College Football Roundtable: Are Players Being Exploited?

By Brandon Cavanaugh
Thomas Campbell – US PRESSWIRE

This past Sunday, 60 Minutes explored a topic that nearly everyone associated with college football has a take on, fan or professional: should student-athletes get paid? Looking at this question from a different perspective, are these players actually being exploited for what they bring to a university’s pocketbook?

Should Texas A&M‘s Johnny Manziel be compensated for entertaining the college football world and risking his health? What about South Carolina‘s Marcus Lattimore who shredded multiple ligaments in his knee and may never play again?

The current system is far from perfect, but there are many sides to consider. Below, our writers pick theirs and lobby whether or not college football players should have more money in their pockets:

Brandon Cavanaugh:

Let me preface these statements by saying I will be looking at this from the perspective of a business, because if we’re talking money, there’s a different use of the word “exploited.”

First, if a student-athlete signs a letter of intent, they are signing a literal contract with the school. This contract basically says, “I’ll play football for you and in exchange, you’ll give me a free education, free room and board, etc.” This is a pretty sweet deal in and of itself.

Secondly, a school’s football program is, again, a business. There is revenue and expenses. During the last fiscal year, the University of Nebraska at Lincoln’s football program made a net profit of $32,084,379. While players are getting that potential education (their call on whether or not they stick around to complete it, of course), EA Sports is going to make millions on the school’s name and essentially their images (isn’t that right, Sam Keller?).

The “images” aren’t so much the issue as detailed rosters will be developed and handed out for free among players. While EA Sports doesn’t directly slap a player’s name on the back of their virtual jersey, they found a loophole.

We could go on and on about how much money other parties are making off the players, but let’s discuss these guys. What about their Return on Investment (ROI)? That’s a standard any employee should keep, and let’s face it, student-athletes are employees.

If Nebraska took .01 percent of that profit and gave an equal share to 125 players (scholarship and walk-ons combined), each would receive $2566.75. The program would still keep a tidy $31,763,535.21 profit. “Stipend” is too bland. It’s an “investment in the player’s standard of living and morale,” of course.

In the interest of fairness, the NCAA could set a rule stating that a school can do this, but is only allowed to use a set amount of profit. It doesn’t matter if it’s Nebraska or UTSA, you can only pay out .01 percent, for example.

While this won’t discourage under the table deals entirely as greed begets greed and flashing $20,000 in front of a kid’s face has an amazing pull, the majority of players just want some assistance for busting their butts and having to keep the program’s APR up.

Whether you’re a starter or walk-on, the potential for severe, long-lasting injury is worth the extra investment by the program. College players aren’t being exploited, but the ROI’s way off.

Mike Amato:

I agree with Brandon. Everyone is making so much money off the players and many of them, although receiving a free education, are not necessarily well-off financially when they get to college.

We always see suspensions and sanctions for players receiving improper benefits, like Terrelle Pryor selling a Big Ten championship ring last year, but yet Nebraska can pay Arkansas State $1 million to play them in a game early in the season. Something just isn’t adding up.

Schools are making millions and millions of dollars, yet a player can’t get a discount on a pair of shoes? I understand there needs to be restrictions to avoid shady dealings by schools and players, but the system still seems flawed.

Giving players a small percentage of earnings for living expenses won’t solve all the problems, but it may help some.

Connor Muldowney:

The players know what they are receiving when they take a scholarship, and that is a free education. To say they are getting exploited is a false statement with very little research being put into it. Yes, the university makes millions every year because of these athletes, but they are receiving upwards of $100,000 worth of education, books and living expenses on campus.

The university can’t pay the players because they have expenses of their own. This is just an endless debate that needs to be decided upon for good, but I feel as if the scholarship is enough of a reward for playing a sport.

James R. Gomez:

I can understand the argument that using a player’s likeness without compensation is exploitation. However, a free education is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly. That is a form of payment for services rendered to the university.

Access to the highest quality of facilities, world class coaching staffs, trainers, medical treatment for injury, national TV exposure, etc. If that is exploitation I’ll take some exploitation right now. There’s also the opportunity to walk out of a major university with a degree. Selling a jersey with a player’s number and profiting from it? I can see the exploitation there. Giving a player a scholarship to play a game? Nope.

M Shannon Smallwood:

I worked in college athletics at Mercer University and at the University of Arkansas. I received $695 per month as a grad assistant at Arkansas and they paid me in full for my master’s degree. I also got about $200 every time I took a road trip and I traveled about 16 days out of each month with the three teams I was responsible for.

I believe the most priceless thing is an education. If you look at the most successful professional athletes they are ones who took their student duties as seriously if not more so than their athletic ones. Yes, the money made at the expense of these young men and women is mind blowing and impossible to comprehend, but trust me when I say that we are opening up Pandora’s Box if we fight for the athletes in this equation.

There is not a student-athlete who wouldn’t love to get their piece of the pie and to get that extra spending money, but they pretty much do legally now with stipends on road trips.Also, from a crazy government, equality standpoint and Title IX, all athletes would have to be paid the same. The walk-on on women’s lacrosse team would need to get the same as your star quarterback.

There is nothing like going out and playing for the love of your school and for the pure sport. That is not exploitation, and it is only us in the media who make it out to be. If players start being paid, you’re going to get the crappy professional-type games where players quit.

It’s bad enough now at places like Tennessee and Auburn where those players have quit. Let’s not give these kids any other reasons to go belly up and be more spoiled than they already are.

Mike Atkinson:

I think college players know exactly what they’re getting into by accepting a scholarship. However, I also think they get exploited a bit as well. I think a player knows that there will be a degree of exploitation that comes with accepting a scholarship. As a player, by accepting a scholarship, you understand that you are viewed as a player first and a person second.

I don’t think this is how it should be, but I think coaches view kids on scholarship as the most important to the team, and will unfortunately risk their health and well-being to keep them on the field.

Tyler Brett:

I think there is a degree of exploitation going on. Yes, the student-athletes are getting education and living stipend and books or whatever, but is that really comparative to the rewards that the university reaps?

Football is the biggest moneymaker for pretty much every athletic department and brings in millions of dollars each fall. That money usually goes towards building gigantic stadiums or shiny new athletic facilities, and doesn’t always get back to the students who are bringing that money in. Add in the fact that college football players have no other options if they hope to play at the highest levels, and it becomes even more exploitative.

If a high school player has hopes of playing in the NFL, they have no other choice but to go to college for three years. There’s no other avenue to do so and colleges take advantage of it. Schools offer a great opportunity in the form of scholarships, but it’s not comparable to the benefit they get from the athletes, hence it’s exploitation.

Zach Pugh:

Yes, there is a form of player exploitation, but this is such a loaded subject that it’s impossible to get by without writing a book.

The misconception is that all athletic departments actually come out on the positive end with their yearly budgets. I remember an NCAA report from 2010 stating only 12 percent of athletic programs turn a profit. That’s where paying the athletes hits a wall because most football programs can’t afford such a salary.

Let’s say that each player was to make $1,000 a month. That might not be a problem for Alabama or Texas to cover, but just look at Maryland. It had to cut sports to meet budget requirements.

The Terrapins wouldn’t be able to afford paying all 70-plus of their players $70,000 a month. Also, what would the requirements be? Would the player have to be a starter? Would starters get more money? Not to mention the recruiting advantage for the few programs that could actually afford to play players.

There is millions of dollars floating around the college football world and sure the numbers might not add up, but in a perfect world players could get compensated.

As you can plainly see from a small sampling of our writers, the issue’s still as volatile as ever. What do you think?

Should colleges have the option to pay players under some manner of guidelines or are they getting more than enough by signing on the dotted line come National Signing Day?

Brandon Cavanaugh is a college football columnist for Rant Sports and a member of the Football Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter and join in on the conversation.

You May Also Like