Editorial: Why would you be angry about a college athlete getting a paycheck?

Ohio State vs. Nebraska

A ticket to a Buckeye football game will set you back, average face value, about $79. And it’s free when you sit at home and watch it. You can invest as much, or as little, as you’d like.

That’s an important setup for something I’ve been thinking about for awhile, and it was renewed Monday night during the National Championship game. As part of the online discussion during the game, I noticed a number of people harping on the fact the players in the game were not getting paid while the schools would earn millions because of their success. And people unleash their hottest of takes on paying student athletes. “Indentured servitude” and similar, severe phrases get tossed out to describe the environment for today’s college athlete.

I casually mentioned this online Tuesday and posed a simple question: why would you be angry about a college athlete getting a paycheck? And if you give people a chance to be angry… they’ll take it.

An important starting point: In 2015, the NCAA passed legislation to allow member institutions to provide a stipend to student-athletes beyond the cost of a scholarship. At OSU, according to the 2015 estimates, players received an additional $2900 toward “cost of attendance.” It was a welcome change, one which many athletic departments and athletes strongly supported. Just because an athlete receives a scholarship does not mean they can afford to go to college. Yes, they could hypothetically survive at school without an additional income source. Just never eat outside the dorms, never drive home, never buy groceries/personal care items, never do laundry, never go on a date. You know, college!! But could it be done? Hypothetically, yes. The cost of attendance stipend goes a long way toward solving many of those problems.

According to the Ohio State website, estimated tuition for this school year, including room and board, runs about $40,000. So a 4-year scholarship would be worth at least $160,000. And many athletes redshirt for a year, extending their value to approximately $200K. To be able to graduate from a NCAA institution, especially one the caliber of Ohio State, and to do it without any student loan debt… that’s a fantastic reward for their athletic efforts.

Yes, a scholarship is a worthwhile compensation and responsibility for a young athlete, especially when you consider what that education can do for their life beyond their sport.

According to research by the NCAA, 1.6% of college football players will get an opportunity to play in the NFL. Among men’s basketball players, it’s 1.2%. In short, you’re going to need your degree to succeed in life.

These are great points. But again, let’s revisit the initial question. Why would you, personally, be angry about a student athlete receiving additional compensation from their school for their athletic efforts?

Clearly, many people find this potential “handout” to players as reeking of entitlement. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney spoke about this in 2014, saying players should not be paid because “there’s enough entitlement in this country as it is.”

I don’t have to remind anyone (but I will) about the money flowing in college athletics, specifically in college football. It’s how Saban, Meyer, Swinney, Coack K and many others command massive salaries for their winning ways. It’s why some of the finest athletic facilities in the world belong to American colleges.

I’m not writing this to advocate for additional payments to college athletes. Many moons ago, I was a walk-on shot putter and hammer thrower at Marshall University. I was fortunate enough to have academic scholarships to cover the costs of tuition. I lived at home and worked part time at the local TV station. It was hard. I was tired… a lot. And it was great for me. It instilled the work ethic, focus and time management skills I’ve used throughout my life. I didn’t deserve to be paid a dime for being on the track team. They allowed me a chance to keep doing something I really enjoyed in high school. Yes, I worked hard to represent my school, but I was perfectly fine with doing it for free.  I believe many athletes, scholarship or walk-on, feel a similar way about their opportunity to continue in their sport.

But would I have enjoyed getting a supplemental income to make my experience a little easier? Of course!  Any college athlete would. It’s up to the athlete to learn to handle money responsibly and use it for practical purposes.

And why would a fan, unaffected in any way personally, jeer an athlete receiving a moderate amount of money to make their experience easier?  Are fans afraid ticket prices will go up because schools will pass along the increased expenses to the customer? I could see that as a valid concern, but then again, it’s not like ticket prices are going down.

If you disagree with college athletes receiving additional money from the school, I get that. But I can’t understand the venom spewed on this topic. To me, it seems like anger misdirected.

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