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Everybody’s getting rich off college athletics.

Except the athletes.

The recent 2017 men’s and women’s basketball Final Fours provided further examples.

According to Seat Geek the average ticket price for the semifinals was $517, while the price for a championship ticket was $438. The ticket cost was significant, considering attendance at the men’s Final Four was more than 153,000 fans. Although the winner of championship this year was North Carolina, the true champions were CBS, which had an average viewership of 22,998,000 people during the championship game alone, and the NCAA, which reeled in millions upon millions of dollars in revenue – which will be divided among the schools, which will be divided among the athletic departments and the athletic directors and the athletic programs and the coaches.

But none of the money goes to the student-athletes.

The ability to market players on teams without giving compensation to the players is highway robbery. Arguably, someone can make the point that 60 or so of these players will make their millions in a couple of months in the NBA draft, but the NCAA reports that only 1.1% of college basketball athletes will end up playing professional basketball somewhere. That statistic is even more staggering when you factor in only a micro percent of those players will be lottery picks in the draft. The million dollar-question (see what I did there) is how to compensate ALL athletes.

Luckily for you, I have a Ph.D in solving the NCAA’s issues, so let’s solve this massive problem.

It all starts with how we should actually compensate these student-athletes. The student-athletes at universities throughout the country have gone long enough without compensation and devote more time than the average US worker to their sport. Even though the NCAA is a non-profit organization, it still relies on the student-athletes to generate money for its organization. To simplify, the average number of hours worked by a student is 19. The student who has the academic scholarship can work a job outside of class, because they have the time to do so. The student-athlete is spending double the amount of hours in his/her respective sport, and isn’t getting paid for the work.

 Doing some math the full-time student-athlete goes to school 12 hours during the week, while also practicing or playing approximately seven hours a day. Most student-athletes are not able, or allowed, to take an outside job – although there are occasional exceptions. A wide receiver for the University of Memphis worked mornings at a golf course. Some, I suppose, could employed on the over-night shift at McDonalds.

 I propose that universities set up a minimum wage system to compensate athletes for “”playing’’ their sport. The standard pay rate would be the minimum wage set up by the state in which the student athlete plays. When first implemented, everyone would be earning the same rate of minimum wage. In order to earn a higher wage the athletes would be judged on the success they contribute to their team. Ultimately, to not have an excessive amount of pay raises, a wage ceiling would be established..

The NCAA as an organization wouldn’t exist without the student-athletes. Some people may believe that by paying college athletes the “privilege” to play college sports will be taken away. It should be a privilege for the university that these athletes are accepting no form of payment to help these universities make millions of dollars annually. These student-athletes sacrifice their friends, time, and energy to earn a revenue for the university. By compensating them during their time at the university these student-athletes can practice the fundamental ability of managing money.

Too often, it seems, there are reports of athletes going bankrupt because they didn’t control their spending.

 I have provided solution. These student-athletes have supported the NCAA without the NCAA financially supporting them in return. It starts by giving all athletes minimum wage and setting a price ceiling so the wage they’re earning isn’t absurd.

Student-athletes deserve a break today – and not just when they buy a meal at McDonald’s.


Caleb Olson is a freshman and full-time student at Northwest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville, Ark. He has covered the Bentonville High School basketball team for the past two years. Caleb is a sports enthusiast and devotes his time to educating himself on becoming a better storyteller. He was born in Florida, but raised in Central Illinois. You catch him on the weekends watching all of his Chicago sports teams – except those dreaded south siders: GO CUBS GO. Caleb aspires to be one of the nation’s top journalists and one day work for ESPN.
Instagram: @caleb.olson