Sample Essay on Should College Athletes Be Compensated?

Should College Athletes Be Compensated?


Over the years, it has become apparent that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and its affiliate institutions generate huge annual revenues from college athletics. Kiernan claims that the venture generates about $1 trillion every year. Heitner and Levine claim that college athletics has become a billion-dollar industry. However, only a small amount of money generated by student-athletes’ participation is later used for awarded scholarship. In some instances, scholarships do not even cover the entire education expenses. They sometimes cover tuition alone, boarding fee, or even education fee only (Heitner and Levine 342). To make matters worse, scholarships have in the recent past become annual events; it means that they are renewed on an annual basis. The basis of renewing scholarships is students’ performances in athletics.

Although NCAA’s by-laws outline the circumstances under which college athletes may obtain additional benefits without contravening the rules of the game, the fact remains that education expenses have increased, and scholarship programs do not cover some of these expenses. Furthermore, young athletes need to exploit their talents early enough before their demand goes down. The analysis of the revenue gained by NCAA from students’ performance, as well as the time and effort young individuals dedicate to sports shows that college athletes deserve monetary compensation in addition to the scholarships they receive.


It is important to note that NCAA has been on the frontline advancing the notion that college athletes are not professionals; thus, they should not be compensated (Smith 26). However, it should be noted that this statement emanated from the advertising opportunities that NCAA identified over time together with the challenges the association faced. One of the issues that NCAA experiences defines college sport performers as student-athletes in order to overcome the problem it faced in one of a court battle with a college athlete’s family. The court case involved a student who died in a plane crash on his way home from a football game (Brown 1862). The term “student-athlete” was used to differentiate athletic scholarships from employment contracts. Accordingly, NCAA has all along argued that college students should not be compensated. In spite of this argument, it is clear that NCAA together with its affiliate institutions make a lot of money from college sports. It is also clear that the association pays huge salaries to its coaches. More importantly, the notion that college athletes are not professional ones is outdated. As a result, college athletes that operate under the term “student-athletes” should be compensated.

Based on the past practices and evidences, it is clear that NCAA has done much to weaken its own noble initiative of student-athlete. It has particularly changed the four years’ scholarship program into a one-year renewable one (Huma and Staurowsky 7). Inasmuch this practice may appear to be an effective one on the basis that it forces students to give their best and work hard to retain their scholarships, it undermines the spirit for which the program was initiated. It particularly forces students to devote much of their time to sports that sometimes affect their academic performances. It also denies students the peace of mind knowing that its programs may not be renewed if athletes do not perform as expected. It further deprives them of the right to express their views openly because their scholarship programs may not be renewed.

College athletes should also be compensated because of the extra work they perform to retain their scholarships. Under the current bylaws, student-athletes who win scholarships on the basis of their prowess in sports are supposed to be treated similarly to other students. However, in practice, these people perform in profitable media spectacles that are organized and negotiated by their colleges through NCAA (Huma and Staurowsky 7). These ventures generate huge incomes for NCAA and affiliate colleges, but student-athletes do not receive any share of those except for their scholarships (Comeaux 88). Although student-athletes enjoy the latter, such rewards are dependent on their sport performances as well as value in the athletic field (Huma and Staurowsky 7). This means that if such students are to lose their value for not performing as expected of them, their scholarships may be terminated. In essence, as NCAA purports to sponsor sportsmen and sportswomen, it literally depends wholly on these people to generate the association’s income. Given that the industry has become a multi-billion one, college athletes, no matter sponsored or not, should be compensated for the money they earn for NCAA and its affiliate bodies.

Commercialism linked to college sports is the other reason why college athletes should be compensated. As far as this issue is concerned, there is no doubt that athletic departments in various colleges have resulted in using images for their successful athletes to market their establishments and generate income (Comeaux 88). Furthermore, it is obvious that these departments and their institutions with the help of NCAA engage in television contracts that earn profits and sell tickets to their events. The abovementioned processes can be witnessed on the two figures below.

Figure 1. University of Texas Athletics: Revenues vs. Scholarships Expenses from Cork Gaines, “If you don’t think college athletes should be paid, his chart may change your mind. Business Insider, 9 May 2013, Accessed on 30 January 2017.

Figure 2. Athletic Department Revenue vs. Scholarship Expenses: Average for Schools with 10 Largest Revenues from Cork Gaines, “Chart Shows the Simple Reason Why College Athletes Should Be Paid.” Business Insider, 9 October 2015, Accessed on 30 January 2017.

Even if student-athletes enjoy the benefit of the incomes through scholarships, the industry is a multi-billion one. As a result, there is a need to compensate college sportsmen and sportswomen so that they can finance the part of their academic activities that is not covered by scholarship programs. Indeed, education and the cost of living in most of the colleges have gone up. In order to help student-athletes cover some of these expenses and improve their living standards while at colleges, there is a need to compensate them. This will not only motivate these people to work hard for their scholarships but also assist in promoting their talents in sports.

Besides money making for their colleges and NCAA, student-athletes dedicate substantial amount of their time to preparing for the next events and keeping their bodies fit for sports. Brown claims that these students commit more effort and time to sports than majority of employees do to their jobs (1858). However, the students receive no payment except for limited benefits in form of scholarships that do not translate to fair compensation. According to Brown, the limited benefits are not equal to the revenues that professional athletes earn compared to the amounts that NCAA generates (1858). To make matters worse, a majority of the college athletes in revenue-generating sports tend to perform poorer than their non-athletes counterparts (Grant et al. 204). There have been numerous cases of student-athletes failing to graduate because they invested more time in sports than class in fear of losing their scholarship. Although the issue of failing to graduate is not as rampant as it used to be in the early 1980s, some college athletes do not graduate because they do not pass their college exams (Comeaux 85). In some instances, the issue has resulted in academic misconduct among the students. In the end, it would be important to compensate college athletes to avoid some of these incidences.

While maintaining that college athletes should be compensated, it would be important to acknowledge the fact that NCAA offers its scholarships on an annual rather than four years’ basis as it used to do before. This means that college athletes on these scholarship programs do not have a guarantee that the latter will last for four years because their renewal depends on sports performances in the previous years. This being the case, it would be important to assure student-athletes that their academic careers would be safe despite losing scholarships in case this might occur. One way to do this is to compensate them so that they can have money to pay for their education. This does not mean that student-athletes would lose their scholarships but rather states that in case it happens, they would be able to continue with their studies.

In all fairness, it appears that the benefits that college athletes provide to NCAA and its affiliate institutions surpass the financial vantage that college students enjoy in the form of scholarship programs. Taking into consideration the advantages that college sports performers provide for their colleges together with the amount of time and effort they put into sports, student athletes should be compensated beyond the scholarship programs. Given that not all sporting activities result in financial gains, there should be a distinction between revenue-generating sports and those that are different. Once this distinction has been made, the college athletes that engage in revenue-generating sports should be compensated for their contributions to NCAA and their colleges (Brown 1864). The fact remains that sports are no longer exercises for keeping bodies fits. Instead, they have turned to money-making ventures. As a result, the professionalism issue in college athletics should be discarded and the new mentality embraced. This would promote sports in colleges and end the era of exploitation that appears to dominate college sports.

Cam Newton’s Case Study. As an illustration of the extent at which compensation would lead to motivating student-athletes to promote their talents in sports, it is essential to consider the Cam Newton’s case study. Cam Newton was a college athlete. In the first instance, he signed a scholarship program contract with the University of Florida, but the agreement did not last for more than a year. Newton lost the contract after he had been found in possession of a stolen computer. However, due to his prowess in sports, the young man was able to sign another scholarship program contract with Blinn College. During his tenure with the latter, Newton was able to win his team the NJCAA national football championship and become a celebrity in college sports (Heitner and Levine 355).

In order to monetize his fame in the field, Newton, with the help of his father, secretly entered into another sports contract with Auburn University. However, the move was thwarted before Newton and his father received money from that institution. The scandal almost saw the athlete end his career in sports for allegedly soliciting funds from Auburn University. From the case of Newton and his father who, together with the recruiting agency responsible for Newton’s transfer to Auburn University, violated the NCAA’s bylaws, it is clear that compensation is a big issue in college sports. It is likely to affect the future of most college sportsmen and sportswomen. The fact remains that majority of the college athletes that gain fame for their sporting careers will always want to monetize their achievements before their careers are rendered obsolete because of their advanced ages (Selzer 20). In order to deal with this issue, it would be important for college athletes to be compensated so that they could enjoy the full benefits of their careers in sports.

Counter Argument

Some people are of the opinion that college athletes should not be compensated. They claim that the majority of college athletes, especially those in revenue-generating sports, enjoy fully paid scholarships. They further claim that NCAA has done a great job with bringing sanity to college sports (Byers and Hammer 53). Inasmuch as it is true that majority of the college athletes enjoy fully paid scholarships, the fact remains that under the current practices, the latter are on annual basis. Therefore, sports performers in colleges have a responsibility of keeping their scholarship programs running by acting as expected of them. Otherwise, the programs would be terminated, and their academic careers would be affected.

In order to guarantee college athletes that their academic careers would be safe even in case of scholarship termination, it would be important to compensate these athletes so that their academic careers can be guaranteed. Compensating college athletes means that they would have money to pay for their college fees. The way the issue stands right now is that many college athletes do not have an assurance that their scholarship programs will run for four or even five years. Consequently, most of them will continue to dedicate most of their time and effort to sports so that their scholarships would not be terminated. In terms of implication, this will automatically keep affecting the academic performances of college athletes. It will even result in academic misconduct among the students as they try to secure their futures (Comeaux 85). In order to address these problems, it would an appropriate compensation would be a good incentive for college athletes.


It is obvious that NCAA and affiliate institutions make a lot of money from college sports. It is also clear that NCAA pays coaches a lot of money whereas college athletes go uncompensated. Inasmuch as the latter are enrolled in scholarship programs, the fact remains that their scholarship programs are on a yearly basis. This means that if such sportsmen and sportswomen do not perform as it is expected of them, their scholarship programs can be terminated. In this case, it is obvious that college athletes commit most of their time and effort towards sports. As a result, their academic performances are affected in one way or the other. If such dedication is not enough, their academic careers would be affected significantly as their scholarship contracts might be terminated. In order to deal with these problems, it would be important for NCAA to compensate college athletes. This would go a long way in solving the current problems and even motivate those in sports to pursue their athletic careers more than they did in the past.

Works Cited

Brown, Tyler. “College Athletics Internships: The Case for Academic Credit in
College Athletics.” American University Law Review, vol. 63, no. 1855, 2014, pp.1855-1899.

Byers, Walter, and Charles Hammer. Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Exploiting College Athletes. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1998.

Comeaux, Eddie. Introduction to Intercollegiate Athletics. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015.

Grant, Randy, et al. The Economics of Intercollegiate Sports. Singapore: World Scientific Publishing Company, 2008.

Heitner, Darren, and Jeffrey Levine. “Corking the Cam Newton Loophole, a Sweeping Suggestion.” Journal of Sports &Entertainment Law, vol. 2, no. 2, 2010, pp. 341-369.

Huma, Ramogi, and Ellen Staurowsky. “The Price of Poverty in Big Time College Sport.” NCPA, 2011, Accessed 28 January 2017.

Kiernan, John. “Should College Athletes Be Paid? Experts Weigh in.” Wallethub, 30 June 2016, Accessed 28 January 2017.

Selzer, Jacob. “Play for Play: Analysis of the Image Restoration Strategies of High Profile College Athletes.” The Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications, vol. 4, no. 2, 2013, pp. 16-32.

Smith, Ronald A. Pay for Play: A History of Big-Time College Athletic Reform. Champaign, IL:University of Illinois Press, 2011.