After the recent college admission scandal, it seems I can't go anywhere without hearing something about college tuition, college athletes, and debates over what's fair and what's not. We are probably all tired of hearing it by now. The students admitted to universities via bribery wiggled their way in with fake test scored and fake athletic resumes.
However, it's a new week and after all this drama and debate, it's worth considering the differences between student-athletes and general students.
I want to make this part clear: I was never a collegiate athlete myself. However, from childhood leading up to college, I was a competitive gymnast who trained five hours a day, five days a week. This was my life for years. I woke up, went to school, went to practice, came home, showered, ate, did homework, and slept. REPEAT REPEAT REPEAT. This was my life for years. I wanted to be a collegiate gymnast and I had every intention of becoming one, up until an injury took that opportunity away. STILL, I understand the stress and pressure of balancing school and sports.
Now that I've laid that out there, I'm just going to say it.
College athletes should NOT be paid to play and compete for their college.
I'm not biased; if anything...I'm the opposite. I can go on and on about how my life used to revolve around athletics, and perhaps if I had done collegiate sports myself, my opinion would differ, but deep down, I truly believe paying collegiate athletes would do more harm than good, especially considering the recent college controversies surrounding admission, athletics, and impartiality.
So, why shouldn't collegiate athletes be paid for their contribution to a college? Well, for starters, let's remember why these athletes are where they are in the first place. By this, I mean the colleges they attend: athletes are in college to learn first, and to play second. Otherwise, I'm sorry, but your athletic standing means little if you aren't academically qualified to play or compete for your team and school.
Also, I work hard too. If athletes will make the argument that they should be paid for their hard work and dedication, doesn't my near 4.0 GPA deserve some monetary recognition too? Of course not! I shouldn't be paid to be a hardworking student, just as a student-athlete shouldn't be paid to be a hardworking student-athlete. We all knew what we were signing up for when we committed to our universities. We are all good at something, but that doesn't automatically mean we should be compensated for it.
Not to mention, wouldn't paying collegiate athletes defeat the entire purpose of collegiate sports? I was under the impression that once an athlete is paid, they become a "professional athlete." In other words, the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association), the non-profit organization governing athletes at 1,268 institutions nationwide, is focused on providing safe and equitable competition, while properly integrating intercollegiate athletics into higher education so that the "educational experience of the student-athlete is paramount." DON'T YOU SEE: Even the NCAA says schooling is the most important, not sports! If we can learn one thing from the college admission scandal, it's that hard work, and not money or bribery is the key to success.
Okay, now I get to bring a little bias in, because so far I've been pretty impartial, or at least that's what I've been striving for. I'm a college student as well. I also need my classes and also need to graduate. So, athletes, you already get many perks, why do you also demand money?
Let's start with the obvious perk of being a student-athlete:
Free or decreased tuition. Depending on the collegiate level, and the individual athlete's contribution to the team, a student-athlete may not have to pay to attend a university. This is clear to most. And I don't disagree that athletes shouldn't have to pay tuition, although doesn't that help your family more than you personally? Sports are expensive, and my family is no stranger to paying an obscene amount to help support my gymnastics career. In that sense, it's not a bad thing for families to have a break when they've already been paying so much to help their kids' athletic dreams come true.
Coming back to the actual student-athlete and more of those perks. I'm not sure about other schools, but when you're an athlete at UCLA, you're treated like royalty. The decked out attire includes backpacks, university apparel, school supplies, etc. Not to mention, new apparel is handed out every year to all athletic-students, not just to the incoming freshman class. Student-athletes are given academic assistance, tutors, and early admission, not to mention, personal and private college counselors. If you know anything about college, especially at a big public institution, it's that counselors are impossible to see and classes are impossible to get. The competition is simply too big.
College sports are essential to a true college experience, and the athletes make college more exciting and thrilling to attend. There is something about college football that brings communities together for the good of the sport and the love of the game. That should never be taken away. But, why must these student-athletes be compensated with money?
The answer is: they shouldn't.
When I did gymnastics, my best memories were about the love I had for the tedious hard work and pain it brought me. This is because the sport made me a stronger person. But it made me strong because I willingly chose to participate in it because it made me happy. If money was a factor in the equation, my love for the game would have turned into a chore. Rather than enjoying the hobby and sport I dedicated myself too, gymnastics would become a job, a task, a responsibility.
There is nothing wrong with becoming a professional athlete and making your hobby and passion your job or career. Still, there is an appropriate time and place for that, and that is not in college. College is a time for academic learning, where college cultures compete for academic standing and athletic excellence. And let's be real, all college athletes understood the hard work of being a student-athlete in high school. What makes college so different? You're still in the classroom and still on the field.
You got to love what you do in order to be good at it. If you must be compensated with money for your efforts, do you even love what you do?