Alexis Becker, CFNN Sports Reporter

During the 2018 sports season, 73,994 people on average attended each Saturday SEC football conference game. 46,442 people on average attended each Pac-12 football conference game. 

With crowds like these, stars of the games become household names. Is playing without pay in front of these crowds exploiting the athletes, or is it good publicity that will help them reach their goals of going pro? 

This question has caused a heated debate on whether student athletes should receive some compensation for playing the sport they love outside of scholarships. We are here to give you the rundown. 

A typical Division 1 football player begins his day during the season around 5:00 A.M., and usually ends it around 9:30 P.M. This strenuous schedule leaves very little free time for most things aside from sleep, meaning there’s no room for jobs or extracurriculars (other than football) for these student athletes. With scholarships and funds available, though, do they deserve a regular paycheck?

Former Collegiate Swimmer Amey Shook

I sat down with two former collegiate athletes to get their opinions on the whole situation. One, Mrs. Amey Shook. The other, Coach Deramus McLaughlin, or “Coach Mac.”

“Being an athlete is definitely time consuming,” they both stated.

“It is not exploiting because technically you are getting paid if you’re on scholarship,” said Shook, who swam at the University of Miami. 

“Normally football is the money-maker for schools so it (pay) does differ depending on the sport,” said Coach Mac, who played football at South Carolina State University. “I played my freshman year, I tore my ACL and still after that was able to remain on scholarship the whole time. If you’re going to physically pay them, then definitely scholarship money should be alleviated.” 

Coach Mac. instructs his class.

“I think it’s a lifestyle that the kids are missing, but I think they’re missing the bigger picture which is a piece of paper they’re going to get at the end.”

Shook and Mac agreed that the purpose of college is to get a great education. They are both history teachers and enjoy carrying on their knowledge in their sports and in history. They are able to do this because they took their education very seriously while competing at the collegiate level.

College athletics have changed drastically since Shook’s and Mac’s days. The NCAA is now making more money than ever. Most of that money comes from college football. I caught up with former Cape Fear linebacker and current Wake Forest football player Jaylen Hudson to get his take.

Cape Fear Alum Jaylen Hudson

“I mean personally I believe we should get paid more, since most division 1 programs give out stipends for scholarship players,” said Hudson. “It’s a job, whereas college football is a business. The just due compensation is the question of how much should we make. The numbers would have to be individualized across programs because each program in each division bring in different amounts of money. For example, Big Ten revenue [compared] to ACC revenue. There’s a multitude of problems that must be answered if we do pay athletes” 

While Pay to Play might make sense at high level D-1 schools this does not mean that all college athletes will get paid. 

Cape Fear Alum Ben Elliot.

“Paying D1 athletes would absolutely be fair in my opinion, but only at sporting events where the school is making revenue off of the event, the players, and their images,” said Mt. Olive University soccer player and Cape Fear alumni Ben Elliot. “It’s much less realistic at the D2 and D3 level, considering the higher amount of private institutions and also sports games that are simply free admission. It sounds like it can be a realistic goal, though.”

Why We Have This Debate

The Money Situation

Tuition is not the full expense problem. It is really everything else added into all of the yearly fees. Room and board, meal plans, books, and more all add up and can affect most peoples’ abilities to get to their dream schools. 

Duke University is a very big academic and sports school. Unfortunately, without any help it costs around $60,000 a year, According to NPR,  this could deter thousands of academically acceptable students from going to their dream schools. 


The average credentials a student must have for academic scholarships are a 3.5 GPA or higher, a 25 ACT score or higher, a 1200 SAT score or higher, and must rank within the top 10 percent of the class. 

In order to be academically eligible for an NCAA Division 1 scholarship, you need to meet a minimum 2.3 grade point average (GPA) on a 4.0 grade scale.

Despite going to the same or similar schools, athletes and non-athletes are held to two completely different standards. This may be fair in a sense of academically focused students having more free-time in theory since they aren’t spending hours practicing, but shouldn’t every student, regardless of their situation, be held to the same standard?

Free Time

Athletes often do not have the time or opportunity to get a job while playing sports. Therefore, they are unable to make money to either help their families or support themselves. Not every student is granted a full ride, which means that many basic necessities will have to be paid for out of pocket by the student or their families. 

The Hard-Hitting Questions

Where would this money come from? Would tuition be affected? Would every athlete be paid the same, or would it depend on the sport? Would this turn college athletics into a business and not just college any more? What laws would have to come about to make this fair, or even legal?

Here Are Your Answers

According to Business Insider, “In order to pay the athletes, the schools would need only to re-classify the athletes as employees and pay them through the Federal Work-Study Program (FWS) The total cost of the program comes down to $255 million each year, with the schools only responsible for $63.6 million and the rest coming from the Federal government.” states, “Changes to how student-athletes are paid could lead some schools, stuck with nowhere else to turn, to raise other students’ fees.” 

“Despite almost 45 years of Title IX law, women’s share of most college athletic budgets is only about 30 percent, according to the NWLC. And Title IX, which mandates equal access to school services regardless of gender, is often viewed as an inconvenience to the real goal of programs: maximizing revenue from men’s basketball and football.” ESPNW states.

These could all lead to many arguments coming from the money-making sports because this law would mean equal pay no matter the crowds of other sports. Non-athletes would have to pay more because tuition would be raised and they would not be receiving the money flow that the paid athletes would.

This argument could be resolved by simply alleviating the idea that the schools should pay athletes. If the athletes do receive compensation, the best way to keep it fair would be to keep the idea of the college paying for it out of the equation. 

This would be the best way to resolve the argument due to the ability to save money and keep tuition the same, or allowing both sides to win by athletes getting their money from an outside source and tuition staying the same. 

Professional Athletes’ Opinions 

Professional athletes have also spoken up about this new wave of athletes wanting to be paid. Tim Tebow — who played professional football but is now in the baseball minor leagues —  won the Hiesman trophy during his sophomore year at Florida.  

Tim Tebow, former QB for the Florida Gators. (Photo from

Tebow’s quote about paying college athletes, “Now we’re changing it from ‘us’ from ‘we’ from ‘my university,’ being an alumni where I care, which makes college sports special, to ‘OK, it’s not about us, it’s not about we, it’s about me, And yes, I know we live in a selfish culture, where it’s all about us, but we’re adding and piling it on to that…”

This comment alone was heavily criticized on its own, but Tebow doubled down on his response.   

“When I was at the University of Florida, I think my jersey was one of the top jerseys around the world … and I didn’t make a dollar from it, but nor did I want to,” he told ESPN’s “First Take” last week. “Because I knew, going into college, what it was all about.”

Mike Wallace, who played college football at the University of Mississippi, responded through Twitter to the amount of money the Alabama coaches received in the 2018 season for winning. 

Mike Wallace (Photo from

“Yet players get nothing!! I remember being in college literally wondering where my next meal was gonna come from.. Couldn’t call home because I knew my mom didn’t have it and I didn’t wanna put that burden on her knowing her child was hundred of miles away with nothing to eat…”

These two athletes were not the only ones to speak up, Jay Bilas, a former college basketball player and now a reporter for ESPN, states a response to Tim Tebow. 

“Great Perspective. That Tim Tebow wishes to turn down compensation doesn’t mean all should be required to. He is free to play for free. All athletes should have the same economic rights as LITERALLY everyone else. That’s real choice.”

With the amount of negative responses, it’s easy to see that not every athlete lives the same life. Some athletes have had more opportunities and scholarships than others. Both sides of the arguments show great reasonings on why or why not. Despite the fact that past athletes were not paid, do you think that future athletes should be? We want to hear what you think!