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COMMENTARY

Pay for play in college

By: Aaron Jackson for The News Messenger
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Receiving an athletic scholarship to attend college is a tremendous benefit and financial advantage for a high school student-athlete. However, a 2012 article by CBS MoneyWatch pointed out those scholarships are scarce and rarely full-ride.

This, along with various other reasons, has led to the debate if college athletes should receive some type of monetary compensation for their work.

First, let me state that I have spoken to multiple high school athletes that have continued their athletic careers into college. Most don’t even attend NCAA universities, yet they still have very long days when you factor in classes, homework and athletics. Many have said that “it feels like a full-time job” or “I’m at school all day.” While most athletes understand what they are signing up for, they still work crazy hard to not get something back in return.

I am the announcer for certain athletic events at my school and do various other tasks while getting paid. Although I work hard at what I do, these athletes are working just as hard, if not harder.

NCAA sports provide students with a sense of pride for their college or university, especially with sports like football and basketball. Many college sports are broadcast on television, like ESPN. This can influence a student, drawing them to apply where the athletic programs are the best – it’s simple competition.

That being said, some of the stories that come out of these schools are almost heartbreaking and date back quite a long time.

In 1974, Texas Christian University running back Kent Waldrep broke his neck after a hard hit in a game. The university cut his scholarship and Waldrep attempted to sue the college. The NCAA’s lawyers argued that players are student-athletes and Waldrep lost the case.

There are also many examples of athletes not having enough money to purchase food.

For example, former University of Tennessee running back Arian Foster admitted he took money from boosters to buy food while in college. Although many schools often provide meal assistance as part of a player’s scholarship, there are still many cases where food isn’t provided and athletes fall short on cash.

If the NCAA wants athletes to feel a sense of pride for playing sports at a university, they should provide athletes with a normal lifestyle while there.

The issue of paying college athletes for playing certain sports gets more coverage than others. It is obvious that sports like football and basketball get more coverage than soccer, volleyball or water polo.

Even ESPNU, which is a network specifically dedicated to covering college sports, almost never covers anything other than football and basketball. The only other sports I have personally seen on that network are baseball, softball, volleyball and, rarely, lacrosse.

These sports do not generate the excitement that basketball and football produce. That raises the question of how to pay athletes participating in sports that have been unable to generate revenue?

I do not know the perfect solution for this issue, but if I had to throw one out it would be to provide athletes with some type of stipend, which certain schools like East Carolina University are already doing. One thing is for sure, it is a problem that needs to be recognized and at least discussed.

_ Aaron Jackson is a college student and sports information director for Lincoln High School.