As children, we saw them as role models.
As students, we see them as icons for our University.
As adults, we see them as the next generation to bring glory to our alma mater.
The life of a collegiate athlete must be so fulfilling, right?
They receive a free education and free room and board. Jerseys with their numbers fly off the shelves of bookstores, and they are often seen and celebrated on television.
What could anyone possibly not enjoy about that?
Let’s take a minute to put ourselves in the shoes of these athletes.
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From the time you wake up at 5 a.m. until the end of your end-of-the-day homework grind at 12 a.m., you have a plethora of responsibilities that constantly demand your attention. But it’s what you have to do to give your team the best chance of making your school’s fans and alumni proud when you hit the field, court or pitch.
It makes sense; this is an intense and competitive level of play, and you want to get better. Not to mention, the University provides nearly everything you need, and what it does not provide, you can just purchase with money you earn from your job.
But wait — you don’t have a job. The NCAA only allows you to work in the two-month span where your sport is considered, by them, to be out of season.
Of course, you wouldn’t have time to work during the season anyway.
Back to your weekly routine.
Game day rolls around, and you enter the playing field.
When you look at the stands and see fans wearing jerseys with your number on them, you begin to wonder why the University can be the sole profiter of merchandise which is clearly designed to support you.
Also, how come ESPN is using your photo on their for-profit broadcast, yet you don’t receive a dollar for it?
Let’s bring it back again, and readdress our initial question.
What could possibly make being a college athlete any less enjoyable? Probably the fact that everyone around them benefits from their talent, while they have empty pockets and no way to fill them.
Universities should not place their student athletes on payroll; however, the fact that the NCAA forbids players from receiving endorsements and profiting off their own names and likenesses is not only unfair — it’s offensive.
What is there to gain by not allowing players to make money off of merchandise, attention-grabbing broadcast graphics or inclusion in a multi-million dollar video game franchise?
This conversation is not about making colleges pay their athletes anymore; this is about their individual profitability.
Are we trying to keep the marketplace fair?
I hope not. The whole purpose behind a free market system is that supply and demand actually work.
What good does it do to not teach college students, who are supposed to be receiving a free education, how a real-world economy works? I see none.
If student-athletes received financial compensation for the use of their names and likenesses, the market would be driven by supply and demand.
Does this create an equal income for each player?
However, there is no level of competitive sport or entertainment-based industry where every player or performer receives equal payment.
The traditional ideal of not paying collegiate athletes has grown outdated as the market surrounding NCAA-affiliated sports has grown into a massive industry.
And don’t think for a minute the players haven’t taken notice.
Next time you and your game-day buddies show up to the tailgate wearing your new jerseys with your team’s quarterback’s number on it, take note of how many people are dressed just like you.
Take a minute to watch the insane amount of media pour through the media-only gates.
Maybe then you’ll understand how much these players are missing out on.
Harrison Tarr is a sophomore in pre-journalism.
The opinions expressed in columns and letters represent the views and opinions of their individual authors.
These opinions do not necessarily reflect the Auburn University student body, faculty, administration or Board of Trustees.
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