Opinion: Division I athletes should not be paid

Sam Rosenthal

sarosenthal@ursinus.edu

 

I studied abroad last semester in Prague, the capital city of the Czech Republic, where the most famous athlete is probably the hockey legend Jaromir Jagr.

I watched the Super Bowl there, and had to explain the rules of football to friendly Czechs while watching the most dramatic game any Eagles fan has ever witnessed. 

I was there during the Winter Olympics, but you wouldn’t have known if you weren’t a sports nut like me. 

We’re obsessed with sports in America. Everything is about sports. Wearing athletic apparel to a class in Prague would be like wearing a Halloween costume in class here. 

Even at smaller, Division III schools like Ursinus, we have prioritized athletics over academics. We’ve infused sports with our education system, and that’s why we’re having a discussion right now about paying collegiate athletes in America.

I ran track in high school. We had year-round training, and every day I would leave for school at 6:30 in the morning, and return at about 5:00 at night. I was too tired to get any work done, and I couldn’t even consider the idea of being interested in anything I was studying. 

I’ve asked countless college athletes in my time at Ursinus about why they do their sport, and not a single one has given me an answer that I feel justifies spending hours of every day practicing for it. 

I’ll never forget the day I quit track. I was just walking to practice with my bag in my hand, and I was thinking about how little there was for me on the track. Track had treated me like my 400 meter time for three years. I stopped walking, turned around and went to my car. I sat there for a minute, and drove home. That was my last practice, and it may have been the greatest decision of my life.

In case you were wondering, college athletics are not easier than high school. I don’t often have the chance to talk to the athletes I know here because they’re always working, training, or napping from the working and training.

Should we pay athletes? Are you kidding me? They shouldn’t be treated like this in the first place. They’re students. We’re students.  

If I had never quit track, I might have never realized my academic potential. Very few people have the opportunity to play their sport competitively after college. This level of competition shouldn’t be a thing. If there’s anything I learned from leaving the country, it’s that other places have the common sense to treat a school like a school.

I’m a sports super nerd. I’m all in on pro sports, and I also have a legitimate interest in top amateur athletes who will become pros. I will write about how unfair the NFL is to everybody but the Quarterback, and how the NBA is set up like a capitalist system failing the people.  

There is, of course, an argument in favor of paying the athletes, particularly with the big sports, football and basketball, at the major Division I programs.

Athletes are dedicating a lot of their time and energy to their sports in order to achieve peak performance. Additionally, these schools make a lot of money off of the athletes, especially at the major Division I schools in the biggest sports.The athletes put so much time into those sports that make their schools money that they don’t have the time to dedicate to another job to earn an income. I still don’t feel it’s right to be paying the student-athletes a salary for playing their sport while they are in school.

I care about athletes, and that’s why I don’t think college athletes should get paid. Top programs for athletics might have privileges to give scholarships to potential pro athletes, but there aren’t nearly enough opportunities to justify this treatment of every college athlete, as if their biggest talents are in their sport.

We will all go pro in something, and part of the idea of college is to prepare you to go pro in that very thing. We are making our college athletes commit hours and hours of their time to their sport, and that’s in the offseason. If we’re going to be fair to Division I athletes, which is what this idea of paying them is all about, then we should be fair by not treating them like their education doesn’t matter.