The ongoing issue of student athlete compensation was debated by MSU Denver Associate Director of Athletics John Kietzmann and MSU Denver Assistant Professor of Rhetoric, Ethics and Social Justice Samuel Jay on Feb. 16.
Kietzmann, Jay and about 20 students gathered for the conversation, which was a part of the weekly tri-institutional Hot Topic series. The debate was centered around the nearly $1 billion in revenue that the National Collegiate Athletic Association generates and whether or not student-athletes deserve compensation in addition to the scholarships that they receive to cover college attendance costs.
There were differing opinions among the students in attendance. A University of Colorado-Denver student only wishing to be identified by her first name, Lydia, said that she believes that the
scholarships and benefits student athletes already receive is more than enough.
“I went to Georgia for some time, and it was a little frustrating to see the football players having mopeds and iPads and all of these things they didn’t need while I was in the science department. The building was rusted, horrible,” Lydia said. “If a beaker broke it was a big deal because it would take a lot of money to replace it. They should be compensated, but I don’t think they should get as much as they do.”
MSU Denver senior Stephanie Tennison disagreed. She said that whoever generated the money deserves to reap the benefits.
“I was in marching band and in color guard all throughout high school,” Tennison said. “However, people were not attending those football games to watch our halftime show. That’s not why they were paying money to come there. The science department isn’t exactly bringing in funds to the institution, so the funds that the football team is bringing in would have to be better utilized going back into their organization.”
One thing that Kietzmann wanted to point out is that the revenue the NCAA generates isn’t just used to line the pockets of already wealthy people. It’s used to fund different events across all
three NCAA divisions.
“Even though you have that $1 billion out there, that is all built around Division 1. So the Division 1 TV contract is the $1 billion. Here’s the crazy part,” Kietzmann said. “What they actually do with
that money is they divide it among all three divisions. So, everything for conference championships for like Metro State is actually funded by that Division 1 TV contract. So all of the travel, all of the stuff we are able to do here at Metro is done because of that. That’s the driver that gets us going.”
He also mentioned that the money is used for other initiatives like wraparound services, which, among other things promotes the hiring of more female coaches. It is also used for grants to help former student-athletes to return to school and complete their degree if their professional career didn’t pan out.
When it comes to the NCAA, many people think of college football as the big money generator, but this type of thinking is misinformed. The NCAA actually doesn’t receive any of the revenue produced by bowl season. All of the college bowls are owned by private companies, notably ESPN, who put the bowls on because of the massive amounts of money they can make from advertising dollars.
“During this bowl season, ESPN is dying for content to put on. So what they do is they build all these bowl games, they invest in those because they can make more money off of the advertisers
of you sitting and watching a bowl game than they can by losing when they open up the gates and there’s only 10,000 people in a 70,000 seat football stadium. They don’t care because they’re still making that money,” Kietzmann said.
Jay pointed out that the NCAA often gets demonized because they are the sanctioning body responsible for meting out punishment.
“Often times in this conversation about whether or not student-athletes should be paid and we’re talking about the money that is generated, especially in Division I sports, the NCAA often becomes a scapegoat in a lot of ways,” Jay said. “I think for me, as someone who has written and researched on this, my critique is that the NCAA as a disciplinary institution, that’s kind of the problem to me.”
Jay went on to cite the NCAA’s treatment of Southern Methodist University’s football team when they were found guilty of recruiting violations.
SMU was given the ‘death penalty,’ which banned SMU from fielding a football team for the following year. The case has been criticized as being too harsh and ruined the school’s prominent football program.
So the question becomes whether or not the NCAA should remove some of their current programs or lower the pay of current employees in order to further compensate the more than 480,000 student-athletes who compete.