CON: No pay for play in college athletics

Ben Criswell, staff writer

It’s no secret that student athletes generate (Donald Trump voice) millions and billions of dollars for their respective schools. It’s also no secret that student athletes receive exactly zero percent of the money their programs collect.

While some might argue that this eerily resembles some form of fascist sports world, others argue that the current system is best for all parties involved, and while I am not steadfastly entrenched in my opposition to the payment of student-athletes (I have flip-flopped many times), I do believe that the argument in favor of compensation does not take into consideration all factors involved.

Student-athletes by no means have it easier than your average college student and in most cases are forced to work harder and longer than the rest of us. I will also concede the fact that compensating student-athletes gives incentive to stay in school longer, which raises the level of play at all levels. Aside from the morality of not paying college athletes, this is probably the biggest argument a sports fan can make in favor of “pay for play” and probably where I lose the argument.

When the product on the field or court is raised, it benefits everyone involved including the person who only cares about the quality of play, which in the last decade or so has significantly dropped off from the ’80s, ’90s and even the early 2000s. Nonetheless, the argument is one worth having and one worth analyzing all the evidence to the contrary and in favor of.

The average cost of a year’s college tuition is $22,000 (this includes private schools and in and out-of-state tuition rates). For many students, both participating in collegiate athletics and not, this price is not affordable without some form of financial aid.

Coincidentally, in 2015, seven out of every 10 college graduates graduated with an average debt of 28,000 dollars, a number the Wall Street Journal projects to increase to $30,000 in 2016. While most student athletes do not receive full scholarships, those who do, and successfully graduate, will do so $30,000 richer than the average college student, effectively giving them a head start on their financial future.

That extra $30,000 could potentially go toward renting an apartment or opening a savings account, and, most importantly, potentially sparing student-athletes from the all-too-common position of living with your parents the first year out of college. Who could put a price on that?

Aside from the financial benefits of receiving an athletic scholarship, college athletics bring opportunities to kids who would otherwise not have them. Athletics allows a kid from Compton to attend Harvard on a football scholarship. It makes a kid from Detroit’s dream of going to Duke, blasphemous as it may seem, possible. “A way out,” as cliché as that may seem is cliché for a reason: it’s true.

Giving student athletes a stipend or any form of compensation takes away an invaluable aspect of college: being broke. I realize being broke is probably not what you picture when you think of the quintessential college experience, but in reality most college students are, in fact, broke beyond belief.

Being broke isn’t all bad, though. Learning to live on your own with little to no money provides a skill that translates into all aspects of our lives. Instead of spending your $7 paycheck from the bookstore on a new pair of socks, you learn to spend that money on Ramen Noodles (how great is Top Ramen?) or better yet, save it.

Being broke is a shared college experience that brings people together. Besides, there’s something romantic about “you’re broke, I’m broke, lets be broke together.”

Paying student athletes would deprive them of participating in the timeless and invaluable tradition of being a broke college student, a tradition that sucks while you’re in it (like right now for me), but shapes your financial understanding of the world for the rest of your life.

This last argument comes from a place of pure jealousy. I’m not proud of it, and it comes from a lifelong dream of being a professional athlete, a dream that was crushed when I realized that playing three sports professionally was just not possible (take that Bo Jackson!).

Student athletes get one thing that everyone everywhere, whether they admit it or not, wants: free gear. These guys walk around campus decked out in the freshest gear, gear that sells for 70 bucks a pop at the bookstore. It’s every 10-year-old’s dream to get the gear of a college athlete, and the lucky few who do get to flaunt their Nike hoodies around campus to the rest of us un-athletic mortals should be grateful.

That’s the dream. That expression gets used a lot, but this right here is the definitive end-all-be-all, Mama-I-made-it dream; and you can’t quantify that into any kind of monetary value.

Okay, jealously aside, if you pay the players, the product gets better, and Kobe and LeBron spend a couple years at Duke. It’s a win-win. Oh, and please give us another NCAA football … please