Is it Finally Time for Reform in College Football? Are Scholarships Enough?

With the college football season underway, a lot of people are becoming familiar with names like Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson, JT Barrett, and Christian McCaffrey. These young men share a lot in common. They are the faces of their universities’ football teams; Heisman Trophy hopefuls, the center of Sports Center debates, and the reason thousands of fans buy tickets to games. What else do they have in common?  They don’t receive a dime of the profits that the NCAA and its affiliated universities and colleges receive. A lot of you are probably thinking that these athletes are on scholarship; they receive a free education at some of the most prestigious schools across the country in order to play the sport they love. Well this is true, but is a scholarship really enough, considering that the NCAA is annually raking in over a billion dollars annually?

The truth of the matter is that colleges, universities, and the NCAA do exactly what they aim to protect their student athletes from. The NCAA was created in order to protect the integrity of college sports and protect its athletes from exploitation of their athletic prowess for the financial gain of others. The truth of the matter is the NCAA and its colleges and universities are using these kids to obtain billion dollar television contracts, sell tickets, sell apparel, and receive endorsements from the likes of Nike, Under Armor and Adidas. Every Saturday, these young men take the field and fans gather in order to see them. They want the highlight catches by the standout wide receiver, they want the late game winning drive by the Heisman hopeful quarterback, and they want the glory of being involved in something that is bigger than themselves. Let me tell you, these kids flat out deliver. College football players deliver because they put in the work, work that totally devours their lives. Under the law, these kids should be considered employees and should be offered compensation and the protections that come with employment.

Football is a dangerous sport; at any given time a player’s career could be over in the blink of an eye. They deserve to make a little money that they can use however they see fit. Today these student-athletes often struggle to afford to eat and buy clothes. In extreme cases players have been left homeless. For schools making a profit off of their college football programs, something should be done to compensate these employees who are putting in countless hours each day to bring a profit to their employer.

The NCAA and its affiliated colleges and universities have complete control over these athletes. In order to remain eligible to play football in college, the students must attend classes, maintain a certain GPA, and not receive any sort of financial compensation for their athletic prowess. In order for their coaches to actually let them play, they have to attend practice, go to weightlifting sessions, study periods, and team meetings. The test for employment is one of control. It looks to determine how much control an employer has over an employee in their everyday life. Here, it is quite obvious the NCAA is very much in control of these players’ daily lives.

There is no clear way on how this can be done especially when the vast majority of athletic programs run at a deficit. But for the NCAA and its affiliated colleges and universities to control the exclusive rights to profit off of the students is wrong. Why not let them gain a little celebrity by making some extra cash doing off season appearances, such as signing autographs and starring in commercials?  The fact of the matter is action needs to be taken because the student-athletes are being exploited for their athleticism by the one entity they depend on to protect them. There is no easy solution and any reform would most likely throw off the system completely but something has to be done because the system in place now is not just.

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