The Cavalier Daily
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College sports shouldn’t be a free market

Paying players salaries would erode educational value of collegiate sports

The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s March Madness tournament noticeably dominates the national sports world from the second week of March through the first week of April. With its lucrative commercial ventures, the prominent sporting event is often part of a larger debate regarding whether or not schools should pay salaries to their student athletes. In spite of popular arguments in favor, paying student athletes salaries would detrimentally impact collegiate sports.

College sports — especially football and basketball — rake in massive amounts of revenue each year. The NCAA reported $872 million in revenue in the 2011-12 school year alone. Television rights for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and football bowls are worth almost $18 billion, most of which gets distributed to schools and conferences. Student athletes typically generate tens of millions of dollars annually for their schools. In addition, many college coaches are the highest-paid public employees in their states. Some would argue, therefore, that student athletes deserve to profit from their contributions to the revenue of the NCAA.

Paying salaries to student athletes erodes the student component of their college experience. If a high-school basketball prodigy chooses U.Va. not for its academic quality, tradition or beautiful campus but because it outbid all other suitors, a connection to the University’s educational values may be lost. When college sports are reduced to a market, they lose their original purpose of providing young student athletes with a quality education.

Moreover, student athletes are already given a significant amount of money through scholarships and financial aid. During 2015, U.S. colleges awarded over $3 billion in athletic scholarships to varsity athletes. However, these scholarships may not cover all living expenses. Most student athletes also do not have the opportunity to earn extra income in order to cover those expenses. Rather than a salary, it may be reasonable to ask that student athletes receive supplemental resources to cover living expenses.


There are many college sports fans who care deeply about the integrity of their colleges and universities. Paying student athletes salaries does not address the underlying problem with compensating student athletes and would be detrimental to collegiate sports. 

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