Column: Please, just pay the players

Arizona's DeAndre Ayton celebrates during the second half against Oregon in an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018, in Eugene, Ore. Oregon won 98-93 in overtime. (AP Photo/Chris Pietsch)

Over the weekend, a FBI source reported that Arizona head coach Sean Miller discussed paying freshman phenom DeAndre Ayton $100,000 to ensure his commitment. Ayton’s attorney denies that the freshman received any money, but this really should not matter.

The reality is that Ayton and all the other high-level college athletes deserve every penny.

Somehow, there is still plenty of debate over paying college athletes. There are people that still believe there is nothing wrong with the systematic exploitation of athletes by the billion-dollar organization that is the NCAA.

The NCAA earned $995.9 million in 2016 alone, and the student-athletes were paid a grand total of zero dollars. Zero out of 995.9 million. Meanwhile, I get paid by The Daily Campus to write about my classmates that are not allowed to get paid.

The No. 1 argument against paying college players is the existence of scholarships that grant athletes a full ride to higher education, with meals and housing included. The belief is that this is sufficient compensation, that the athletes are receiving a “salary” of about $50,000 to play a sport by getting a free education.

If you want to take away scholarships, fine. You can watch players receive substantially more money than they are allowed with a scholarship. Giving Ayton $100,000 under the table is a preview for how much schools are willing to spend on talent in an open market.

The argument that the student-athletes are paid in education fails to recognize that the NCAA is a requirement to achieve the goals of the top athletes. College is a pit stop for the NBA and NFL, which both have requirements that players must be a certain number of years out of high school. This is only a small portion of student-athletes, but these are the ones we hear about the most in regards to compensation.

Sure, going overseas is an option for players to be paid and not suffer being broke in college. But, how many 18-year-olds do you know that would rather go to a foreign country and live by themselves than go to college with their peers? The NCAA is the best option for many student-athletes, and it knows it, so it continues to use student labor for profit.

Another argument against paying players is that it would change the landscape of the NCAA to include only the top sports for only a handful of schools that can afford to pay such players. If the NCAA paid players, it would have to pay not only men’s basketball and football, but also women’s lacrosse and men’s cross country.

The idea that compensation would have to be equal throughout the entire NCAA, from Division I basketball to Division III rowing, is completely off the mark and, frankly, communistic.

Not all people get paid the same, and whether you like it or not, that isn’t going to change with a possible NCAA pay-for-play system. Women’s hockey isn’t going to shell out the same amount of money that football will because they make less revenue.

Similarly, the coaches of the high-revenue sports make significantly more money than coaches of lower-priority sports. Title IX or anything else isn’t going to stop that from happening.

A Forbes article from 2014 titled “When It Comes To Paying College Athletes, Title IX Is Just A Red Herring” outlines the difference in pay and includes results from court cases, .

“If NCAA members are already willing to pay more to male coaches if they generate more revenues, then what is really stopping them from adopting the same business practices with respect to male athletes?”

The Forbes article explained that even though the pay gap may not be fair, it does exist and it proves that the NCAA is willing to pay more for people that earn more money.

And it wouldn’t be the top schools getting all the talent. Duke may be able to pay Marvin Bagley more than Stephen F. Austin could ever dish out, but the fifth-best player on Duke may accept a better offer to play for a mid-major and be their best player.

Now, I don’t know how exactly to pay student-athletes. What I do know is that it wouldn’t be as hard as people make it out to be. Whether it’s an open market or a salary cap, anything is better than the current system.

The NCAA has been accumulating wealth at the expense of unpaid labor for far too long, and it’s time to do something about it.


Josh Buser is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at joshua.buser@uconn.edu.