With NCAA revenue increasing yearly, student-athletes still struggle with everyday life. Although athletes receive scholarships each semester, the money goes to school and housing leaving athletes with virtually no money to buy food, clothing and live everyday lives.
“For someone who is on their own, it can be really tough. When I stayed at school over the summer while everyone went home, those were the hardest times,” said NBA point guard and Weber State Legend Damian Lillard in a brief phone interview we had.
Not all scholarships are full rides, four years or for every athlete. Scholarships are renewed every year. If a coach feels like a players value to his/her team has waned, then the scholarship can simply be taken away, even though that athlete was promised a “full 4-year scholarship.”
Unfortunately, when athletes lose their athletic scholarships they then have to figure out how they are going to pay for their education. In many cases, student-athletes will be forced to go back home and begin working while going to a junior college (two year).
Weber State’s freshman running back David Jones explained that some weeks he barely has enough money to get McChicken’s from McDonalds for dinner.
After paying for rent, clothing and food athletes can struggle to make ends meet. On top of that, since they are forced to take 12-15 credits, they don’t have time to get a job on the side.
“I only got $370 a month. In season, it was enough because we would get expensed for food while we were on road trips,” former basketball player Zharia Hale said. “Sometimes our road trips would last 4 days if we have multiple away games that week. Off season is a different story. I feel bad for the football players that get around the same money and have to eat Sodexo in the cafeteria after practice every day, just to save money.”
Over the past few years, the NCAA has been knee deep in lawsuits due to this issue of student-athletes not feeling like they are compensated fairly.
In the case of Jason White v. National Collegiate Athletic Association in 2008, multiple players argued that the scholarships did not cover enough of the fees that they have to pay in order to remain enrolled in the University (tuition, books, housing and meals). The decision ultimately ruled in the athletes favor, ensuring that on top of the amenities that scholarships can cover and giving athletes health insurance.
In 2006, USC star running back, Reggie Bush was stripped of his Heisman Trophy due to receiving gifts and benefits while he was a student-athlete. USC was also forced to vacate all wins between 2004 and 2005, including a BCS National Championship, and placed on four-year probation period.
In another case, six payers on the Ohio State football team were suspended for the 2011 season for exchanging championship apparel for tattoos. The NCAA suspended the six athletes for the first five games, including standout Terrelle Pryor, who has played for several NFL teams and is currently a free agent.
Former Weber State student-athlete Devin Pugh’s case was similar in the sense that he was also arguing for more security from a financial standpoint. Pugh argued for multiyear scholarships which all included benefits. Now, Division 1 schools are allowed to offer multi-year scholarships. However, it is rare due to the risk of wasting a scholarship.
The common theme in all of these cases is that the NCAA is violating federal antitrust law. Concerns raised include if the NCAA agreed to extend scholarship funding to include medical benefits, what will it take or how long will it take before they start giving all athletes fair compensation for their labor, not just the star players.
As many know, this is not just a recent issue in the NCAA. This has been going on for decades upon decades.
“It was frustrating to win championship after championship every year, hear thousands chant my name, and then go to my bedroom to count my change so I could buy a burger,” said Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in an article he wrote for The Guardian.
Yes, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, whom you’d think would be living the lavish lifestyle at UCLA.
The only question now is, when will these issues come to an end?
While researching, one idea found in New York Magazine, offered that all athletes should be paid like a regular hourly job. These athletes put in 40+ hour weeks and still have to maintain an above average grade point average, and some are forced to have 2.8 or higher. The amount of revenue that the sport brings in should have no bearing on how much money they get.
For example, the women’s and men’s basketball teams should receive the same salary, because they both put in the same amount of work and have the same requirements. This goes for cheerleaders and band members as well, since they too put in tons of hours to aid in entertaining fans every week.
“With the amount of money the NCAA makes from sports, the compensation should be much more than just a scholarship. Life off campus should be comfortable and less stressful so student-athletes can be as productive as possible in their classroom and also in their sport,” Lillard explained.
The NCAA has begun moving in the right direction with their recent rule changes. “Under the new rule, effective August 2019, Division I colleges and universities must pay for tuition, fees and books for basketball players, both men and women, who leave an institution and come back within a decade. Players must have been on scholarship and enrolled at the institution for at least two years and must have “exhausted all other funding options” to be eligible, the NCAA said. They must also meet all NCAA academic requirements,” said Jeremy Bauer-Wolf.
Again, like the rule that states that only prospective Tennis athletes can get up to $10,000 aside from a scholarship in a particular year, it is a concern why they single out certain sports with these rules, instead of making it omnipresent in the athletic department.
The average scholarship for a division 1 athlete is around $10,400 and only six sports offer full rides: football, men’s and women’s basketball, and women’s volleyball, gymnastics, and tennis. If you exclude football and men’s basketball, the average scholarship drops to around $8,700.
After dicing and distributing the funds in the scholarships to benefit the program, some student-athletes are left with minimal returns for their hard work. The question remains. When will the student-athletes climb the priority ladder in the NCAA?
“Even though we didn’t have the burden of paying tuition, books, etc. our cost of living was still more than what is being offered by stipend and scholarship checks,” Lillard concluded.