finding their athletics department. When it comes to determining if schools should pay their players, several variables should be considered. Players at a community college are not offered scholarships on the same scale as those attending universities.

So what does that mean for athletes at Pierce? Athletes should research schools they hope to transfer to, especially in regards to what the policy is on insurance for injury; concussions can end a prospective career and provide a lifetime of medical problems and costs. They should know what a school’s view is on the topic of paying players. While there may not be a system already in place, the ruling at Northwestern University has set a precedent that cannot be ignored. For players that are serious about their pursuit of an athletic career, these are things to consider as they make their next steps.