No Pay, No Play: The Curious Case of the Student-Athlete

Todd Gurley
Todd Gurley of UGA was suspended last week

By Travis Jaudon, Staff Writer

Todd Gurley, the running-back and business major at the University of Georgia, was suspended by the school last week for allegedly accepting money in exchange for his autograph. The amount, speculated to be around $400, was given to Gurley in exchange for the signatures. Todd Gurley may have put that business degree to work before he even graduated, and shame on him, says the NCAA.

The Gurley case has become a national story on its own, but the running back’s current situation has also caused another debate to be re-opened. The debate can largely be summed up in one simple question: Should college athletes be compensated for their athletic services?

What arguments are most often given in defense of not paying student-athletes? I’ll give you three of the most common strategies along with my answer to each.

The first, and most used argument for not paying college athletes is “the scholarship should be enough” stance.

These are the people who argue that a college education is enough payment for student-athletes. They say that more payment would just be too much, a free education should be enough. Well, it isn’t. The college diploma may be of use to me and you, but that doesn’t make it equally valuable for an athlete going pro after his junior year does it? Furthermore, the athlete deserves more than a scholarship, because they do more for the university than your average wiz-kid on a full ride. Most notably, one makes money for the school and one doesn’t. The one that brings the university money, should be receiving money.

It isn’t rocket science people, the universities aren’t selling the lab coats of promising science students on their website, they are selling jerseys (like Gurley’s #3 for $134.95). That leads me to the next washed up argument. That is, the idea that “these kids aren’t professionals, they are student-athletes. They are amateurs. Therefore they should not be paid.”

The term “student-athlete” is a myth, an invention of the NCAA to cover their you-know-whats. Created in the 1950’s, the term was used to prevent the widow of a deceased college football player from collecting workers compensation. It is a term that has kept the NCAA safe for the past six decades and it has entirely duped the fans of college athletic programs. Let me just say this: arguing that the kids shouldn’t get paid because they are “student-athletes” is an unacceptable argument because the term doesn’t inherently imply that they cannot receive money for their efforts. It would be like me telling you that you cannot get paid at work because today, rather than money, I’ll teach you the basics of trigonometry instead. Shouldn’t that be just as valuable as money? I didn’t think so. If college athletes get paid, they can still be student-athletes, the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

The final argument I’ll dispel is my personal favorite. It is the strategy of question after question. Who will you pay? How will you pay them? How much? When will they get their payment? What about smaller schools? What about smaller sports? Does everyone get paid equally? You know what my answer to all of these are? I. Don’t. Know. Brian Phillips, a Grantland writer wrote about this tactic back in April.

“Raising objections as though the mere existence of practical difficulties shuts down the conversation is the stalling tactic of an exhausted debater. It’s the move of someone with nothing left to defend,” Phillips said.

Just because an immediate answer cannot be provided for every single one of these questions doesn’t mean the NCAA system is correct.

Maybe a football player at Notre Dame gets paid more than the soccer player at Armstrong, whats so wrong with that?

But what I propose isn’t a salary for NCAA athletes, I don’t even propose they get stipends. What I do propose is this: let the players make money off of their own likeness. If you, the NCAA, don’t want to pay them, then let someone else do it for you. It’s time we stop pretending as if the money “student-athletes” make while not on the field, will really affect them on the field. The world will not stop turning simply because players make a decent living while in school. It’s a matter of right and wrong at this point. Players will get more benefits sooner rather than later, and in my opinion, it’s about time.