Are College Athletes Shortchanged?

It’s that time of year again. Winter is turning into spring. The hype of the Super Bowl has passed. Professional basketball and hockey are still in the midst of their respective seasons, and baseball has not quite started its season. However, this is when college basketball reigns and dominates the sports world. We call it March Madness. Anything can happen ranging from Cinderella stories, major upsets, and buzzer beaters. It provides all the emotion that makes for a great story, even for non-basketball fans.

The economic impacts of of collegiate athletics today is astounding. Revenue for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in 2011-2012 was over $871 million, 81% of which came from television and marketing rights fees according to  The majority of these earnings come from football and men’s basketball. A lot of this money is awarded to universities, athletic conferences, and coaching staffs. However, the players are excluded from this list even though they play (no pun intended) a vital role on the economic success of collegiate athletics.

Millions of people tune in each year to watch the March Madness tournament. According to, 27 million viewers caught the national championship game in 2015, which was a 33% increase from the 2014 championship game. $10.8 billion. This figure represents the 14 year deal that the NCAA agreed to terms with CBS and Turner Broadcasting to televise the March Madness tournament. This leaves the NCAA and companies such as Nike who run advertisements during the tournament with ample opportunities to bring in revenue and increase brand awareness.

Michigan State’s Chris Allen goes up with a breakaway shot against Connecticut in the second half of a men’s NCAA Final Four semifinal college basketball game Saturday, April 4, 2009, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

While many parties involved with collegiate athletics earn millions each year, the players are left out of this equation. Is this fair? Should college athletes be compensated for their contributions to this industry? For years people have argued that student athletes are first and foremost students who are amateur athletes that receive scholarships to attend school. This was before there were billion dollar media deals, marketing campaigns, sponsorships, and lucrative tournaments. In recent years, there has been a debate that supports the idea that athletes such as those who play in widely televised tournaments like March Madness should be compensated for their contributions. How will paying college athletes impact college sports and entertainment?  


Wilbon, M. (2011). College Athletes Deserve to be Paid. Retrieved from

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4 Responses to Are College Athletes Shortchanged?

  1. labbasi says:

    I think it’s not fair at all. These are young athletes who work very hard to maintain a strong sports career to possibly make it to the professionals and have high school expections. Plus they have to try to have a real life. They get used! I think the students should get paid, but not have access the funds until they graduate. This will keep the students from dropping out and profiting from their hard work. Its crazy that people are making crazy bets on these students that can make them a great deal of money, yet the players aren’t making a cent and have heavy rules. That does not follow real life either, which can make these players make decisions based on money gained since they have been deprived for years.

  2. giotta says:

    I disagree. I understand that many people are getting rich and profiting from college sports while student athletes never see a cent. However, getting a free education, free housing and food, and having zero student loan debt upon graduation should not be taken lightly. Therefore, I don’t think college athletes should receive any additional compensation.

    I feel like paying student athletes would take away from the integrity of college sports and ultimately hurt the product on display. In addition, the article says college football and mens basketball are the top earners. If we pay student athletes, is that going to be taken into consideration? Will athletes be compensated by gender? What about sports like waterpolo or diving which are rarely shown on television? Would these athletes be paid less since their sports don’t generate the same profits? I think paying student athletes presents more negative outcomes than positive ones.

  3. pfistere says:

    I can see both sides here, and this debate has been going on for awhile. While it is unfair given the profits turned that collegiate athletes are unpaid, they do receive a lot of benefits as a result. Free education, possible endorsement deals and a first-class ticket to the NBA, if they excel. These are all enormous benefits that most college students could only dream of. In addition, I think it would take away from their status as college students. Serious collegiate athletes are already considered royalty on some campuses, however, if they are then compensated, I worry it could further alienate them from their peers. On the flip side, collegiate athletes essentially are working two jobs while in school and focusing on athletics. Perhaps an end of the season bonus could be applied, but I do agree that it would likely get messy when trying to differentiate compensation between teams and gender.

  4. delacall says:

    This is a conflictive issue, and both sides have a point. On one side, college athletes receive free education, housing, and stipends. Many of them are offered a unique opportunity in life to access a major university, and some can even become pro athletes.
    On the other side, the university, and other interest parties benefit hugely by the sweat of the players. And, what does the school do with the money? Do they invest in communities, academic centers? Or do they solely spend it on marketing, and unnecessary infrastructure?

    However, involving money can also destroy the ethics of sports. Money always is innocuous. The university with more money will have more power in the league, and competition will unfair.

    A balance is required.