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!



Where are female athletes in the media?

When was the last time you saw a female athlete highlighted for her athletic ability on ESPN? Yesterday Tina Fey was the only woman on the ESPN home page.

Women are rarely mentioned in the media and when they are it is usually for superficial reasons (i.e. body). In the book “Taking the Field: Women, Men and Sports”, Michael Messner mentions that “only 2.2% of Sport Center’s coverage is devoted to women’s sports” (Messner 95). When do professional female athletes get recognition for their accomplishments? Where can you find news about professional female athletes?

Today sports coverage on women is “regulated to small marginal cable channels, websites and specialized magazines” (Messner 92). In order to locate results or any mention of women’s athletics on ESPN a user must go to “More” then click on “Women’s BB”, which then takes the user to “ESPN W”, which is ESPN for Women. 

Glamour Magazine posted an article on their website, “Turns Out Women Want Athletes to Look Like Athletes, Not Sex Symbols”. When news concerning female athletes hits the mainstream media they are often sexualized. Does the presentation of female athletes in the media change our views of their athletic abilities?

How women are portrayed in the media should not effect how people view their athletic abilities. These women are professional athletes that are strong and talented. The bigger issue is why are women rarely recognized for their athletic ability and how are they being represented in the media? 

In the book Gender and the Media by Rosalind Gill addresses that when women are recognized on the news, the focus in on their physical appearance. The media is “incapable of publishing a story featuring a woman without some evaluation of her attractiveness, or at least a description of her attractiveness, or at least a description of her age and hair color” (Gill 115). 

Gill explains that the media will represent women in one of two ways – in the terms of her domestic role or her sexual attractiveness. As you can see there is no middle ground for women in the media in- between housewives and sexy. Noelle Pikus-Pace, is an American skeleton racer who was featured in a AT&T commercial during the Sochi Olympic that emphasized her domestic roles.

We have seen a couple examples of this in class with Maria Sharapova, who is most often sexualized rather than being recognized for her skills on the tennis court. The first article that shows up when you Google, Maria Sharapova is “Maria Sharapova Shows Off Toned Bikini Body in Mexico: Tennis Pro in Swimsuit Picture”.

Then we have other incredible athletes, such as Abby Wambach, who is at the top of women’s soccer and has recently broke Mia Hamm’s all-time mark for goals. But because Wambach does not meet the normative modes of attractiveness demanded by the press, we rarely hear about her. Yet we can find her along with other female athletes in specialized forms of media. 

When women as well as young girls are consuming the media they are looking for people to aspire to. Viewers want to see someone like themselves to relate and aspire to.

We need to start giving women the credit they deserve, because there athletic abilities are incredible! On ESPN there is a clip called, “Nine For IX: Exclusive Clip From ‘Branded’” that highlights reasons for fans to watch the WNBA. It’s noteworthy to mention “Branded”, because the last installment on EPSN talked about how women athletes, who are endorsed by brands typically have a certain look, but are not the best athletes. I suggest checking out this series, because it holds a lot of promise. 

Will today’s media ever get passed representing women in a domestic role or a high sexualized in role?

Unfortunately it is hard to say, but if people are demanding athletes to look like athletes rather then sex symbols in the media, it just might change. The marketing teams from the brands we love, such as Nike want to know what the consumers want!

This is a step in the right direction, but we have a long way to go. 



Did Cooper Go Too Far?

February 16, 2014 – After Olympic skier Bode Miller completed his bronze medal run in the men’s super-G, NBC reporter Christian Cooper was at the finish line ready to fire questions. Miller’s emotions were running high when he began his interview with Cooper (below is the transcript and link to the video). Miller lost his brother, Chelone after an unexpected seizure in April 2013. Chelone’s dream was to stand next to her brother Bode in Sochi.

Cooper’s first question, “Bode, you’re showing so much emotion down here. What’s going through your mind?”. Miller responded slowly and with some hesitation, which demonstrated he wasn’t quite comfortable. Cooper continued, “I know you wanted to be here with Chilly [Miller’s brother] experiencing these games, how much does it mean to you to come up with a great performance for him? And was it for him?”. As Miller began to answer this question, tears swelled in his eyes. Cooper’s final question, “When you’re looking up in the sky at the start, we see you there and it just looks like you’re talking to somebody. What’s going on there?”. After her final question the interview came to a halt and Miller broke down, yet the cameras continued rolling.

After the Bode Miller’s interview aired on NBC primetime viewers flocked to social media sites. In Man Play & Games, Caillois claims that play and real life are separate, “in the effect play is essentially a separate occupation, carefully isolated from the rest of life, and generally is engaged with precise limits of time and space” (Caillois 6). The majority of viewers turned to Twitter to defend Miller. Many suggested Cooper asked about an issue that was beyond the precise limits of time and space. Today it has become increasingly challenging for professional athletes to separate the limits of time and space, because simple everyday activities are dictated by their dedication to sport.

Today professional athletes cannot isolate play and real life. First, the motivation behind athletes engagement and continuation of involvement in sports is motivated by personal experiences. Many professional athletes engage with at least one social media platform (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram). While engaging in social media as well as interviews on television, fans are able to see multiple dimensions of athletes (professional & personal life). For example, Miller’s personal and professional life is heavily intertwined with professional snowboarding.

The viewers (sport fans in support of Miller) have claimed that this interview did not stay in the realm of sports. Bode’s relationship with his brother Chelone was connected to professional snowboarding. Cheloe’s dream was to stand next to his brother in Sochi. Cooper’s questions were emotionally loaded and they were appropriate and still in the realm of sports, because Miller’s profession and personal life are intertwined in the realm of sports. If Miller’s brother, Chelone was not an athlete, I don’t believe Cooper would have asked these questions.


Interview Transcript with Bode Miller and NBC reporter, Christian Cooper

Cooper: Bode, you’re showing so much emotion down here. What’s going through your mind?

Miller: (Long pause) A lot, obviously. A long struggle coming in here. And, uh, just a tough year.

Cooper: I know you wanted to be here with Chilly [Miller’s brother] experiencing these games, how much does it mean to you to come up with a great performance for him? And was it for him?

Miller: I mean, I don’t know [if] it’s really for him. But I wanted to come here and uh — I don’t know, I guess make my self [sic] proud. (Pauses, then wipes away tears.)

Cooper: When you’re looking up in the sky at the start, we see you there and it just looks like you’re talking to somebody. What’s going on there?

Tweets from fans supporting Bode Miller:

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