Track & Field Throws a Wrench in the Pay Debate

Track & Field Throws a Wrench in the Pay Debate

Since (presumably) the dawn of sports, people have been arguing back and forth concerning whether or not collegiate athletes should get paid. Many high-caliber news sites including The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, and The New York Times have shared their two cents, but a majority of the topic’s debate comes from regular people (most of which have no idea what they’re talking about).

Paying an athlete would involve so much more than simply signing a check. Even with the current set of NCAA rules, athletes already have to sign off for competition per diem (money for food during days of competition) and have a laundry list of no-no’s when it comes to money. So how do people justify it? I want to focus on the argument that I see the most often, which is that athletes should be paid because they earn money for their schools.

Sure, the University of Alabama football team earns an absurd amount of money for the school through ticket and merch sales. Sure, Louisville basketball rakes in piles of cash during the season. Some schools earn over $100 million per year just through their sports programs. But these are all the same schools who shovel overwhelming amounts of time and money into their programs to begin with. Even then, only a select few sports generate revenue at all. Football and basketball are really the only sports that bring in any substantial amounts of money for the university – emphasis on the substantial, meaning any amount that would warrant the consideration of giving the athletes a paycheck.

Do you know how many people attend track and field meets? Other than the athletes themselves and their family members who come out to support them – virtually none. And, even if they did, not many meets charge admission. Track and field is, by and large, NOT generating money for their respective universities. So by the argument on the table, do these athletes still deserve to get paid? Should you just pay the teams that make money? No, of course not. That would cause a whole other set of problems. This argument is somewhat valid for a few select sports, but not for collegiate athletics as a whole. This is not a slam against track and field, and this is not me saying that one sport is more important than another. This is simply reality.

According to Business Insider, men’s and women’s track and field together makes (at the average university) 30 times less money than the football team and 10 times less money than the men’s and women’s basketball team. Many professional track and field athletes don’t even make that much money, some as little as $5,000 per year. And we are supposed to start paying collegiate athletes? I don’t think so.



As a collegiate athlete myself, I wouldn’t want to get paid. I love my sport and I chose to do it in college, knowing that I was not going to be earning a salary. Receiving a paycheck would cause jealousy among friends and would give me an overwhelming feeling that I don’t deserve it. I work hard and dedicate my time because I want to; it’s plain and simple. If you want to do college sports for the money, choose a different path.



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