Bites Media

Sports and Health, Life and Arts

Should student-athletes make money?

NCAA Amateurism and student welfare

shutterstock 1142985665


  • Amateurism is an NCAA policy that creates a clear distinction between college sports and professional sports. [Sports Illustrated]

  • Amateurism prevents payment of nearly half a million student-athletes annually. [NCAA]

  • To play, student-athletes must sign legal documentation stating they are "amateurs", that they will not accept any form of payment, and that they will follow all NCAA rules. [PBS]
9d055701 a5e4 4fe9 87af 60c81365db66 1
  • NCAA president Mark Emmert believes student-athletes are "not professionals" nor "employees"; they are simply "students." [PBS]
  • Student-athletes are subject to an extremely specific set of NCAA rules.
  • These rules have led to awkward issues such as violations for ham sandwiches, pasta dinners, and even cream cheese with their bagels. [The Los Angeles Times], [ESPN]



CIVICS: With California passing state legislation allowing student athletes to be compensated for their play, it directly challenges a national policy by the NCAA. Has California exercised state power appropriately? Will the national organization separate their rules for one state? 


SOCIAL: Playing a sport while in college can be equal to, if not more stressful than, a full-time job. Should student-athletes benefit financially for their talents being used by their college or university, or is academics enough?


Big bucks

The NCAA makes over $1.06 billion annually, a majority coming from Division I basketball (March Madness) and football (the College Football Playoff). [Forbes]


Players receive only a fraction of that revenue in scholarships and stipends.



You need us

Only 24 of 230 Division I public universities met the NCAA’s benchmark for self-sufficiency in 2013-14. [Sports Illustrated]


Those that support student payment argue that universities need players to help generate revenue; that student-athletes should receive compensation for their money-making abilities.



End the corruption

Some believe schools and athletes will continue to take advantage of the system until fairer compromises are reached. [The Grantland]



Unlikely to ever be paid

As of April 2018, only 1.6% of football and 1.2% basketball move on to professional careers. [NCAA]


Those that support paying student-athletes advocate that students should make money while they can.


Free education

Student-athletes receive a full or partial scholarship that pays for their tuition in exchange for their play. [Forbes]




Student-athletes often receive a wide range of amenities such as stipends, academic support, interview coaching, laundry service, and medical care. [National Collegiate Athletic Association] The range of benefits depends on the college or university. 


In 2015, the NCAA introduced stipends for athletes. [The Aspen Institute]



Free publicity

Some argue that the publicity generated around NCAA tournaments is priceless; that the NCAA provides free outlets for the public to know and recognize student-athletes. After college, this can lead to sponsorships, endorsements, and potential professional scouting. [Washington Post/UMass Lowell 2017 Poll]



The lawsuit 

The NCAA reached a settlement in a 2017 class-action lawsuit. The settlement upholds student-athletes right to receive more money toward, if not paid-in-full, the cost of attending a university. [Sports Illustrated]


This lawsuit enables the NCAA to stand by its definition of amateurism, while also assisting those they govern.


  • Sep 2019: California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into state law the Fair Pay to Play that college athletes can receive deals endorsement deals. [The Los Angeles Times] Read his thoughts on why college athletes should be paid here.

  • More than 25 states are now considering similar legislative actions. [ESPN]

  • Oct 2019: NCAA has voted to begin considering letting college athletes “benefit from the use of their name, image, and likeness.” [NPR

  • Feb 2020: U.S. Senate committee heard arguments for setting a national standard. [ESPN]

1d8786ac 4b98 410c aae3 42598d38b69c


  • College coaches are among the highest-paid state employees. [The Atlantic] How does this play into the narrative surrounding the college admissions scandal

  • Read the full list of a student-athletes likelihood to "go pro".

  • Some sports bring in more money than others. If amateurism ends, would players be paid on the money brought in? How would that factor into arguments on equal pay?

Key Vocabulary