In "The Shame of College Sports," Taylor Branch argues that college athletes should be paid. Agree or disagree.
With the possible exception of a half dozen schools, the 320 athletic programs in Division I do not generate profits each year. According to the NCAA's own figures (which generally exclude capital costs, among others), the average FBS athletic program ran a $9.44 million operating deficit in the latest year. Herein lies one of the problems with Branch's bromide of paying the athletes. Where will the money come from? Other pertinent questions include which athletes should be paid and how much? Do we create an open labor market for athletes? And, if we pay the athletes, maybe we should also do it for the first violinist in the school orchestra or lead actor in theatrical productions? And as long as we are monetizing relationships at the university, perhaps popular professors should allocate course enrollment slots to those students who bid the highest? The list goes on.
There is, however, much that can and should be done to improve the treatment of college athletes, starting with raising the scholarship limit to cover the full cost of attendance, shortening the competitive seasons, providing four-year (rather than one-year) scholarships, and relaxing a panoply of arbitrary, hypocritical and nefarious rules in the NCAA's 1'000-plus-page manuals. Most would agree that amateurism means that one plays strictly for the enjoyment of the sport, not the remuneration (after all, amateur is French, and amator is Latin, for lover). It follows that student athletes should be able to: employ their skills in compensated summer jobs (much as chemistry majors can be paid for working in labs), use agents for ascertaining terms prior to signing a professional contract, return to play college ball even if they've entered a professional draft (but not signed a contract), receive payment for the ongoing use of their publicity rights after graduation, enjoy better health and safety benefits, and so on.