Given the rising popularity and huge profits being pocketed by administrators in the NCAA, it’s time to begin compensating student athletes for their time and effort that they pour into the industry.
Sponsorships, although a great start, will fail to equally support all student-athletes given gender and respective sport. UNC Chapel Hill has a responsibility to equally pay and treat athletes just as any other work-study student; both provide labor for the university, and athletes bring in dramatically more revenue.
The University should equally pay all athletes, regardless of visibility or sport. As a result, they could make a statement against the precursors that cause pay disparities in nearly every professional sports league today.
Sponsor our athletes
In the 2017-2018 fiscal year, UNC Athletics reported roughly $104.6 million in revenue.
The college athletes? $0.00.
The lack of self-ownership of a college athlete’s likeness is preposterous. There is simply no other way to put it, and there’s nothing else comparable. Celebrities all across the nation make money for their fame. Advertising deals and endorsements provide an extremely lucrative source of income for those outside of college athletics.
But if you’re a famous college athlete? Tough luck.
There is little logical rationale for maintaining this distinction for college athletes. It simply serves as an easy way for the NCAA to exploit their workforce. Meanwhile, these athletes practice day and night. They risk horrific injuries. They forego time that might be spent studying. All in the service of padding a profit margin. And maybe, in the future, if they’re really lucky, they’ll get a share. But lost time is lost money.
This is wrong. College athletes, some as young as 18 or 19, own their image and likeness just as much as a 23-year-old professional does. As such, UNC and the NCAA should do the humane thing. If millions of fans around the country want to buy items with a player’s likeness on them, share a slice of the pie.
Think beyond the money
Our University has the ability to offer an expansive array of sports for student-athletes to participate in, and the burden of providing pay should not jeopardize these opportunities.
It is undisputed that revenue from UNC athletics has greatly increased over the past decade, resulting in new facilities and higher coach compensation. Football and men’s basketball, as it seems, are two powerhouse programs that generate exorbitant amounts of money for the University — why shouldn’t athletes get a cut? Because it creates a power structure within college athletics that disadvantages smaller schools and less popular sports.
While football and men’s basketball report a profit, much of this money is funneled back into other sports programs. With part of this cash stream lost, we are losing resources that allow the University to support less visible sports. At a national level, pay would significantly reduce the amount of money available to athletic programs that are in the red.
NCAA data from 2016 indicates that at the Division I level, when revenues and expenses are taken in the aggregate across all schools, only football and men’s basketball operate without loss. Giving student-athletes the ability to acquire third-party sponsorships is a fairer solution.
However, note that while enabling access to this compensation helps the situation, it does not address the more fundamental issues facing student athletes. Pay does not solve issues of education discrepancy, effectively unending work hours, or limited participation in other opportunities. Greater change is necessary.