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March 2024: Paying College Athletes

Resolved: In the U.S., collegiate student-athletes should be classified as employees of their educational institution.

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Elite professional athletes regularly draw salaries reaching into the millions. The minimum annual salary for players in the four major sports leagues is well into the six-figure range, and it’s not uncommon for star players to receive multi-year contracts worth more than $100 million. If you’re a college athlete, though, you don’t make a dime. Consider working with a financial advisor as you make long-range financial plans or modify an existing financial plan to account for new circumstances. The debate over whether college athletes should be paid for their services has existed for decades. It’s only intensified as the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) has seen revenues soar in recent years. Critics of the idea insist that college athletes are students first, with athletics merely an extracurricular. To them, introducing pay would be a logistical nightmare, hurting college sports more than helping it. Proponents of paying athletes contend that many of these students spend almost a conventional workweek participating in athletic activities. They also bring in mountains of revenue for their universities. These advocates contend that any logistical complications are the problems of the NCAA, not the players. Clearly, the conversation surrounding the issue is complex, and there are various pros and cons. Should College Athletes Be Paid? (Smart Asset, Last Updated: September 8, 2023)

Paying College Athletes (PRO)

Paying College Athletes (CON)

Fair Compensation: Collegiate sports, especially football and basketball, generate significant revenue for universities and the NCAA. Classifying athletes as employees would allow them to receive a share of this revenue, addressing economic disparities. This approach aligns with professional sports standards, where athletes are compensated in proportion to the revenue they help generate.

Employment Benefits: Employment status would provide student-athletes with benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, and workers’ compensation. These benefits are critical for athletes given the physical risks associated with sports, offering protection against career-threatening injuries.

Improved Education: With financial stability from employment, athletes might be better positioned to take advantage of educational opportunities. Financial compensation could alleviate the need for part-time jobs, allowing more time for studies and reducing dropout rates.

Equity and Diversity: Employment status could help address racial and economic disparities in collegiate sports by ensuring all athletes are compensated fairly. This move could be a step towards equity, given that many athletes who generate significant revenue come from underprivileged backgrounds.

Health and Safety: As employees, athletes would be covered by workplace health and safety regulations. This coverage is crucial for minimizing risks and ensuring that athletes compete in safe environments, potentially reducing the frequency and severity of sports-related injuries.

Tax Complications: Student-athletes receiving salaries would face new tax obligations, potentially complicating their financial situations. Navigating taxation could be challenging for young athletes, possibly detracting from their focus on education and sport.

Impact on Athletic Department Finances: Many athletic departments operate at a loss; paying salaries to athletes could exacerbate financial pressures, leading to program cuts. Financial sustainability is crucial for maintaining diverse athletic offerings, and increased expenses could negatively impact less profitable sports and can reduce the number of scholarships programs/universities can offer.

Reduced Focus on Academics: Employment status could shift the emphasis from education to athletics, undermining the academic mission of collegiate sports. The balance between athletics and academics is vital for student-athlete development, which could be jeopardized with a focus on employment.

Increased Costs: Universities would face new legal and administrative responsibilities, including contract negotiations and labor disputes. These added complexities could divert resources from educational and athletic programs, impacting overall institutional effectiveness.

Inequality & Jealousy: Determining pay rates could lead to inequities among athletes in different sports and even within the same team, depending on their role and prominence. Fair compensation is challenging to assess in the diverse landscape of collegiate athletics, potentially leading to discontent and division.

Here are some pros and cons (do not yet have a source), that can be helpful in understanding the topic. [T-Chart].


Please watch all of the required videos (& take notes) before arriving to the first debate class meeting.
“WeTransfer” link for the videos & articles (will expire December 2024): [None].

Required Research (Videos):

[Video] NCAA president proposes new division that would allow for student-athletes to be paid, NBC News, December 5, 2023 [2 min]

[Video] NCAA proposes a new framework to pay college athletes at richest programs, WFAA News, December 5, 2023 [2 min]

[Video] NIL is a game-changer for collegiate sports,
Atlanta 69 News, January 2, 2024 [3 min]

[Video] Paying College Athletes: Pros and Cons,
Kolby McGowan, Student-Athlete, Cornell University, February 22, 2022 [6 min]

Required Research (Articles):

[Article] / [PDF] What does the NCAA proposal to pay players mean for college athletics? USA Today, December 5, 2023

[Article] / [PDF] The NCAA May Pay a Healthy Sum to Student Athletes,
Bobby Stroup, Harvard Law School, January 8, 2024

PRO & CON Articles (Optional):

[Article] / [PDF] Should College Athletes Be Paid?,
Smart Asset, Last Updated: September 8, 2023

[Article] / [PDFWhy College Athletes Should be (or Should NOT be) Paid,
College Raptor, Last Updated: September 22, 2023


Please consider watching/reading the following research areas in order to prepare for upcoming events.

Optional Research (Articles & Videos):

Possibly Later!

ADDITIONAL RESEARCH (Evidence & Outlines)

We provide students with some sample evidence and/or outlines to help them prepare for any upcoming events. This research can be copied word-for-word, or can be modified to fit the students needs. Copying these and other outlines is proper (it’s not cheating). I hope they are useful for you.

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