(David Mansdoerfer) – Should college athletes be paid to play college sports? In some ways, this seems like a good idea, top-tier colleges make millions in ticket and merchandise sales. It seems only fair that colleges reimburse their players for their hard work and commitment.
The problem, however, is two-fold. First, while scholarships come directly from a schools own pocketbook, they can be supplemented with federal Title IV funding in the forms of Pell grants. This essentially means that taxpayers would be subsidizing the money that college athletes are paid.
Second, not all schools are flush with cash to be able to do this. Obviously, this will benefit big time athletic conferences. But, what about state schools that are cutting academic programs to keep their head above water? What about D II, D III and NAIA schools that don’t compete at the same level as D I schools but whose athletic programs are also important?
As an avid college sports fan, and a fiscal conservative, there should only be four schools where taxpayers help to subsidize the college athletic programs – the Air Force, Army, Navy, and Coast Guard Academies. Outside of the military academies, if colleges want to pay for play, they should be required to do two things.
First, students/athletes that a college chooses to pay must be exempted from Title IV funding. Taxpayers should not be subsidizing college athletic programs. Title IV funding is for educational purposes and should only be used to fund education.
Second, the amount that athletes can be ‘paid’ must be capped. Be it $1,000, $3,000, or $5,000, the amount a college athlete can be paid must be the same across the board for each athletic division. That way schools won’t be able to simply outbid their competitors for student athletes.
If colleges really believe that it is in their, and the students, best interest to pay them to play, they will have no problem with adhering to these restrictions. However, it is important that this additional money not be on the shoulders of the taxpayer. Especially since the system is already built so that top-tier athletes will not finish school. (NBA’s One and Done policy & NFL’s 3 Year Eligibility Policy)
Colleges should remain focused on their original purpose – to provide quality higher education. If they choose to go down this slippery slope, it should be on their dime and not the taxpayers.
(Mr. Mansdoerfer is the Director of Federal Affairs for Citizen Outreach and a recipient of the Liberty@Work Fellowship from the Charles G. Koch Foundation)