The domino effect of paying college student-athletes

Lets start paying high school athletes!

Now that I have you attention – If college athletes start being paid it will affect high school student-athletes. In this post I want to shed light on the potential effects on high school student athletes, if college athletes were paid.

Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter reached out to the National College Players Association last spring asking for support. Colter’s asked for help in giving athletes representation in effort to improve conditions under NCAA sports. This topic quickly sparked and created a wildfire of opinions –  resulting in Northwestern football players working to unionize questioning whether college student-athletes should be paid or not?

First problem is that very few college-sports teams are actually profitable. Only 22 programs reported being profitable in 2010 according to the NCAA’s 2004-2010 Revenues & Expenses report. However not one women’s program was profitable. The reality is, you can’t pay only men’s college teams, because of Title IX, which requires the same opportunities for both men and women.

If the NCAA decided to employ their student athletes tomorrow, “hypothetically” it wouldn’t affect high schoolers immediately. There is no chance (knock on wood) that high schoolers will ever receive money for competition. If anything high school athletes are just trying to stay on the field or court [Pay-to-Play]. If college athletes were paid, high school athletes would begin exploring the opportunity to turn their athletic abilities into cash while attending college.

What does this mean for high school athletes?

Increase in competitiveness

First, the United States is a hyper-competitive culture. If students had the potential of earning money through their athletic abilities competitions could become much more intense and/or cutthroat. I believe this because the number of spots on NCAA D1 teams would become more realistic and transparent to high school athletes. The realization of the limited availability in Division I sports could lead students to take extreme actions in order to be recruited. Division I and II schools provide 120,000 student-athlete scholarships annually – keep in mind that the Nation Center Education Statistics predicts that 3.3 million students are expected to graduate from high school in 2013-14. The chances of earning a college athletic scholarship are very slim.

Since spots are limited on DI/DII teams, athletes engaged in team sports would become focused on themselves, the individual rather than team. When scouts arrive at high schools players will attempt to shine and impress, but sacrifice teamwork ideas. The scouting process could get much more intense very quickly!

In the book Unpaid Professionals: Commercialism & Conflict in the Big-Time College, Andrew Zimbalist highlights, “recruiters from Northwestern spent $363,000 on recruiting (just three-fifths what their competitors in the conference spent) (Zimbalist 16). If college athletes are paid I believe the amount of money spent on recruiting would rise significantly, because the best athletes in town would start to bargain and negotiate a deal, just as the pros with contracts. Walter Byers was the Executive Director of the NCAA from 1951 to 1987 worked hard to uphold NCAA values: “collegiate amateurism is not a moral issue. It is an economic camouflage for monopoly practice” (Zimbalist 19).

Could we see agents running around high schools?

In the Dominican Republic, recruiters from the United States stake out spots to recruit young men for professional baseball. When the talk of money comes into the picture alongside contracts, the sky is the limit! I use these young Dominican baseball players as an example, because a majority of them are the same age of juniors/seniors in high school.

The NCAA prohibits agents from contacting high school and college athlete prospects (does it still happen, maybe?). If student-athletes could profit from playing in college, agents would more than likely flock to high schools. This would allow agents to profit on their athletes playing in college – this players’ newfound freedom could complicate they college athletic system very quickly!
Academics back in focus for now…

Student-athletes who plan on playing in college are looking forward to engaging high-level athletics. However engaging in a college sport means, being a ‘student’ as well as an ‘athlete’ – can’t just be an athlete in college.

Recently the NCAA announced that “more student-athletes than ever before are earning their college…Division I student-athletes who entered college in 2006 earned their degree at a rate of 82% – the highest ever”. This is important to recognize, because the NCAA strives to cultivate an environment to “give young people opportunities to learn, play and succeed.

If the NCAA decided to start paying student-athletes this could ruin the trend that student-athletes are on now. If money is thrown in this could quickly unravel the environment that NCAA has established for their student-athletes.


The decision to pay college student-athletes will affect people beyond NCAA DI athletics.

One side believes athletes should be paid although the scholarships athletes are receiving on average for Division I is about $25,000 for per year, totaling in $100,000 over 4 years.

The reality is that being a student-athlete is a full-time job. However the revenue generated by college sports isn’t just sitting around. For example Huffington Post reported, “At Ohio State, football net profit and “Buckeye Club” donations added up to $45 million. It’s a hefty chunk of change, but that only covers roughly a third of the University’s $126 million budget”.

Athletes engage in sports for the pleasure of competing, for fitness and so much more. If college/universities start paying student-athletes, they will ruin the purity of college athletics.

Universities that start paying student-athletes will be sending a strong message to high school students about the priorities of what it means to be student-athlete in college. This is not the message we should be sending to high school athletes.

Students play sports, because they want to; not because there’s a check waiting for them when the game is over.

Looks like we’ll just have to wait and see how many colleges will unionize their athletes. Stay tuned!



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