In the Mix

March 30, 2014

Student Athlete Employee?

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Written for: Communicado Magazine
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The suggestion has been made that college athletes should begin getting paid as employees. Not sure how it got started but, it is afoot.

As close as I can uncover is that Northwestern football players petitioned the National Labor Relations Board for the right to form a union.

They cited a series of reasons why they are technically employees, like they’re held to a schedule averaging 43.3 hours per week and they’re required to miss classes sometimes to accommodate the football schedule.

So I did a little investigation across media outlets on this one. The general consensus among sports writers is that student athletes should not be paid like employees. The NCAA has said they don’t think students should be paid like employees and it seems the general public agrees.

There’s still a line between amateur and professional athletes that shouldn’t be crossed. If the students have to follow a few rules as a product of their sport, it’s no different than having to follow the code of conduct for students or rules of ethics.

It appears the players are the only ones who think they should be paid as employees… as if their full scholarships don’t compensate them enough…

Getting a college degree is first and foremost about becoming an educated adult. It’s a time to graduate from adolescence; Learn how to function in society independently and develop a sense of responsibility. If you don’t have to pay for that and get to play football at the same time, it’s a win-win, Yes?

The cost of a college education has exploded and continues to escalate. It’s tough enough for the average high school graduate to find creative ways to pay for college and everyone doesn’t have parents who have planned for their education.

The average annual tuition at Northwestern University is between $53,000 and $57,000. If a Northwestern football player gets a full, four year scholarship, it’s worth $235,800. AND they walk away with a Bachelor’s Degree. From Northwestern. That’s more per year than most people make AFTER graduating from College – including me – and a total more than some people make in their lifetime. Difficult to take seriously…

Additionally, the NCAA has to be comprehensive. If football players are deemed employees, then all team athletes must thereafter be deemed employees. I’m not sure of all of the implications for the university if this were to happen, but, as a person with a good head for business, there are some very real details like head count and department size that would need to be addressed… and those things affect federal funding and on and on and on…

So while we should appreciate the ingenuity of the Northwestern football players, school is school and we shouldn’t turn it into a labor debate. The value of an education is costly but priceless. As a society, we tend not to give education, educators and degrees the respect they deserve – we shouldn’t make it any worse with movements like this.

As I was driving today, I saw a sign that said, “Thank a teacher today.” That’s a movement we should be shouting from the rooftops and preserving the purity of the college experience.

So, the next time someone tells you they’re a teacher, thank them; And the next time someone tells you they’ve earned ANY degree, thank them as well… I plan to…