I did not make a March Madness bracket this year. If I won a bracket challenge I entered with nine of my friends for a dollar each, I’d be making more off of March Madness than the players.
College athletes are not paid.* College athletes do not receive any money** from the television rights sold for their tournaments, the tickets to their games, or the jerseys sold in their school bookstores. There are a number of arguments that people throw out as to why they should not be paid, and all those arguments are stupid. If you are a person who believes that these athletes should not be paid, your arguments are stupid, and you are most likely a stupid dumb-dumb not-smart person for making these arguments.
Here’s a conversation I had with a much stupider version of myself, trying to justify college athletes not being paid.
Me: Hey so can we talk about college athletes not being paid?
Stupid Me: Yeah, whatever, sure.
Me: They should be paid.
Stupid Me: I mean, should they? They’re playing a game. I don’t get paid to play Monopoly.
Me:If you were playing Monopoly on television and people watched, you would get paid. Jane Lynch hosts a show that is literally that. Also, they’re playing a sport, not a game.
Stupid Me: What’s the difference…?
Me: All other athletes we watch on TV are paid.
Stupid Me: Not high school football.
Me: If your public access channel wants to use their airtime for high school football, that’s their choice. If more than the five people don’t skip that channel and are watching, those high school students should get paid, too.
Stupid Me: So you’re saying any athlete who plays a sport or game or whatever that is televised—
Me: That people are paying money to watch, yes.
Stupid Me: —should get paid?
Me: Absolutely. Without exception.
Stupid Me: That’s idiotic. Those Spelling Bee kids don’t get paid.
Me: They do, actually. All spellers get prizes, regardless of finish, and finalists get money. The winner receives over $40,000.
Stupid Me: Whatever, that’s a bad example. Nobody else gets paid except like top pro athletes. Olympic athletes aren’t paid.
Me: They definitely are. It isn’t always a lot of money, but they earn in a few different ways. The U.S. Olympic Committee pays out to medal finishers. Sponsors endorse individuals or teams by paying for travel, equipment, practice time, or other costs of competing, and some, like Dick’s Sporting Goods, even offer job programs that work around athletes’ schedules. Other tournaments like world/national/regional championships often offer cash prizes. The athletes don’t make money from the IOC specifically, but they’re allowed to earn it. College athletes are not allowed to make money playing their sport.
Stupid Me: OK but like, men’s college basketball, these guys have a chance to make it to the NBA. Why do they need to make money now if they’re gonna make millions in the NBA?
Me: There are 30 teams in the NBA, and the maximum roster size is 15 players. Add trades, free agents, injuries, and other variables into the mix, and there are between 450 and 500 players in the NBA in a given year. There are almost that many Division I schools with basketball teams, with about 5,500 total players. They aren’t all making the NBA.
Stupid Me: Yeah but only 64 schools make March Madness.
Stupid Me: Oh my god, whatever, 68. That’s where the money comes from, and those are the kids making the NBA.
Me: First of all, college basketball is televised throughout the entire season, and plenty of teams that don’t make the NCAA Tournament can be seen on TV throughout the year. Second, NCAA Division I roster size is 16 players, so there are over 1,000 participants in the tournament each year—twice the size of the entire NBA—and it’s not like there are 500 open slots. That number includes players like LeBron James, Vince Carter, Manu Ginóbili, and others who stick around for years.
Stupid Me: Still, they’re all getting scholarships. That’s like getting paid.
Me: Again, no. Scholarship limit is 13 for the men’s teams. If a school is using all of their slots, there are still players paying to play basketball while their school is making money off of them from the games. The ushers and concession workers are making more off of these games than the athletes, not to mention the commentators, coaches, athletic directors…
Stupid Me: But they’re getting an education. They should get paid, too? What sense does that make? Nobody else gets paid for getting a quality education like this.
Me: I’m going to ignore that you’re assuming they’re all getting a “quality education” and point out that plenty of other college students get paid for their work while earning their degree. There are plenty of fully funded Masters programs that pay their graduate students for the hours they spend teaching lower level courses.
Stupid Me: Whatever. They’ve never been paid before. Why should they be paid now? They should be grateful that—
Me: I’m gonna stop you before you jump us back to 1860 and say something even worse than what you already have. Schools are making obscene amounts of money off of these athletes, across many sports. If you actually cared about the athletes, you’d want them to get paid.
Stupid Me: So I want them to get paid. There, you happy now?
Me: Are you still going to fill out a bracket, tweet out about your favorite teams, and watch as many games as possible?
Stupid Me: Yeah, to support the athletes.
Me: I give up.
*Many players are paid illegally! That’s a rant for another day, though.
**Seriously, it happens so much, and it’s so shady.