All Work and No Play

A person wakes up every morning, spends 1 to 2 hours per day getting dressed and ready for work, then spends 3 to 4 hours per day doing their job, and then finally must spend 3 to 4 hours preparing for01football_span-articleLarge-v2 the next day’s job. In life, normal working people go through this drill in order to earn a living, support their families, and build a career. Day after day college athletes provide the same effort, but for conditioning, game preparation, studying, and attending classes. In the working world, individuals have their skill set and a job that compensates them according to their performance. In college athletics, the students have a skill, however the only compensation they receive for their efforts is a college education while the institutions that they attend make millions of dollars annually from game attendance, merchandise sales, and television contracts that are the result of the participant’s efforts. College athletes are not compensated fairly for the work they provide, the risk of injury and loss of future earnings, and the huge profits that they help to generate.

We have tried to determine the true definition of sports throughout Political Science 101. It has become evident that college athletics is no longer under the realm of “play.” In Huizinga’s “Homo Ludens” he defines the meaning of Homo-ludensplay as a “voluntary action,” in which players are free, and separate, and play for their autotelic instincts. Play has evolved, and Huizinga’s argument is outdated. As Dunning states in his article “the Dynamics of Modern Sport,” “sport is being transformed from a marginal, lowly valued institution which, for many people, seems to have religious or quasi-religious significance.” In Giamatti’s “Take Time for Paradise,” he agrees that the world of sports has changed. Giamatti agrees that “sports can be viewed as a kind of popular or debased religion, in the sense that the most intense feelings are brought to bear.”

Student athletes are balancing a full time job with a full time education. These athletes deserve to be compensated fairly for their work. For example, college football is now the third most popular sport. This is evident with Alabama, a college football team that makes $143.3 in athletic revenues, more than 25 of the 30 NBA teams. The NCAA ultimately produces $11 billion dollars in annual revenue. That is more than the NBA and the NHL, two thriving professional sports.

While the role that sports plays in our society has changed, the NCAA has not evolved with the times. College athletics have transformed into a game much similar to professional sports. Today college athletics have a rabid fan base, immense TV exposure, profitable merchandise sales, and monster television contracts. These athletes no longer function as amateurs, and this definition of “amateurism” must be redefined. President Teddy Roosevelt formed the NCAA in 1906 in order to implement needed safety measures in the sport of college football. However, it is now 2014, and the NCAA must adapt to the changing times. It seems obvious that putting in 43.3 hours per week in order to generate millions of dollars in revenue should not be classified as amateur athletics. Ron Katz, Isac Vaughn and Mike Gille say it best:special-report-college-pay-for-play-110711 “the concept of amateurism can and should be re-assessed so that it does not become obsolete in light of changed circumstances, such as the amount of money generated by some college sports and the level of commitment many of today’s student-athletes must make in order to succeed.”

The significance of a college education is not something to take lightly. The total cost of an education, considering school, room, board, books, and spending money can be anywhere between thirty thousand to sixty thousand dollars per year depending on the University. These athletes deserve the scholarships that are provided, however, these scholarships alone are not fair compensation given the millions of dollars that these athletes generate for the institutions that they represent and the potential risk to future earning potential if they were to get injured during their time at school. There needs to be a system that lets the students participate with the university to share in the revenue that they worked so hard to generate. It is a simple principle that a fair wage needs to be paid for an honest day’s work regardless as to whether a person works in a factory, an office, or on the playing field. College athletes deserve to be compensated for the work they provide, the risks inherent in the job, and the revenue that they help to generate for the institutions that they represent.

Blog 6, Section 8

4 thoughts on “All Work and No Play

  1. I have to disagree. If student athletes want to be paid for the time they put into practice, strength training, games etc. then they should skip school and try to enter professional leagues. Not only do many receive scholarships, they get to work with top notch coaching/training/medical staff, have access to tutors, immense amounts of free gear, and among other things can leave school with not only an athletic future but with a degree. So while they are not given a paycheck student athletes are surely being paid. Also if the university started paying student athletes where would it end? What about students in theater clubs that put on performances or the UMich solar car team or the glee club? It is a can of worms that I believe is best left untouched.


  2. I found your post to be quite interesting. In the jobs I’ve had, as well as the jobs (full-time) of my family/friends, I have yet to encounter someone who goes to work for only 4 hours per day. I understand what you are saying, but I’m not sure if comparing college students to full time working adults is accurate. I don;t disagree that players should be compensated– but you discuss the large amounts of money generated by programs and it seems that you are implying that these athletes should earn large amounts of money (maybe I’m wrong in my assumption, however). If this is what you’re implying however, I think that undervalues the asset of a quality education. I definitely think players should get royalties from their specific jersey sales, as this is linked to their immediate likeness. I also think players getting paid something like $10/hour might be acceptable– but I think beyond that is selling short the value of a college education. If you look at the impact a college education has on people in the world, the future earnings and overall livelihood is a lot better for those who graduate college with a degree in anything. The large amounts of revenue generated by athletic departments often go into developing the platform we take for granted– so I don’t think there’s a lot left over to start paying out hefty salaries to all collegiate players.


  3. I agree with you on some of the things you said but not all. As an athlete here at Michigan this topic of rather or not athletes should be payed gets asked a lot. I have a simple answer, No. Some athletes receive full scholarships to their University, couldn’t you say that is getting paid? Some teams give the athletes a weekly allowance, couldn’t that be getting paid? Also, in football, if the team makes it to the bowl they receive an allowance for going on the trip, plus the boxes of apparel they receive. So to say that athletes at the college level are not getting paid is not a fact. However, I agree with you in the terms of the athlete could be receiving more. It is hard to manage all the activities you have to be apart of from school, homework, practice, workouts and games. It is a daunting task at times. To be able to receive a little extra here and there would make all the difference.


  4. This was a very solid post with good connections to Dunning and Giamatti as well as great links that support the information you present. You back up your statements with good evidence and I agree with your argument that college athletes need to be better compensated for their work. I also liked how you addressed the counterargument of how they are compensated with a scholarship and you then refute it by proving they are worth beyond that compensation. While paying athletes sounds good in theory, it seems like a good solution is almost impossible. I wonder what your take would be on how much they would get paid, if all college athletes would be paid or just ones in revenue generating sports, and if the players who are worth more than others would be paid more generously. These are just some of the issues that arise when debating the hot topic of college athletics. I am interested to see how these dynamics play out in the future.

    -Aaron Simon


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