This blog post will discuss one of the most controversial topics in college sports, and in sports in general for that matter. Pay to play is the debate over whether college athletes should be compensated more than they already are (usually scholarship covering tuition, room, and board and some other more nominal expenses.) It is important to know before continuing to read this blog post that I strongly believe that students should be compensated more than they are for participating in varsity college athletics. I will further discuss the connections this debate has with our class, mainly regarding social contracts and Machiavelli. The NCAA is the body that governs everything having to do with college sports. They are often seen as an all-powerful body as they are in charge of both deciding on the rules that must be followed by colleges and their athletes, and also act as the judge, jury, and executioner regarding infractions of said rules. They have determined that as college athletes are students first and are technically amateur that they should not be paid for their play. I however strongly disagree with this as athletes in some programs bring in so much recognition and money to their school, through their hard work and dedication, that not giving them further compensation is ridiculous and the equivalent of pimping out student athletes. This may seem extreme but the numbers are truly astonishing.
The University of Alabama alone brings in over 80 million dollars from football and yet the estimated total cost of four years of attendance at the University of Alabama (the maximum a player can earn in monetary value) is under $100,000. This has not even taken into account the notoriety these players bring to a school which encourages a larger number and a higher quality of students to apply and attend said universities. This also doesn’t take into account how much the NCAA (classified as a non-profit organization with over 1 billion dollars in annual revenue) makes off of these players. Here is where I will stop ranting, and make my connection to the course. When we talk about social contracts we have discussed for what reason someone would enter into a social contract and what they entail. The general consensus is that they entail sacrificing some of your freedom for a larger cause. There are many benefits of doing this, obviously, or it would never be done… or would it. I would argue that players entering college sports enter into a type of social contract with the NCAA and yet there are almost no benefits to this relationship. The NCAA is an authoritarian governing body who does not give any say to the players or college which they control. The vast majority of people would also argue that there are no benefits to a player playing under the NCAA. It is only done because for most high school athletes, it is their only choice. In many sports, there are regulations on when a player can go pro and even in the sports where a player could go pro right from high school, there are very few players with the ability or recognition to do so. The NCAA is only able to do what they do because they have a monopoly on college sports. Here I will make another connection. The NCAA uses a completely fear based system to rule just as Machiavelli says too. This is one of the reasons they are so successful. They use repression and severe punishments to deter players and colleges from speaking out against the NCAA. If the NCAA were simply to rely on player’s seeing the benefit in playing under the NCAA to rule then they would go under in a matter of years. This obviously gives weight to Machiavelli’s theory.
To return to the idea of social contracts my argument is that while most social contracts would seem to benefit both parties there are exceptions. The contract between the NCAA and the athletes it says it represents is completely one sided as the athletes bring in billions of dollars to the NCAA and the NCAA gives almost nothing in return.