According to the NCAA, more than 150,000 Division I and Division II student-athletes receive athletics scholarships totaling more than $2.9 billion. Full athletic scholarships cover the cost of tuition and fees, room, board and relevant textbooks; most student-athletes receive scholarships that cover a part of these costs. Division III student-athletes, which includes those here at Ithaca College, do not receive athletic scholarships.
With this year’s NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament — popularly known among sports fans as “March Madness” — about to conclude in just a few days, a recurring question has likely once again been brought up: Should student-athletes be paid?
This question presumes that Division I and Division II student-athletes are not currently being paid — which they are, through the scholarships they receive. Therefore, further “payment” as one might receive for a paid job is not necessary.
With the gifting of these scholarships to student-athletes, schools are telling these young men and women to come and play for them at a discount. Some are lucky enough to strike a great deal: going to a prestigious school whose tuition is normally $60,000–$70,000 a year for free in exchange for representing that school in a particular sport. While Division I and Division II schools may not be explicitly giving their student-athletes checks or cash, they are indirectly paying them by asking them to attend for less or no money to play a sport there.
In addition, these student-athletes are technically not professional athletes. They are called “student-athletes” for a reason. While some Division I student-athletes may go to college to prepare themselves for a professional athletic career, the priority for most student-athletes is still their educations. They may be athletes, but they are students first. Athletics and athletic scholarships aside, these student-athletes are no different than a regular student at a Division I or II school.
However, a lingering question still exists: What about Division III student-athletes? Division III schools do not give out athletic scholarships, so if said scholarships are an adequate form of “payment” for student-athletes, then that means that Division III student-athletes — including Ithaca College student-athletes — are not “paid”.
I speak as someone who is a sports media major and has a passion for playing, watching and following sports, as well as someone who has covered Ithaca College athletic events for The Ithacan and ICTV for the last four years. I have captured thousands of photos of many Ithaca College athletes from multiple sports and have helped broadcast live television of football and basketball games. I have watched athletes such as Will Gladney, Cassidy O’Malley, Allie Panara and many others grace Ithaca College’s various athletic venues and help their school win big games. Just last month, I watched Cassidy O’Malley and others lead the Ithaca College women’s basketball team to a “Sweet 16” berth in the NCAA Division III Tournament at Ben Light Gymnasium. These are just a few of the young men and women who work hard and have worked hard day in and day out to help enrich the athletic prestige that Ithaca College has to offer. And yet, despite all of the hard work that these student-athletes have put in, they still cannot receive any athletic scholarships.
Think about it. These gifted athletes are not receiving scholarships to excel at the sports that they know and love at a school whose tuition room and board will exceed $60,000 next year. If Division I and Division II student-athletes can receive athletic scholarships, then so should Division III student-athletes. It is only fair to let those hardworking men and women get “paid.”