Colleges should pay student-athletes – we can’t afford to play

The Channels Opinion Pages | STAFF COLUMN

Christy Tomerlin, Associate Editor

The Channels Opinion Pages | STAFF COLUMN

I’ve played sports my entire life. But now that I’m at City College, there’s no way I can afford to.

If I was able to go to school, play soccer and work enough to pay for food and rent then I would. But that isn’t the real world. Not being able to afford to play sports takes a toll on athletes.

The issue of whether to pay student-athletes has been an ongoing discussion with little resolution. Being a college athlete is truly a full time job with all we have to do — rewatching the games in film classes, training in the hot weight room and the miserable practices on the field/court, all while trying to pass our classes. With all this on our shoulders, how are student-athletes expected to work enough hours in a pay period to afford rent, groceries, and other daily expenses?

As the average rent for an apartment in Santa Barbara continues to increase from $1,371 each month, it becomes harder and harder for the everyday person to afford it, and nearly impossible if you are a student-athlete. Because of the time commitment and dedication to a sport, a student-athlete does not have enough hours in a day to practice, go to their classes and go to work.

“These athletes spend so much of their time and energy on their sports,” student Michael Birkeland told me as he watched the men’s soccer team practice. “They really pour their whole soul into it and they should have some kind of compensation.”

Birkeland wishes he could join the soccer team, but can’t for the same reasons as myself.

Many people say that student-athletes should not be paid because they aren’t professionals and can be financially irresponsible. But committed students put in nearly as much hours in a day to their sports as professionals do; the difference is they are also going to classes.

Schools all around the country also use athletic success to promote their school and raise application rates, elevating the college’s image, but only the coaches are getting paid for it.

I think it would be reasonable to lower the coaches’ salaries to compensate for athletes’ pay.

Generally, coaches receive bonuses if the team makes it to offseason or if students on the team break records, or even for winning big games. The students are the ones doing this work, therefore they should be the ones getting the payout.

The sports games also bring in a large amounts of revenue for the colleges and universities from the cost of game tickets.

“One thing is for sure, if I generate a substantial amount of cash flow for my program it would only seem just that I receive a substantial benefit from doing so,” said Sy Webster, a City College student-athlete.

The biggest argument against paying student-athletes is that they can receive scholarships, which some argue is a sufficient substitute for being paid. While scholarships are technically a form of payment, they can only be spent on books and tuition.

The average Division 1 scholarship is $25,000 per year, which only covers the basics like tuition and books. College kids already have a reputation for being dead broke, and receiving a scholarship does not mean they have spending cash in their pocket.

Many people also make the argument that it is a privilege to play a sport at a college and it is an extracurricular activity, which is why they are called “student-athletes” instead of “athlete-students.” Although this is a valid point, there are still many athletes that go to a college or university primarily for the sport, and not for the education. These athletes are also receiving an education, but their main priority is their sport because their goal is to become professional athletes.

I strongly believe student-athletes deserve to be paid — it simply isn’t fair that so many amazing athletes are missing out on the opportunity to play merely because of financial issues.