White Paper Proposal #1 – Compensation of College Athletes


For my white paper, I will be writing about the compensation of college athletes.  I want to look into each side more deeply before I decide which I will argue, but there are definitely compelling arguments for both why athletes should be paid in excess of their scholarships and why they should not.

I think the best way to begin the paper would be to examine the notion of exploitation.  Are college athletes used as workhorses?  Are they actually exploited, or are the scholarships they receive enough to justify their workload?  The answer to this question will be the impetus for the rest of my paper — if they are exploited, then perhaps additional compensation is the answer; if not, then perhaps no change is necessary.  Whatever my decision may be, there is plenty of evidence to support both sides.  As a college athlete myself, I want to make this decision based on evidence I find, rather than on my own personal experiences.

Current thinking on this subject is very split — there are people who believe that although many college athletes receive scholarships for their athletic efforts, they still need and deserve more money because of the amount of revenue their schools generate because of them.  If they are a large part of these profits, why shouldn’t they get to reap some of the benefits?  On the other hand, people against the idea of additional compensation argue that athletes have various inherent advantages over their respective classmates.

Finding resources from the society angle of this issue has proven to be relatively easy.  Taylor Branch, a writer for The Atlantic and a renowned civil rights historian, wrote a very thorough examination of the system.  His entire point was that college sports as a business have become very corrupt — that the structure of college athletics has led to a system in which athletes generate tons of money and then get none of it for themselves.  There was another large piece in The New York Times (courtesy of Joe Nocera) that argues for the payment of athletes.  This piece presents a multitude of evidence, and focuses a lot on the amount that college coaches are paid (often millions of dollars in big-time programs) vs. their players ($0 outside of scholarships).  An additional piece from Forbes claims the current state of college athletics resembles “indentured servitude” and should end immediately.

There are also plenty of resources that outline arguments for why college athletes should not be paid.  A New York Mag article argues that proponents of compensation want to enact these reforms in order to save college athletics.  Paying athletes, the author argues, will not actually have any effect on this goal.  Doug Gottlieb, a popular ESPN analyst, wrote a short piece arguing that college athletes receive many other benefits.  The NCAA itself has also released countless articles describing its reasoning for not allowing athletes to be paid.

Depending on my position, I would need to consider if there are other reforms that have the same effect.  For now, though, I think I have a lot of opinions to examine and lots of evidence for both sides of this ongoing argument.

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One thought on “White Paper Proposal #1 – Compensation of College Athletes

  1. Just to elaborate on my other comments, you have jumped to payment as the problem to examine. THe point is to define the problems first. What is the problem to which paying athletes is supposed to be a solution? If it is the impact of professional sports on college academics, then payment may not be the best solution. If the problem is the erosion of the student half of student-athlete, is paying going to be a solution? However, if the problem is defined as athletes being exploited labor, then the possible solutions change.

    In any case, I don’t see how you can do this without addressing the deep tensions or contradictions between the business of sports and the educational mission of higher education.

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