Drive for Dollars: The Division I Dilema

College athletes spend 35 to 50 hours per week staying involved in their respective sports. However, those attending school and relying on scholarships can be placed in tough financial situations when they suffer catastrophic injuries, where them or their families have to pay for it.

This results in them not being able to make it to paying professional leagues, having financial stress and can even result in career-ending injuries. The amount of stress college athletes receive would be significantly reduced if they could get paid for playing their sport.

With more than 460,000 college athletes playing for the NCAA, they are the ones who attribute to the corporation bringing in $995 million in revenue each year, according to the NCAA database as of 2016. That’s close to $1 billion. Why aren’t the ones generating the money and national attention getting paid for it?

We’re students paying to study in order to become successful in our professional endeavors after our college careers. That’s one thing, but a majority of college athletes at Div. I schools are paying to go to school and are spending 35 to 50 hours per week to miss some of their classes and also dedicate their time to a sport that only a small percentage of them go to professional leagues. That time is like working a full-time job while being a full-time student.

According to, after adding up the contracts of the top five paid coaches in NCAA sports, it turns out they make just over $35 million combined in one season. Although it is important to see the fact that the athletes receive free professional coaching from trained coaches and connections that will help their chances in further pursuing a career as a professional athlete, it’s important to explore that idea a little bit further.

The school receives players that basically work a full-time job and make the school look good on a national level and those players don’t get paid for it.

Not only do high-profile players not make a percentage of their jersey sales, they also can’t sell the jerseys that they wear. Five Ohio State players got suspended for five games in 2010 for selling their memorabilia, yet the school can sell their gear and make money off it. Auburn sold the pants worn by Cam Newton in his college championship game for $1,500, while the University of Michigan sold the pants worn by their star quarterback Denard Robinson from a rivalry game against Notre Dame for $1,300.

Risk of injury is even more concerning for Div. I athletes because in addition to their bodies, their scholarships also suffer. Former college basketball player Kevin Ware suffered a compound fracture on his tibia and fibula back in 2013 during an NCAA Tournament matchup against Duke University. His lower-right leg snapping in two affected the rest of his college career, as he missed the following year and would not even make it into the NBA to make his money. The amount of time he sacrificed, and the amount of opportunities he had to miss because he was recovering from a devastating injury for over a year. He could have at least been paid in college somehow to help his financial stress.

As The New York Times notes in a 2014 article, Kyle Hardrick, who committed to Oklahoma when he was 14-years-old, lost his basketball scholarship after tearing his meniscus. His 300-pound teammate fell on his leg during one of his first practices and he had to undergo surgery despite the school not wanting him to. Not only did the school seem to care about the reputation they had, but guess who had to pay for the surgery with an unrenewed scholarship following that? Mom and dad.

Although not every school can pay their players a set price, a proper solution to this would be to pay only Div. I players. Narrowing this to potentially only football, basketball and baseball players, as they are the nationally recognized sports bringing in the most money would be a better idea. The NCAA is currently under a multi-billion dollar contract with CBS through 2032. So allocating some of the millions that events such as March Madness and the college playoff football games make to the players would be a very feasible option. Without them, these events would not happen.

Sure, this would give the schools a little less freedom as to where they allocate their money and how much money they allocate to the growth of their programs. However, for the safety of the players, it is all worth it in the long-term because a lot of them don’t make it to leagues such as the NFL, NBA  or MLB where they can start off with making $1 million-plus per year. Along with that, some athletes don’t make enough to afford where they are without a scholarship regardless.

So theoretically, instead of singlehandedly asking the NCAA or specific universities to pay their athletes, having major brands sponsor schools would help in the case of getting players paid, as long as the money goes to them. Putting the sponsorship money into universities would help the NCAA manage sponsorships to a greater degree.

Some may think that by paying athletes, it’s detracting from the amateurism of the sport. NCAA President Mark Emmert said that if athletes were paid, it would detract from the student’s emphasis that they are receiving a quality education and that they are here to learn.

Why does receiving a quality education mean that an athlete should make no money? Look at us, there’s nothing about our bachelor’s degree stopping us from making money. A violinist can make money from playing with an outside orchestra, a semi-pro golf player can make money and cash tournament checks while pursuing an economics degree. Why should the idea only apply to college athletes?

Students are putting forth time and effort, whether they get paid or not. Any failure to change will only lead to more cases like Ohio State players selling their jerseys under the table and will cause that underground market to slowly expand. So, considering this solution would enable the NCAA to pay their athletes and regulate the sponsorships without taking away from the school’s revenue.

This would make a positive impact on many athletes across the nation, and maybe even those companies sponsoring them in the long run as long as they were given the chance.