Should College Athletes Be Paid?

For years, a major question in college athletics has been whether college athletes should be paid. This controversy has resurfaced in the sports world as former college football player Kyler Murray was reportedly paid millions to play college football this past season.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association, usually referred to as the NCAA, is a non-profit organization that regulates the athletics of 1268 institutions and conferences in North America.

According to the NCAA’s Eligibility Regulations for Division I, college athletes are ineligible to participate in an NCAA sport or event if said athlete, or a member of the athlete's family, has accepted money, transportation, lodging, entertainment or other benefits from an agent.

“It has always been a big debate over the years,” Fair Lawn High School teacher, Thomas Albano said. “To state that they should receive payment or compensation for what they do on the field, they kind of already are doing that since they are attending university and not having to pay thousands of dollars to attend.”  

However, the NCAA does allow a professional athlete in one sport to represent a member institution in a different sport. In such a case, an athlete may receive institutional financial assistance in the second sport.

The question, however, is where the money is coming from. This season, Heisman trophy winner Kyler Murray was paid $4,761,500 to play quarterback at Oklahoma. To be clear, Murray isn’t receiving money from Oklahoma; the payment is coming from major league baseball’s Oakland Athletics.

In the 2018 MLB draft, Murray was picked 9th overall by the Oakland Athletics while already playing quarterback for Oklahoma. Oakland gave permission to Murray to play football at Oklahoma this season provided they are able to sign him to the team. Murray would receive the nearly-$5 million endorsement from the Athletics for signing with the team, following the NCAA’s policy.

In February however, Murray decided to pursue football over baseball and declared for the NFL draft. Out of the over $4.7 million he was supposed to receive, he was given only $1.5 million. Murray plans to give most of that money back, returning $1.29 million to the Oakland Athletics organization However, Murray still gets to keep $210,000.

Many have argued that giving college athletes a salary could change everything about college sports. Others have argued that the move could garner new college sports fans, push away fans who don’t like the idea of paying athletes, or even attract more high school athletes to pursue college sports.

“You cheer for your college team based on where you went to college and or you’ll pick a team based on the coach, program, or mascot,” Fair Lawn High School teacher, Laraine O’Shaughnessy says. “Money talks. Anytime you have the chance to make money, people will go for it.”

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