What's the price for play?

Jalen Rose, one of the most outspoken members of the Fab Five, a group of starting freshmen basketball players for the University of Michigan, puts his hand over his stomach. He has just left a grueling practice with plans to fill his starving mid section with some edible delights. As he arrives back to his dorm, he opens his refrigerator to the familiar view of nothingness. This is nothing new to him. Growing up on the streets of Southwestern Detroit taught him about that same struggle. Yet, he never would’ve thought his current life as a prestigious NCAA Division I star athlete would be so similar to the life he left behind Detroit.

Should college athletes be paid? This question is usually followed by answers filled with undying certainty and heavy opinions. I will only present the facts. 

March will bring CBS and Turner Broadcasting one billion dollars for March Madness. Millions of fans will fill out brackets and tune in to watch their favorite institutions go head-to-head in the tournament known as the big dance. Do any NCAA athletes see any of that money?  For the price of grueling pre-season workouts and tireless 2 a.m. binge study sessions, you are given the basic human necessity of a free education. That’s about it.

 As a basketball player for Sonoma State, I take exception to this argument. The “new rules” that started in 2006 states a player has to be 19 years of age or one year removed from high school in order to be eligible for the NBA Draft. So for the athletes that are especially gifted, the obvious thing to do is attend college for one year and then declare for the draft. An example is Chris Webber, a six-foot-ten inch 17-year-old with an NBA-ready body, who is one of the Fab Five.

 “I remember being frustrated about not being able to afford a Big Mac at McDonald’s, while local vendors were selling my jersey for 50 dollars,” he recounts.        

Furthermore, while these players make schools like the University of Louisville $25.7 million dollars in profits, according to CNN, the players are the ones that suffer. Forcing these athletes to bide their time for at least a year, even when some are professional basketball-ready, is enslaving them to the middle-aged white businessmen who are profiting off their God-given abilities.

 So, is a free education enough? Education is a great benefit, yet one cannot ignore the facts that some athletes go to bed hungry while corporations such as Nike, Adidas and Under Armour benefit financially from those very same athletes. Not to mention, without some sort of financial agreement, more young kids will find themselves in problems much more severe. Problems such as taking illegal money from coaches for sexual favors, like the recent University of Louisville scandal. 

If student-athletes were given compensation that includes more than just a free education, problems like these could be fixed or even terminated.