Why College Athletes Should be Allowed to Receive Compensation for their Likeness

After March Madness concluded last week with Notre Dame winning the women’s tournament and Villanova winning the men’s tournament, it’s important to realize who makes March Madness special: the student-athletes. Without the student-athletes’ participation, March Madness is nothing. CBS/Turner pays approximately 771 million dollars annually (14 years, 10.8 billion dollars) to obtain just TV rights for March Madness, and in 2024, that number will increase to 1.1 billion dollars annually. [1] Although the student-athletes generate all of the revenue that comes from attendance, TV deals, and team merchandise, they receive none of it. In this year’s College Football Playoff, ESPN payed 470 million dollars for the rights to broadcast the 3 games (2 semifinal games, 1 championship) between four teams. [2] While players like Tua Tagovailoa, Baker Mayfield, Kelly Bryant, and Sony Michel caused an immense amount of excitement for the whole world to see, they didn’t receive any of the revenue/profit that the NCAA received.

Athletes shouldn’t be paid just because they are athletes. First, that is not plausible. Paying every single student-athlete at a college would be impossible for many schools without large athletic programs. While football and basketball generate millions of dollars for their universities, but sports like golf, swimming, and track generating little profit for the schools, it would be near impossible to decide how to evenly split the money. The basketball and football players generate the revenue, but the other athletes work the same number of hours in their sport. Even if the university figured out how to evenly pay all athletes, what would recruiting turn to if recruiting athletes was based off of how much money the school could offer? Athletes don’t deserve money from universities who already let them compete athletically and allow them to receive a free/reduced degree.

The NCAA uses their student-athletes’ likeness to generate their revenue. The 67,831 people who attended the 2018 NCAA men’s basketball tournament didn’t come because they like the NCAA, they came for the student-athletes who provide the entertainment.[3] While the NCAA uses their student-athletes to generate billions of dollars, the student-athletes themselves are forbidden from using their own likeness to generate money for themselves.

The NCAA enforced this rule with former UCF kicker Donald De La Haye, who owns a Youtube channel titled “Deestroying,” which is currently has over 615,000 subscribers. De La Haye created many videos for his massive audience about his football career at University of Central Florida, and monetized his videos, earning him a respectable income. The NCAA deemed that De La Hoye violated NCAA rules and was earning money based off of his likeness. UCF took away De La Hoye’s scholarship, forcing him off the football team because he refused to comply with the NCAA.[4] De La Hoye’s YouTube channel was his source of income, and his filmmaking aspirations would’ve been put on hold if he had chosen to comply with NCAA rules.

Student-athletes shouldn’t be paid because they work hard, but instead because they generate all of the NCAA’s revenue without receiving any of it. Student-athletes deserve to receive compensation on their likeness. Student-athletes should be allowed to receive endorsement deals and sign or sell autographs/memorabilia for money, which is currently a violation against NCAA rules.[5] This wouldn’t affect recruiting, for it wouldn’t matter where a student- athlete attended school to receive compensation from autographs, brand deals, or memorabilia. The NCAA landed 1.1 billion dollars in revenue in 2017 off of student-athletes, so why won’t they let the student athletes (who generated to revenue) receive any compensation?[6] No other billion-dollar company in America doesn’t pay (or forbids compensation opportunities) their most important employees.


[1]Rodger Sherman, The NCAA’s new March Madness TV deal will make them a billion dollars a year, https://www.sbnation.com/college-basketball/2016/4/12/11415764/ncaa-tournament-tv-broadcast-rights-money-payout-cbs-turner

[2] Jonathan Tjarks, ESPN locks up college football playoff for 12 years, https://www.sbnation.com/college-football/2012/11/21/3676454/college-football-playoff-espn-contract-access-bowl


[3] http://www.espn.com/mens-college-basketball/game?gameId=401025888

[4] Chuck Schilken, Central Florida kicker Donald De La Haye loses his NCAA eligibility because of his YouTube videos, http://www.latimes.com/sports/more/la-sp-ucf-kicker-ineligible-youtube-20170801-story.html

[5] https://law.marquette.edu/assets/sports-law/NCAABylaws.pdf

[6] http://www.ncaa.org/sites/default/files/2016-17NCAAFin_FinancialStatement_20180129.pdf

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