The term “student-athlete” has not always been universally used in the collegiate world.
In 1906, the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States was created to establish rules for competition and eligibility. Just four years later, the name National Collegiate Athletic Association was adopted, which is what we know today as the NCAA.
With three divisions across the board, many men and women have had the opportunity to compete at an elite level of collegiate athletics, while attending a school that will propel them towards a career. For many students, college is used as a gateway to reach the professional level. In sports like football, basketball and baseball, college is an important platform to show scouts what they are made of as potential players at the elite level. On the other hand, athletes will use their sports to get into prestigious schools that will help navigate them to their future career. Many job recruiters and companies look for student-athletes because they are generally hardworking, good at managing time and are spectacular at putting their best foot forward in any situation.
There is also the alternative argument of whether or not student-athletes should be paid. As a student-athlete, I think about this topic from time to time. I believe certain athletes deserve to be paid, but not every athlete. I think promotions and endorsements should be available to student-athletes based on their talent and commitment.
According to the NCAA Bylaws, Bylaw 126.96.36.199 states, “Subsequent to becoming a student-athlete, an individual shall not be eligible for participation in intercollegiate athletics if the individual: a. Accepts any remuneration for or permits the use of his or her name or picture to advertise, recommend or promote directly the sale or use of a commercial product or service of any kind, or b. Receives remuneration for endorsing a commercial product or service through the individual’s use of such product or service.”
In layman terms, student-athletes cannot promote commercial products because of their status and cannot receive any sort of special treatment, which would mean taking payments or endorsements.
Payton Williams, former NCAA Assistant Director of Academic and Membership Affairs and now Director of Compliance and Academic Support for Azusa Pacific’s athletics program, gave some insight on where this rule actually came from.
“A long time ago, Harvard, Yale and Princeton were bringing in literal athletes, calling them students for a semester, sending them home, and then bringing them back the following year,” Williams said. “People started seeing through that and said that you had to be a typical student. So to incentivize people to go and stay in school for a whole year, you came up with jobs that you didn’t have to show up for or endorsements so that you could be supported for the year.”
Williams also discussed that receiving special treatment based on athletic ability draws a fine line of what is fair and what is not.
In season, athletes are allowed 20 hour practice weeks, or 4 hours a day, according to the NCAA website. Add that to how much time they are competing on actual game days or match days, and the hours build up.
I am not a firm believer in student-athletes being paid because it would be unrealistic to think that every single male and female athlete across all three divisions should have some sort of “salary.” What would it look like if only certain athletes got paid? At either extreme, it is hard to see that happening or the rule changing anytime soon. However, I think that if opportunities to have endorsements or receive some free things presented themselves, student-athletes should be able to do participate.
Nowadays, collegiate athletics get a lot of sports media attention. Young kids and even older adults look up to these players and have nothing but respect for their athletic ability. If these athletes are able to endorse products or services, then people will pay attention. If kids see a football player repping a certain clothing company, then they, too, will most likely want what they have. This is an opportunity for commercial businesses to grow.
For non-athletes and students in college, and even just the general public, endorsement deals seem like special treatment. However, student-athletes have sacrificed hours, friendships, relationships and outside activities for most of their lives to get to where they are at the collegiate level. They have made sacrifices in the past, so for them to be rewarded for the culmination of that hard work is not “special treatment.”
This would not financially or negatively affect the NCAA. Collegiate athletes will be able to participate freely in promoting products or services and businesses can grow with the gaining exposure. It is pretty much win in every area.
It is easy for me to harp on the wants and needs of student-athletes because I am one, but I can also understand the foundation of rules that the NCAA has established for over a century now. I really do think it is something the NCAA should consider and expressing it in a fashion that will help the general public understand why student-athletes should be allowed to participate in promotions and endorsements.