4 Reasons College Athletes Need To Get Paid Now
We've already discussed how much it absolutely freaking blows to be an unpaid, less-likely-to-graduate-with-a-degree college athlete. Even if you do happen to be insanely talented and/or crazy enough to go on to a professional career, you'll still probably not make all that much money and as a bonus you may die prematurely of CTE or something else entirely. (But it's all worth it if you get to make out with a cheerleader?)
And all that is when things are going well. And if you haven't noticed, things are going... not well. Coronavirus only exacerbates these issues and more than ever college athletes deserve some goddamn compensation for their sick spin moves.
Opting Out Is Going To Be Tricky
Professional sports (the sports where athletes are actually paid a portion of what they earn) like the NFL have already set it up so players may opt out of the season without any major penalties. Sure, football players won't be paid nearly as much as if they played, but they'll still accrue a season which should better set them up to negotiate future contracts. Otherwise they could be unfairly penalized for another year of age and slightly shittier hit-stick abilities.
That's a decent compromise, but one that really won't be available in the same way for collegiate athletes. If their college reopens, student athletes who opt out will lose a valuable (though unpaid) year of being young and talented. Even worse, students not in the SEC, Pac-12, or Big Ten conferences are still technically in danger of losing their scholarships.
Now, the NCAA has expanded their rules so any season lost to COVID won't count towards typical college athletic eligibility rules. That is, athletes can only play four collegiate seasons in a five-year span. But if a player chooses to opt out, they'll likely end up behind as seniors potentially stay behind, and a new batch of hot-shit freshman make the team. Taking a year off means potentially losing your spot if the guy behind you on the depth chart proves themselves or your hard-ass coach decides to teach you a valuable lesson about dying for your university.
Additionally, most scholarships are on a year-by-year basis meaning your coach is well within their rights to arbitrarily decide you suck after a year away trying to not die. They can simply eliminate your scholarship to make room for somebody else.
Imagine being some 19-year-old kid weighing the pros and cons of endangering themselves--and indeed their whole family back home--knowing that even the best case scenarios likely won't result in you making any actual money for years. And, yeah, the worst case scenario is death for yourself and/or those you love.
If A College Athlete Catches COVID, They'll Have To Pay The Medical Bills Themselves
So it seems likely the majority of college athletes will decide to take the risk in part because, let's be honest, playing any sort of sport is a risk. Ask the dickheads who get obliterated playing Quidditch. The good news is the NCAA is planning several preventative measures to take care of the players. Presumably the first step would be at least providing insurance in case an athlete catches something like COVID, right? Ha. No.
While the NCAA does provide catastrophic injury insurance for the most horrifically debilitated athletes, it doesn't kick in until after students and their parents have ponied up $90,000 of their own money towards medical bills. Student athletes are otherwise purchase their own medical insurance (which sucks when there isn't a highly contagious virus rampaging through the student body).
In fact, some schools are preemptively forcing their student athletes to sign waivers saying they won't sue the school if the contract COVID while playing. Even if Congress blocks that rule, you could easily see a scenario where a university claims a student athlete contracted COVID somewhere besides the field. Like, unless you're caught licking an infected linebacker's helmet, it'll be extremely difficult to prove you caught coronavirus on actual game day. Presumably, they could accuse you of being unsafe at a party, and call it a day.
Also, remember how you can lose your scholarship after a year? Well, scholarships sure as hell aren't insured for injury, so if you experience any lasting effects from COVID -- a terrifying possibility we're still learning about -- you could lose both your spot on the team and at the back of French I class. You better hope you can put making out with a cheerleader on your resume someday, because it's the only way you'll profit from this whole thing. Well, unless you suffer an injury costing more than renting Jackie and Aristotle Onassis's former yacht for a day, I guess.
Even If A Cut Of Profits Or Medical Insurance Are Too Expensive, There's Another Way
Even before the world decided to cram like nine historical cataclysms into a single year and students began to consider dropping out of college, one of the primary arguments against paying student athletes was it'd be expensive and a lot of college athletic programs actually lose money. As in, the football program may make a lot of money, but the rowing team ... not so much. Of course, part of this is because college athletic coaches are paid obscene amounts of money, but also there are fewer coaches than athletes ... I think I lost the thread there.
But, okay, setting aside some legitimately well-thought through plans to pay student athletes based on a fair percentage of a college's gross revenue from sports, why can't we just let students make money on the side? Not only are they not allowed to get a side job during the season (you don't want your star point guard dunking his hand in McDonald's fry grease between classes), they're not allowed to make any money based on their likeness. Hell, it took until just a few months ago for student athletes to be allowed to use their likeness to raise money for freaking charity.
While recognizing that the likeness of the Navy Midshipmen's second string right guard probably isn't a singular matter of billions and millions, there's really no reason we should continue banning students from receiving money from things like autographs or endorsements. If nothing else, we create the possibility that students who play more -- and are therefore presumably at higher risk -- can be at least mildly compensated for their efforts, especially as sports become more dangerous.
Even better, I have a plan to make sure all college athletes get some money.
This Is How We Get NCAA Video Games Again
All this leads to my actual point -- tell your Congressman to support student athletes making money off their likenesses so we can NCAA football ( and other sports) video games back. The whole reason there hasn't been a new title in the NCAA Football series since 2013 is because EA is worried they'll get the balls sued off by students demanding some pay for use of their likeness. You know, like how NFL players do for Madden.
There are already several lawsuits to this effect out there in the world, and the NCAA is discussing making the necessary changes by January 2021, but let's stop dicking around and get this thing passed before the next college sports season. Coronavirus should accelerate the conversation. We're asking these young people to take on unbelievable risks with little to no compensation.
Even if athletes don't make insane amounts of money, the door would be open for all sorts of creative ways for students to profit somewhat from their talent. Literally anything at all is infinitely better than what they've been getting. And to be specific, what student athletes have been getting is concussions. Assloads of concussions.
Also, yeah, I'd really like to play a new NCAA Football game. I think it'd keep us inside and really help pass the quarantine time. Everybody wins!
Top image: David Lee/Shutterstock