Hard working student athletes have been exploited for too long

The Channels Opinion Pages | STAFF COLUMN

Jerard O'Byrne, Channels Staff

Imagine working for a corporation that makes billions of dollars off of your hard work but you never get to see a penny of it. Welcome to the life of a college athlete.

I am speaking as a college basketball player myself and I can tell you based on experience that playing a sport in college is like a full time job that you don’t get paid for.  Each sport differs schedule-wise, but every sport is almost year round. Once the added stress of school and working an outside job to afford for rent and food is added, college athletes get worn out.

As a student athlete we have practice six days a week in addition to attending meetings and watching films with the team, not to mention the hours and hours of extra work that we put in at the gym. After a long day of practice and meetings, we have to go home and do homework and cram for exams. We have to prioritize planning our academic schedule around our athletic schedule so we don’t schedule classes during practice or meeting times.

The life of a college athlete is very difficult because we have to grow up very fast. We don’t get to relax and lounge like regular college students. Being a college athlete requires hours and hours of work and we have to plan time well in order to stay eligible for the season.

The NCAA  makes more than one billion dollars annually based off the hard work these athletes put in. The money comes from TV contracts that televise the games and much more.

Last week was the end of this year’s march madness when Villanova beat Michigan for the championship. The NCAA made more than one billion dollars off of this single championship, which is 90 percent of their annual revenue. More than 9.2 billion dollars were gambled on the athletes and the NCAA made 821 million in TV deals and only 220 million of it went to the conferences the schools represent.

So now let’s compare some stats  between the NBA and the NCAA. The NBA is considered one of the biggest global businesses in the world but if you look at the numbers the NCAA isn’t far behind. The NCAA generates over 700 million dollars a year in media deals alone and over 10 billion by their athletic programs.

Some of that money is used to pay coaches salaries. The highest paid coach in the NBA is Gregg Popovich making 11 million a year while the highest paid college coach is Mike Krzyzewski makes 9 million a year.  But the main difference is that the average NBA player salary is more than 6 million dollars while the average scholarship is only worth 32 thousand dollars.

Some people make the argument that college athletes get a free education and that should suffice. But let’s be real, top athletes don’t go to school for the education. They go because it’s required by the NBA that they have to spend at least a year in college depending on the sport, and after that the players head to the NBA for the money. If given the option, many high school players would go straight to pros.

NCAA athletes getting paid has been a hot topic for years and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. As of matter of fact it will only increase now, especially after the FBI investigation that happened last season. A coach by the name of Sean Miller who coaches the Arizona Wildcats was caught on wiretap talking about paying a recruit 100 thousand dollars to come to the school and play ball.

In the end nothing happened to Miller as he still has his job, but it sheds a light on what goes on behind closed doors. It is just one example of college athletes getting paid under the table and many former players have come out about it.

Lebron James in an interview said “If I chose to go to college instead of the NBA I wouldn’t have been poor very long.”

Athletes are getting paid illegally and if they get caught it’s the player who get in trouble, not the coach. Some people argue the players shouldn’t take the money, but any kid who grew up poor and is told that if they play at a certain school they will be rich will take it.  Players aren’t going to school for the education, they’re going for their required time and then to the pros and the difference between the schools for players is who offers the most benefits.

The NCAA should pay the athletes because of all the money they bring in and they should not have to continue to struggle while billions of dollars are made off them.