Athletes are not slaves. A misconception exists that college athletes toil through these long, grueling workouts, spend their weekends fighting to win games to fulfill their duties as their university’s personal marketing squad, and that they do all of it with no compensation. Sure, being a college athlete might not be easy. Certainly the lifestyle is busy, and it’s physically demanding. But they are playing a game they love. Living a dream that every little boy or girl has once had growing up. They are rock stars around campus. They are legends.
Here’s what I mean. People want to believe that athletes are heroes. That collegiate sports programs are exploiting athletes and making millions of dollars off of them. I’ll be the first to say that the University of Michigan does make a lot of money from its athletic department. But the reality is that Michigan is among the few. USA Today printed an article stating that in 2013, only 23 out of 228 Division I athletic departments made enough money to cover its 2012 expenses.
With that being said, athletes already receive full scholarships that would cost any other student hundreds of thousands of dollars; this covers tuition, room and board, meal plans , and even books. There are also many other benefits of being on a sports team. Student-athletes receive free private tutoring for almost any class. If another student wanted to get an Econ 101 tutor, for example, it would cost them $50-$60 an hour. If an athlete doesn’t make it to the league, they also are a part of an intertwined network that has so many connections that almost guarantees a job after graduation. A job right out of college is a dream come true.
Being on the team has mad perks. Take for example Michigan’s Men’s Basketball team’s 10-day trip to Italy this summer. All paid for. Or, for example, Michigan State’s and North Carolina’s basketball teams playing in the Air Carrier Classic on a U.S. Naval aircraft carrier over Labor Day weekend in 2011. What common people get to have those experiences? Many other collegiate teams have these experiences that are once in a lifetime. These are dreams come true.
Playing the game you love, while receiving a free education along with many other benefits, is payment enough. I get it, these athletes work hard. But so do so many other students; the students working two jobs just to pay for their tuition, the students that put in countless hours building and competing for the University of Michigan’s Solar Car Team. No free trips to Hawaii, no free trips to Miami. If you ask me, the verdict is clear.